Douro Wine and Food Festival

Visited Régua again last Friday, this time with Fernando in tow, to attend a festival of food, wine, and tourism in the Douro and Tras-os-Montes region.  The event was geared towards a commercial audience of press and importers looking to source Portuguese products, but it was open to the public for free, as well.  Met some wonderful people, had some really nice wines, and the food, especially cheeses and cured pork products were excellent too!

Warning:  notes are a little sketchy for several reasons – one, just plain having too much fun, and two, conversing in Portuguese all day.  My language skills being what they are, I didn’t perfectly understand everything I heard, and though I have been able to do some checking through websites, some small producers don’t have sites, so we’re left with my notes – which are scribbled in Portuguese too… so combined issues of language skills and handwriting… you get the drift.

The first wines we sampled were from Quinta Senhora da Graça, which is just 5 or 6 km north of Régua.  We started with a very pleasant white, a blend of Malvasia, Viosinho, Rabigato, and Côdega, their Pedro Milanos Branco 2009 just bottled two days previously.  The wine had been aged in inox (stainless steel) only, no wood – very fresh, just what you want at 11:00 am on a sultry day in the Douro (about 34° C).

That said, the red we tasted next was a joy at any hour too.  Penedo do Barco Grande Reserva 2007, a combination of Touriga Nacional and vinhas velhas (which translates here as not just an old vineyard, but one which is planted with a mixture of varieties, so typically a mixture of TN and Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Amarela, at least).   We were told the vines are about 100 years old.  What I liked about this one was that it was very smooth – I’ve had some Douro reds which start with a bit of a tannic attack on the mouth, and it’s hard to recover from that to taste fruit or anything else.  This one was very smooth, very balanced from the start, between black and some red fruits versus tannins versus acidity.  The technical sheet describes the winemaking – grapes hand picked and transported in small 20 kg boxes to keep the fruit intact, grapes completely de-stemmed, fermented and treaded in a traditional granite lagar for about a week.  After that, it is moved to inox for it’s malolactic, and then aged in a combination of old and new French oak barrels.  This one was priced at €16 (ex-IVA), so the most expensive wine of the day, but what a treat.

Look for them on Facebook as Quinta Senhora da Graça – Turismo e Vinhos.  From the photos, they have a lovely hotel, it’s listed on the Rota do Vinho do Porto.

Sampled some wonderful marmelada (quince cheese) from Quinta d’Ameã, which also produces mountain honeys and a range of jams and jellies.  Fascinatingly, she had a kiwi jelly – I thought that was an odd thing for the region, but she said although the kiwi is not indigenous, she thinks Portuguese kiwis are much more flavourful than the New Zealand ones, with the best growing along the coast. There was also a nearly clear jelly made from gila – a type of pumpkin, and some of the jams included pine nuts or almonds in them.

The marmelada was good as a foil to a rich semi-firm goat’s cheese (very like a Jarlsberg for texture), Quinta de Bornes I think, and that in turn was good with some wonderful cured pork, which is a specialty of the region.  Visit their website at Quinta d’Ameã.

All of which made us thirsty again.

Dourocaves had several wines on show – a Branco 2009, blended from Viosinho, Malvasia Fina and Gouveio.  This was the first Portuguese white in which I’ve picked up a little of that butteriness you get sometimes after a malolactic fermentation.  Their 100% Touriga Nacional, Tinto Grande Escolha 2004 was very good, again a smooth wine, decidedly plummy.  But what drew me to their stand was the Moscatel do Douro 2003 – I had not had the Douro moscatels yet.  These are made from Moscatel Galego Branco, a different variety from the grape used for the Setúbal wines.  My notes are honey (underlined), fig, tangerine.  This wine just won silver at this year’s IWC in London.  Very pleasant, comparing to my memory of the Setúbal moscatel, this was lighter, less sticky and dense.

Quinta de Fiães is located about 15km north of the Douro but just east of the Pinhão River in the Cima Corgo – at an altitude of 540 metres!  We tasted their only wine, a lovely white which is blended from a bit of everything – Viosinho, Gouveia, Codêga, Fernão Pires, Rabigato and a little of the Moscatel.  Very complex and with a wonderful long finish.  We were talking about the grapes, the woman  mentioned they vinify the different grapes separately.  They had been comparing the wine from each new (5 years) and old Viosinho plantings, and found that although initially the young grapes made the better impression, the wine from the older vines became much better, the flavour came up and developed after a little time, in a way the wine from the younger parcel did not.   We also tasted their olive oil, Azeite Nordouro, which was excellent.  The Quinta offers what looks like lovely accomodation in Trás-os-Montes, check out the Quinta de Fiães website.

One other producer whose wines both Fernando and I enjoyed, was Coimbra de Mattos.  First was their Quinta dos Mattos Branco Reserva 2008, which struck both of us as having an almost meaty nose – not that is smelled of meat, but because it just had such body.  We struggled to figure out tasting notes, I thought maybe fermented fruit, Fernando suggested pineapple.  The aging was done part in French oak, part in inox, so it wasn’t overtly or heavily wooded.   The wine was blended of Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Gouveia and Siria (another name for Codêga).  I tried some of the cured pork with this – the wine stood up to it.  I’m not saying it was a brilliant combination, but a lot of whites would just die on the palate versus cured meat, this one didn’t, it held its own.

Next, their  Quinta dos Mattos – Reserva 2004, a blend of Tinta Franca and Tinta Roriz.  This was a more soft wine than many Douro reds, ripe red fruits, gentle tannins.  Looking at their technical notes, fermented in inox, aged 10 months in oak.

Next, we tried two ports, first their Porto Valriz LBV 2004, which was bottled 2009.  Slightly bricky ruby colour, the nose and palate reminded me of the marmelade I’d had earlier, Fernando was arguing for dried plums.

Their 10 year old Tawny was a treat, we actually asked for (and were graciously given) a second glass to take with us whilst we sat down to eat something for lunch.  Porto Valriz 10 Anos Tawny, I can tell I enjoyed it because my handwriting is a disaster, fruit, nuts, pears…

They are based at Garafura, which is on the north side of the Douro about halfway between Régua and Pinhão.  Looking at their very handsome brochure, the properties are very old – one of their vineyards contains one of the milestones set by order of the Marques de Pombal in 1761 to fix the limits of the demarcated Douro region.  There is a small museum on site in an old adega.

A good website for tourism in the Douro region, in Portuguese only, Turismo do Douro, but look at it anyway – it is a mine of information about where to stay, eat, visit, etc. with lots of links to other sites.

Still no camera, but you can rest your eyes on some beautiful azulejos, photographed in Régua when I visited in March.