We had the opportunity to visit OnWine at Vila Nova de Gaia recently to join their tasting of an impressive range of Quinta do Vallado wines. It was our first tasting at OnWine and we didn’t really know what to expect. Now that we’ve had the experience, we will definitely be back for many more of these events.
We were welcomed by OnWine’s Bruno Rodrigues, who was kind enough to introduce us to some of the wines available. The wine selection was much better than we anticipated: it included the Red and White Reserve, single varietals Touriga Nacional and Sousão, a red Vinhas Velhas (old vines) Field Blend, four age indicated Tawny Ports (10, 20, 30 and 40 years) and the 2009 and 2011 Vintage Ports. You can imagine how excited we were when we looked at this amazing spread of wines, and we would like to thank OnWine for making this possible and Quinta do Vallado for not being afraid to showcase the best of their stock.
Quinta do Vallado was represented by António Rocha and Francisco Cabral, who were very kind to answer all our questions, and provided some great insight on the Quinta’s present and future plans. Vallado was established in 1716 and was once owned by the great “Ferreirinha” – Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira. It is still today owned by her descendants, Francisco being one of them. The estate has produced grapes for the Ferreira brand for close to 200 years, all of their production being used for Port wine. In 1993 there was a change in gears at the estate, with a focus on producing still wines under their own name, and also restructuring the vines to benefit higher quality grapes. This resulted in the phenomenon that Quinta do Vallado is today – one of the Douro’s, and Portugal’s, leading winemakers.
In recent years, Quinta do Vallado has started producing Port wines again, and Francisco’s guarantee was that they would focus only on the high-end of the spectrum – something they have greatly succeeded in doing, if we consider the broad sample we had the opportunity to taste. This is very much a return to the origins of the estate, and for the descendants of the family this has emotional ties as well.
What was very interesting for us as well was to hear their views on the marketing of Douro and indeed Portuguese wine abroad. Francisco told us about how much easier it is to showcase wines when a part of the “Douro Boys”, rather than doing it as a single estate. This allows the international critics – Wine Spectator and Robert Parker were often mentioned in the conversation – to get a broader spectrum of the quality of wines produced at the Douro. On that subject, we were surprised to hear about how different wine marketing is depending on the part of the World you’re selling to: while North America cares deeply about wine scores, Scandinavia as a whole seems to widely ignore them. Other countries even outright asked Vallado not to include scores at all when exporting to them.
But like we see with all Douro winemakers and enthusiasts that we have the pleasure of coming across, what we really appreciate is the joy and pride these people take in their wines. Every wine has a story and every vintage deserves its side notes, and it’s this pride in the region, the vine, the terroir and the end product that made us fall in love with the Douro in the first place. It’s great to see that it is there year after year, and it’s incredible to have the privilege of getting to know these people and have a conversation over one – in this case several – glasses of amazing wine.
On to the tastings: we took very broad notes of each wine, and chose to speak about the ones we enjoyed the most. The White Reserve will have its own entry on the blog, as we decided to take it home with us, and are already thinking about the best meal to pair it with.
Vallado 2010 Touriga Nacional: Touriga Nacional is not an easy grape to be worked on its own. This wine manages to showcase all of the varietal’s qualities, while keeping a uniqueness to stand out on its own. A very delicate violet on the nose, it has great minerality and very smooth tannins. It is a great meal wine, excellent to go with some more delicate flavors. It is a world of difference from the Sousão single varietal, which was a much more powerful wine, begging for heavy meats – lamb was the suggestion thrown around the most.
|We Recommend: Vallado Field Blend 2010 – We have yet to try a Vinhas Velhas that did not impress us. We love old vines because they show us the heart of each estate’s vineyard, and they’re always wines with a lot of personality. This particular one was an absolute treat: very smooth, good minerality and very complex, with a long finish. A perfect wine to have on its own, and definitely a wine we look forward to having again.|
Vallado 10, 20, 30 and 40 Year Tawny: Vallado treated us to their entire Tawny range, which is one of our favorite tasting experiences: a vertical tasting of aged Tawny ports, starting with the youngest and moving on through the oldest. Blended for consistency, each of these wines shines on its own and you can taste the years go by as you move up. The 10 and 20 years are still youthful and fresh, with a lot of fruit in the palate and the nose, although the 20 already shows signs of what’s to come. Both are great dessert wines, with the 10 being an excellent aperitif. The 30 and 40 years are much more complex and rich wines, perfect to have on their own, even as a digestive. The twist Vallado gave these two older Tawny ports was the departure from traditional old Tawny flavors. You don’t get the overdone oak flavors: no excessive smoke or overpowering tobacco. What you do get is a youthful vibrance, as these wines have a very surprising acidity, result of a very intelligent and masterful blend. While we usually single out one blend in a range as our favorite, each of these Tawny ports were an absolute pleasure to drink.
Vintage Port 2009 and 2011: Two classical vintages, two very different Ports. 2009, from the height of its 5 years of aging, is a wonderful wine that’s absolutely ready to be enjoyed. As is characteristic of the 2009 vintage, this wine is an explosion of ripe fruit, with a rich lingering aftertaste. We’re curious to see how this wine will evolve, as it may be entering it’s adolescence soon – a time when it shifts from being a young to an old vintage, and its flavors enter a state of flux.
The 2011 Vintage is a classic for that year, and already we can see the makings not just of a great wine, of perhaps the greatest Vintage of our times. As it stands right now, it is still very young – wilder tannins still rough on the palate, but showing absolutely incredible potential. A wine to strain out patience, we’ll have to wait for it to come to its full potential, but when it does it will undoubtedly be pure perfection.
Many thanks again to OnWine and Francisco Cabral of Quinta do Vallado for hosting such an amazing tasting, and offering the very best of the estate’s portfolio!