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Powerful awakening on the Douro

09.05.2003

There are approximately 40, 000 hectares of vineyards planted along the Douro in the north of Portugal. And for the last 2-3 centuries, they were used almost exclusively for the production of Port wine. But during the last ten years, producers here have been taking a keen interest in the origins of this unique wine growing area. And in the realm of emancipation, more and more of these Douro wine makers are vinifying dry red (and white) wines and bringing them to the market under the names of their own quintas.

Douro Boys Gruppenfoto © Douro Boys
Francisco Olazabal, Tomás Roquette, Cristiano van Zeller, Dirk van der Niepoort and Joao Ferreira Álvares Ribeiro © Douro Boys

A peaceful revolution – learning together

Particularly noteworthy – and assuring – is that this peaceful revolution in the Douro isn’t spawning any tough competitive attitudes. In fact, just the opposite is occurring: a friendly cooperation in which learning together and a focus on development are key. And this is certainly reflected by five producers who are leading the development of the new Douro red wine style; they have created an informal group to show off the impressive results of this spellbinding new era.

Top Quinta Quintett

Guilherme Ribeiro and his nephew, Francisco Ferreira, have been independent since 1994 with their Quinta do Vallado in Baixo Corgo, near Regua. Dirk van der Niepoort, from the Port wine house of the same name, acquired the Quinta do Nápoles in 1987, and has been vinifying red wine there since 1991. On the opposite bank of the Douro, the brothers Miguel and Tomas Roquette decided in 1994 to lead the Quinta do Crasto to independence. Since 1995, Christiano van Zeller has been running the Quinta do Vale Dona Maria in Rio Torto, a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Duoro valley. And then there is the Quinta do Vale Meão, which has been in the market only since 1999; father and son Francisco Olazabal have taken their wines right to the top position of the Portuguese red wine scene.

At a joint presentation of the five vintners in Germany recently, wine experts were especially impressed by the definition and style of the wines. There are more than 80 authentic grape varieties in the Douro, all of them reflecting a distinct, clear style that is typical of the region – strong fruit, solid tannins and a very complex structure. Without a doubt, the wines from the Douro will be gaining more and more recognition in the coming years.

PICTURES (downloadable)