Sunday 20 May 2012

The Douro Boys

Apart from port, the next best thing from the Douro (or indeed Portugal) from a wine perspective is probably the Douro Boys.

An alliance of five independent family estates: Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Vale D. Maria, Quinta do Vale Meão and Niepoort, Douro Boys was created in 2003 to ‘put the Douro on the map’. Back then, Portuguese wine was little known outside Portugal, let alone in Asia. Douro table wine had a few disadvantages: it was the little cousin of port, both in terms of popularity and quality. The best grapes were often designated for producing port, and most estates made table wine almost as an afterthought. White wine was often oxidised and red austere.

The status of port in the Douro is beyond doubt. All members of the Douro Boys make ports, but they have also noted the growing trend of red wine consumption. They believe in two things: to make the best quality wine with what the land offers them—indigenous grapes and terroir—and to be out there promoting their wines.

Douro wine is a blend of indigenous grapes. The names are sometimes near impossible to pronounce and it is difficult to single out a distinctive aroma that can be associated with the wines. An easy way out would be to replant the vineyards with international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. Luckily, the Douro Boys have not.

The light-heartedness of the group’s name contrasts nicely with the considerable avoirdupois (weight) of its members: dynamism and determination. They are accessible but the wines are serious. Each quinta has its own style and together they offer a good breadth of selection. With their energy, enthusiasm and commitment, they trot the globe, reviving the Douro image and in fact raising the overall quality standard of Douro wine. The international press writes about them with passion; critics rate their wines with respect and wine lovers, well, just love their wines.

Try yourself to see which of the Douro Boys is your style. Distributor of:
Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Vale Meão and Niepoort: Vino Veritas
Quinta do Crasto: Adega Royale
Quinta do Vale D. Maria: Global Wine Cellar

Saturday 5 May 2012

Brazilian bubblies

I don’t think many of us have tried Brazilian wine, let alone Brazilian sparkling wine. Therefore I was pleased to be invited to the Casa Valduga tasting. It is one of the largest and oldest wineries in Vale dos Vinhedos in the south of Brazil. The climate is humid and temperate but luckily the vineyards, located at between 450m and 650m above sea level, are cooled by the mountain breeze.

The verdict? This was actually my second time to taste Brazilian sparkling and I have to say Casa Valduga is better. Three wines, Espumante 130 Brut NV, Reserva Blush 25 Brut 2009 and Gran Reserva Extra-brut 60 2006, are made with classic champagne grape varieties in the traditional method. All are lively with a slight mineral note in the back palate. The Rose is fresh and soft, while the Espumante has more structure.

I won’t compare Brazilian sparkling wine, or in fact, any sparkling wine with Champagne. It is not fair. Champagne grows in a marginal climate and its production techniques have been perfected by years of experience. It is more refined and elegant but not many will have a glass of it every day. Sparkling wine is much more value-for-money, relaxing and fun. We should enjoy them for what they are: Prosecco for its freshness, Cava for the concentration and Brazilian for its liveliness.

Casa Valduga also has a Reserva Moscatel and a Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, available from Wine Patio in Hong Kong.