douro boys and ramos pinto 25th day 1 247

Duas Quintas 25th Anniversary Verticals Part 1: Douro DOC Whites

Chief Winemaker João Nicolau de Almeida introduces the first vertical

It’s one thing to be a pioneer, quite another to be successful.  Ramos Pinto’s Douro DOC brand Duas Quintas turned 25 years old this year and would make any parent proud on both counts.  As outgoing Chief Winemaker João Nicolau de Almeida put it at last week’s 25th anniversary vertical tasting of Duas Quintas Branco & Tinto, Classico & Reserva, “my work is done.” 

The journey

Work which, I might add, helped to forge the modern era of Douro wines and Ports.   While de Almeida took a tip from the top (his father’s successful creation of Barca Velha) when he made Duas Quintas from low (Quinta de Ervamoira at 110-340m) and high (Quinta dos Bons Ares at 600m) sites (hence the name – duas means two), Ervamoira was the first Douro quinta to be block planted (i.e. with single varietal parcels) and vertically planted. You can read more about this early, innovative history of the Duas Quintas brand in my report of a visit to Quinta de Ervamoira.

Reviewing his work of 25 years, de Almeida plainly feels that the decision to block plant has been vindicated (at least for those selected varieties on the Duas Quintas sites).   Casting his mind back to childhood visits to the Douro with his father he recalled that “even for old [field blend] vines there are good vineyards and bad….If you mix bad varieties you have bad wine if you mix good varieties you have good wine.”  

Partner in crime, Chief Viticulturist Carlos Peixoto

What’s more (and it was strikingly evident from the tasting), he believes that “great vintage years are great for red and white wine [and not just Vintage Port] – if grapes are good so are the wines.”  Of the mature whites, he singled out great years like 1994, 2000 and 2007 which “still have life, the structure and that’s very important for me, for winemaking, to know that the wines can go and develop more complexity in the future.”

A sneak preview of 2015 Ports

As for the present – 2015 – de Almeida is in no doubt that it will produce Vintage Port.  Referring to it as “a very, very nice year” he reported “the grapes were healthy, none were raisined, they have acidity, maturity of tannins and good sugar.  Though the fruit took a little time to arrive the tannins were soft and mature…as winemakers we try to put some effort into polishing the wines/the tannins to obtain elegance and, in 2015, the elegance was in the year.”

The duas quintas

Quinta de Ervamoira

Quinta de Ervamoira is located in the Douro, sub-region of Douro Superior and covers a total surface area of 234 hectares, with altitudes which vary between 110 and 340 metres.

In Ervamoira the vertical form of planting has been exclusively used (vineyards laid out without terraces) and local grape varieties – such as Rabigato, Viosinho, Folgazão for the whites and Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Barca for reds – are planted in their own plots (block planted).

The soils at Quinta de Ervamoira are part of the Ante-Ordovician greywacke and schist complex. In this homogenous geological context Quinta de Ervamoira draws its originality from the diversity of exposures provided by the amphitheatre in which it is located.

The Mediterranean/Continental climate tends to bring cold winters and very hot and dry summers, with an average annual rainfall of 300 mm.

The wines produced here are full bodied and very concentrated.

Quinta dos Bons Ares

Quinta dos Bons Ares is also located in the Douro Superior sub-region. With an altitude of 600 metres, the vineyards are situated along a gentle slope of the hill. It has a total surface area of 50 ha and is planted with different grape varieties.

Quinta dos Bons Ares is located in the Douro region in one of the rare granite outcrops. The soils are granitic, with a sandy loam texture, of which nearly 80% is sand. They lack structure, are poor in organic materials and higher in acidity than is usual in the region.

With low water retaining capacity, the water table is very close to the surface. Here, the altitude provides cooler temperatures during the year and also a higher annual rainfall, around 500 mm per year.

The wines produced here are fresh, aromatic and with a very well balanced acidity.

