New Year Surprises
As we wind down 2012, it is time to think about the new wines you will bring into your wine portfolio in 2013. In a California Cab Sav rut? Only quaffing Australian Shiraz? Are you a Bordeaux or bust person?
The beauty of wine is that the possibilities are infinite. Variables such as region, vineyard, winemaker, and vintage deliver a broad spectrum of choices for every type of consumer. If you spent 2012 focusing only on fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon wines, you might want to try rich, mouth-watering Cabernet Franc wines coming from Argentina. If you like Burgundy, it is time you tried some Pinot Noir from Oregon or the Sonoma Coast. If Chateauneuf-du-Pape makes your toes curl, check out those Rhone style wines coming from Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley.
Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention Southern France (Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence), Portugal, and Spain. New winemakers applying modern techniques are quickly changing the reputations of these regions by producing world-class wines. And the value-price ratio is unworldly.
As you make those typical New Year’s resolutions such as exercising more, eating better, and spending less time watching TV, why not add a promise to expand your selection of wines. Your nose and mouth will thank you for it.
Happy New Year!
Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
Douro is a Portuguese wine region centered on the Douro River in the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro region. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).
While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine. The non-fortified wines are typically referred to as “Douro wines.”
The style of wines produced in the Douro range from light, Bordeaux style claret to rich Burgundian style wines aged in new oak.
Geography and Climate
The Douro wine region is situated around the Douro river valley and lower valleys of its tributaries Varosa, Corgo, Távora, Torto, and Pinhão. The region is sheltered from Atlantic winds by the Marão and Montemuro mountains and has a continental climate, with hot and dry summers and cold winters.
It is usually subdivided into three subregions, from the west to the east:
Baixo Corgo (“below Corgo”), a subregion with the mildest climate and most precipitation. It has 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of vineyards. Although it is the subregion which was planted first, in general, it is considered to give wines of lesser quality than the other two subregions.
Cima Corgo (“above Corgo”) is the largest subregion with 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) of vineyards, centered around the village of Pinhão, and where the majority of the famous Quintas are located.
Douro Superior (“upper Douro”) is the hottest and driest of the subregions, and stretches all the way to the Spanish border. It has 8,700 hectares (21,000 acres) of vineyards and is the source of many wines of very good quality. As it is the least accessible of the three subregions, it is the most recently planted, and it is still expanding.
Terraced vineyards are very common in the Douro region. Vineyards dedicated to Port production are usually planted on schist while areas with granite-based soils are used for table wine production.
The principal grape varieties of the Douro region include the black grapes Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (the same as Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional, and the white grapes Donzelinho Branco, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, and Viosinho.
A large number of grape varieties are grown in the Douro region, most of them local Portuguese grapes. For a long time, the grape varieties grown in the Douro were not very well studied. Vineyards of mixed plantation were the norm, and most of the time, the vineyard owners didn’t know which grape varieties they were growing.
A pioneering effort were made in the 1970s which identified Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca as the prime dark-skinned grape varieties. Tinta Amarela and the teinturier Sousão has later come to be included among the varieties that attract the most interest. This work was important for creating the new wave of top Douro wines and has also led to a greater focus on the grape varieties that go into Port wine. Most top quintas now replant with single-variety vineyards and focus on a limited number of varieties, but older, mixed vineyards will remain in production for many decades to come.
Source and Further Reading: Wikipedia