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Harvest 2014: Quinta da Pacheca

quinta da pacheca

Quinta da Pacheca is one of the oldest winemaking estates in the Douro and one of the first to produce its own brand of wine (first records date to 1738), when most other Quintas in the Douro would make wine under the label of a larger Port Wine producer. Today its has a solid reputation for making quality wines; it is also one of the top wine tourist destinations of the region thanks to its beautiful hotel and proximity to Peso da Régua.

One glance at Quinta da Pacheca is enough to tell that this is not your typical Douro estate. There are no steep slopes and terraced vines here, the grapes grow in a gentle slope that declines downwards towards the river. The soil is not your usual barren schist that you see so often in the Douro either, the vines grow on a bed of green grass and clover. The whole vineyard is incredibly beautiful, and stretches out as far as you can see, down to the Aqua Pura Hotel, which sits on property that once belonged to the owners of the Quinta.

quinta da pacheca
quinta da pacheca

We started off our tour of the Quinta with Sandra Dias, who showed us the hotel and restaurant. Pacheca’s “The Wine House Hotel” is a beautiful blend of vintage and modern, and it’s definitely designed to impress. Each room is decorated in its own style, and they all have a breathtaking view of the vineyard and the surrounding landscape. We also got to take a tour of the wine cellar and of all the surrounding facilities, which include a modern space to host events, all with the sprawling vineyard in the background.

Sandra then took us to the wine shop/tasting room of the Quinta, where we were left in the expert hands of Joana Ribeiro and Ricardo Santos, who provided us with a very comprehensive tasting, covering a variety of wines produced at the Quinta.

quinta da pacheca

Grande Reserva 2011 Touriga Nacional: 14 months in barrel gave this wine the perfect blend of freshness and oak. Its freshness – with a little citrus sourness – and minerality are very surprising on the nose. Tasting it, you can feel a very elegant fruity freshness with great body and tannins. A perfect wine to go with a meal, with definite aging potential.

Recommended We Recommend: Reserva 2011 Vinhas Velhas – Another star in an amazing year for most Quintas in the Douro. 6 varietals of old vines and 12 months in oak all come together in making an excellent wine. Like a lot of Vinhas Velhas, this wine is a little shy at first, giving only hints of a complex structure, rounded tannins and good minerality. But as it breathes and develops in the glass it really starts to shine. Vibrant red fruit and hints of vanilla and a little spice really come in force. It’s a wine we will be enjoying on its own, hopefully soon.

L.B.V. 2009: This 2009 Late Bottled Vintage Port was a very surprising wine. Very delicate and floral on the nose, with a hint of spice, it blossoms in your taste buds into an intense red fruit taste with a little bit of dried fruit as well. Very rounded and in perfect balance, a Port that can be enjoyed right now, but we will be curious to see how or if it evolves.

Vintage 2000: We were fortunate to try this wine once with Joana and Ricardo and then again later that day with a light meal. This wine is now 14 years old and it turning the corner to becoming an old wine – you can say it’s starting to mature into adulthood. As it is now, it’s a very complete and complex wine, with notes of red fruit jam and chocolate. At the stage it is right now, you can almost taste its future aging as it breathes in your glass, and as you start to deconstruct its complexity you already detect delicate aromas of tobacco and a hint of leather. Definitely a great Vintage, and one we can’t wait to get back to in a couple of years.

10, 20 and 30 year old Tawny: Having the privilege to taste the three Tawny ports made in Pacheca in succession, we were given a real lesson in how to age a Tawny, since they all felt like the same wine in different stages of evolution. It was like being in a Port time machine. These wines are an ode to the art of blending.

