Harvest 2014: Quinta de Tourais

quinta de tourais

Quinta de Tourais embodies everything that is great about the Douro: its roots are in the history of both the region and the family, and its focus is on quality, producing wine from a broad range of Portuguese native grapes. Fernando Coelho is the co-owner and winemaker, maintaining the estate that has been in his family for several generations. In fact, some of the vines on the estate were planted by his grandfather. Gems like Tourais are few and far between; unfortunately, very few vineyards today are inherited and operated within a single family, which makes this Quinta all the more special.

Located just on the other side of the river from Peso da Regua, Tourais contains a humble 10 hectares of vineyards (divided 50/50 between Fernando and his sister Manuela), making it a very small estate, currently producing still wines exclusively. The wines available to taste at the time of our visit were: three red, one white and one Rosé. Their small range gives way to coherency within the flavor profiles: all are balanced and elegant, and all represent the characteristic flavors you come to expect from a Douro wine. Whether it’s the intense complexity from Touriga Nacional, the king of all Portuguese grape varieties, or the predominant mineral flavor, which comes from the rocky Schist soil where the vines grow. While some of their wines are keeping with these iconic Douro trademarks, Tourais also has a very singular vision for others, with a unique white and Rosé wine you might not be expecting. The quality to price ratio of all their wines is also outstanding. Most would find their wines prime for food pairings, but we would argue all are so exceptional, they can easily be appreciated on their own. It is impossible to come away from Quinta de Tourais without a favorite, your only problem will be picking just one (we couldn’t, which is why we took home a bottle of each).

While Tourais takes pride in preserving the traditions that have defined the region for centuries, they have also incorporated modern aspects into their image, the most notable of which are their wine labels. Each wine has a unique, artistic label, which has been chosen by popular vote, via a contest they arrange. The most iconic of these is the same design that makes the Quinta impossible to miss when driving by: a large bull with a hand for a head, pointing the way towards the entrance of the estate. It’s what caught our attention last year, when we visited them for the first time, and now we make a point of coming back any time we’re in town.

quinta de tourais

Despite being in the middle of wrapping up the very end of the harvest, Fernando sat down with us for what would be a fantastic tasting, where we learned about his vineyards, the story behind each of his wines, and what he expected from this year’s harvest. Having the rare opportunity to speak with the winemaker (who also happens to be the owner) and have him guide you through a tasting is an experience we absolutely love, and one you can only have at a small estate like this one. Speaking to someone who is intimately involved in the wine making process adds a whole other dimension to the tasting, and really makes you appreciate the wine that much more.

Miura: Composed of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Sousão among others, it has been aged for 12 months in new oak. A beautiful fruit forward red wine, there is plenty of black fruit, cocoa and mineral notes. Mild tannins and a long finish make it a pleasure to drink, and a real crowd pleaser; pairing easily with poultry, both red and white meats, sausage and cheese. While Tourónio is a bit more hearty, Miura is vibrant, but both are equally elegant.

Recommended We Recommend: Tourónio Tinto – 2011 was an amazing year for the Douro, which we quickly realized when trying wines at multiple estates this Harvest, and Tourais was no exception. The red Tourónio could easily be described as “The Douro in a bottle” made primarily from the powerhouse Portuguese varieties: Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz, with mineral notes of Schist and red fruit, it makes for a vibrant postcard representing all of the characteristics of the region. Coupled with its medium body, it’s ideal for pairing with a meal, specifically red meats and cheeses.

Tourónio Branco: produced from Rabigato, Viosinho, Gouveio, from vines as old as 60 years, we found this to be a very singular white wine. Smooth and elegant with a long finish, this white has a fantastic balance in its freshness and acidity. Not what you’d expect from a white aged 6 months in stainless steel, it almost has the finesse that oak would provide, while keeping a citrus freshness with some floral notes that are not overpowering. It would work well with fish and cheeses.

quinta de tourais

Rosé: this wine surprised us the most. Typically, we don’t try many Rosé wines, I personally find most of them to be overly fragrant, with unbalanced acidity and too much perfume (both in aroma and flavor), but that is also what some people love the most about Rosé. Whether you’re on one side of the fence or the other, you must try the Rosé from Quinta de Tourais. It is unlike any other Rosé we have tried, from the color to the balance of flavors, it is truly unique. Floral and strawberry notes on the nose, fresh and rounded flavor without having an acidic punch, and a surprisingly long finish. The color is a beautiful salmon, almost golden, rather than a true pink. We happened to try the Rosé at room temperature, and even then it wasn’t the slightest bit harsh, which says a lot. We could pick out the flavors and appreciate the elegance. Later, when we had it chilled, it was even better. Ideal pairing for pasta dishes or seafood.

Furia: If you’re looking for an intense flavor profile with more prominent tannins, you should try their Furia red. It has 15% alcohol and is produced from their vinhas velhas (“old vines”, 60 years), which provides an intense fruit flavor rivaled by smokey and spicey notes. By far the most powerful of their wines, it is particularly geared towards the Swedish market, which accounts for a staggering 60% of their exports.

As for the future of the Quinta, you can expect to see a single variety wine, featuring Touriga Nacional, coming soon. They are also dabbling in Port wine, although currently it is only produced for the family, it is something they are considering adding to their portfolio in the future.

quinta de tourais

During our visit, Fernando was also kind enough to invite us to join him and his team for a Lagarada at the Quinta, which is a traditional celebration that involves treading grapes to live music. This would be the last batch of the 2014 Harvest to be tread, and we were very excited and grateful to get to be apart of it. The treading would take place in one of their traditional granite lagares, with no temperature control technology added, which we are also finding to be increasingly rare. The treading lasted about an hour, with a team rotating through a sequence of formations, all fueled by traditional songs and the occasional sip of wine. The real test is at the end: when you join in a circle and sprint around the granite lagar, keeping up with the increasing pace of the music. Only then have you earned the wine and food to celebrate the end of the treading!

quinta de tourais

quinta de tourais

Photo courtesy of Comunicação e Multimédia, Universidade de Trás os Montes e Alto Douro

Such an amazing experience that we will never forget. After the treading we enjoyed traditional sausages and bread made fresh at the Quinta by Manuela, along with their full range of wines. Surrounded by people who welcome travelers and fellow wine enthusiasts from all over the world into their family, it’s easy to see the devotion and passion that makes up this Quinta, which shines through in their incredible wine. Tourais is an intimate, cozy and welcoming place that has preserved the heart and soul of the Douro, and it just so happens they also make some of the best wine we’ve had from the Douro, which makes them the complete package; A gem that we hope more people will discover.

quinta de tourais

This unforgettable evening marked the end of our Douro Harvest trip this year, and we couldn’t have planned a more perfect ending to an amazing trip, full of great wine and great people. We will always look forward to our next visit to Tourais, and highly recommend you stop by for a tasting with Fernando or Manuela. We have to thank the entire Quinta de Tourais team, especially Fernando, for inviting us to their estate, and for an amazing evening!

Quinta de Tourais is one fifth of a collaboration entitled Douro4U, bringing together other estates of a similar size and vision, in hopes of promoting the different “personalities” of still and Port wines in the region today. Quinta de Tourais also has a few rooms on their beautiful estate, for those interested in rural tourism.