  • The 10 year old Tawny is a wine that’s still full of youth, with very delicate fruit freshness and not a lot of the nutty flavors that you will get in older Tawny. An excellent combination of orange and apricot notes, it leaves you with a very flesh and clean palate. Definitely a dessert wine, and a great aperitif.
  • The 20 year old Tawny is a clear evolution, where the fruit matures and really gains more of a smoky and dried character, while retaining most of its vibrant freshness. Caramel and nutty flavors really start to shine in this wine, that has an incredible syrupy finish with a hint of caramelized Apple. An excellent dessert wine that should be a real crowd pleaser.
  • The 30 year old Tawny was an amazing surprise. It has unbelievable freshness for such an old wine, keeping all the characteristics of the 20 years, but rounding them up with more depth from the oak, where you can already detect hints of tobacco along with the nuts and caramel. If you usually find that 30+ year old Tawny is too intense, you’ll be surprised by how balanced and tame this one is.

quinta da pacheca

After this amazing tour of their hotel and their wines, we were treated to a tour of the vineyard. Our host in this tour of the Quinta da Pacheca vineyard was Hugo Fonseca, Agronomist and one of the people in charge of wine production at the estate. As he drove us around the vineyard he spoke to us about the challenges and advantages of growing wine in such a unique terroir. The vine at Pacheca is more prone to illness and several micro-climates along the extent of the vineyard means that tending to the specific needs of each grape is a constant concern. But there are advantages to be gained from the way this vineyard is organized as well: there is no need for constant irrigation and mechanization is not a problem, as it is for so many other Quintas. This harvest, Hugo says, will be inconsistent among the Douro, much like the weather was throughout the year (unwanted rain interrupted the Harvest, making it an uncharacteristically long process, spanning more than two months for some estates). But while for some other Quintas this may be an off year, Pacheca seems to have had a great one.

As Hugo kindly stopped here and there to allow us to take pictures of the scenery, he told us about his plans for the vineyard. His passion for it, and for the Douro in general, is contagious. The first piece of news he told us was very welcome: Pacheca is replacing foreign white varietals, including Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, for native Portuguese vine. The reason is simple: they just weren’t good enough, and we definitely applaud that. Among his projects are also some experiments with using the grass and clover in a controlled way, to assist in protecting and improving the quality of the vine – something that only a trained agronomist like him can really explain in detail. We also saw the site for upcoming wine tourism-related endeavors that Pacheca is preparing for the near future. His plans for the wine are centered around one subject: the pursuit of quality. Hugo is of the winemakers that believe that the quality of the grape needs to be at its peak, but that a truly remarkable wine is set apart by the quality of the winemaking process, something we can all agree on.

quinta da pacheca

And we got to sample the quality of both the grape and the process shortly after, as Hugo was saving a treat for the last part of the visit: a sample of some of the best wines of the current (2014) harvest. First we tasted a Vinhas Velhas (Old Vines) right off the steel tank where it had been resting for only a month. This wine was already showing great potential, with astonishing fruit and a roundness in the taste that is only going to get better. Next, also from the steel tanks, we tried what is planned to be the LBV and the Vintage for this year. The LBV was surprising in the sense that it felt like a wine that was ready to be bottled, showing all the character of a remarkable Ruby Port – definitely a wine we’ll keep an eye out for when it’s bottled. The Vintage, as expected, was still very rough around the edges, still acidic with wild tannins, but the potential for a classical wine was all there, which you could tell by the beautiful aromas and the rich fruit flavors waiting to come forward. To finish this incredible tour, we had a glass of the 2014 Touriga Nacional and Souzão blend, straight out of the granite tank where it was pressed, and where it was still finishing its malolactic fermentation – a wine that once again was showing great potential. Hugo was clearly proud and very confident about these wines, and he has a right to be so, since we’re sure to be hearing from them in the near future.

quinta da pacheca

We would meet Hugo one more time later that day: he invited us to join him in a tasting of the Vintage 2000, along with two guests at the Hotel. This wine was easy to enjoy with some traditional savory meat and bread snacks from region. Hugo once again brought out a few picks from the 2014 harvest, including a Rosé that has all the makings of being the type of Rosé we love: a true wine, with taste and character. We sat outside the hotel, where we could smell the sweet aroma of the last batch from this year’s Harvest being processed in the granite vats nearby, where the team was wrapping up the last details of the 2014 Harvest; a great ending to an amazing day.

Our many thanks to the entire Quinta da Pacheca team, who were the most gracious of hosts and gave us an absolutely incredible experience, that we can only hope to have done justice in this article. Our thanks go especially to Hugo Fonseca, as well as Sandra Dias, Joana Ribeiro and Ricardo Santos, who made this an experience we definitely won’t forget.