Duas Quintas Branco Classico vertical

Though he admitted, “I never thought white wines could age in the Douro,” de Almeida long ago won a bet with Roederer’s Jean-Claude Rouzaud who thought it would be “crazy, impossible.”  The first Duas Quintas Branco (white) was produced in 1992.  There’s hardly any left so our vertical kicked off with the 1994 Branco Classico.  It blew me away – in fact I go so far as to say it was my wine of the tasting (reds and whites).  Surprised, I asked de Almeida what accounted for the longevity of the whites given their acidity is not especially high. He replied that volume and composition is the main thing – “if you give more fruit to the wines, more different flavours and have an nice ensemble, the wine can age like that – have a nice evolution and become more complex.”  It’s why, he explained, “we are looking for more varieties with complexity.”

Thus far Rabigato has been the mainstay of the whites because it is resistant to heat and has a lot of fruit.  But de Almeida has played around with different grapes.  He told us he is now less excited by Codega – “I use it for volume but the taste is not exciting – it doesn’t tell me anything.  I prefer varieties which tell me something different, something good.”  Gouveio has more interest and gives some freshness, but it’s not so intense.  Viosinho has very complex fruit  which “gives shape to the wine,” but it suffers from sun burn (so more comes from the cooler, higher site).   Arinto, he says, brings minerality/acidity and has good resistence to the hot climate.  As for Folgazão, de Almeida likens it to Touriga Franca for reds – “it gives structure, full body, Douro terroir.”  

The overall aim, he explained, “is for the fruit not the wood to dominate – early vintages had more wood and are not our taste.”  But this is a Portuguese take on fruit.  Few Portuguese white wines wear their fruit on their sleeve and, for me, the triumph of the Duas Quinta whites is the sheer subtlety and luminosity of their multiple, mutable watercolour shades.

Wood: good for signage, good for cases but not so good in the bottle

Here are my notes on the wines, in each case preceded by Ramos Pinto’s short description of the vintage (in italics/bold) and vintage, vinification and varietal summaries.  My stand out vintages?  Of the Classicos: 1994, 2000, 2007, 2011 & 2014.  Of the Reservas: 2008, 2011 & 2014.

I’ll report on the Duas Quinta Tinto Classico (1990-2013) & Reserva (1992-2013) next Friday.

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 1994

“the year of the decade”

Climate: 1994 was an excellent year, with amazing weather conditions. The soils had absorbed enough water after a rainy winter and spring. A hot summer followed by some rain early September produced perfect ripe grapes.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares. After 48 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 50% of the clean must fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 50% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 1995.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Viosinho (30%), Códega (10%), Mix of Douro grape varieties (10%)

Tasting note:  yellow gold with a rich, nutty burnish to the nose.  Still very much alive on the palate with a salty/fino intensity and fennel edge to its buttered yellow plum fruit.  Very persistent, balanced and fine going through. When I returned to this first wine having tasted (and made notes on) all 23 wines, it had lost none of its power and stood tall. Deeply impressive.  12.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 1997

“Duas Quintas reaches adulthood”

Climate: An atypical year. A dry winter characterized by a hot February, with the vines bursting early and full of strength. It was followed by a rainy spring and a cold May. The lower altitudes, which registered higher temperatures were more protected, but the higher quotas were eventually affected by this weather change. Maturation developed in a very irregular climate until the arrival of the equinox with ideal temperatures. The long, hot and dry summer raised the sugar levels, the concentration of colour and the ripening, which resulted in tannin-rich wines of excellent quality, making this a memorable harvest.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares. After 48 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 50% of the clean must fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 50% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 1998.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Viosinho (30%), Códega (10%),Mix of Douro grape varieties (10%)

Tasting note: gold in hue the ’97 looks older than the ’94. And it’s madeirised. Even so I’m surprised to note its soft but present, rolling acidity. 12.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 1999

“a turbulent year”

Climate: A difficult year with climatic upheavals that resulted in a difference in the quality of the grapes on the higher levels (medium quality) and the lower levels (great quality). The condition of the grapes varied greatly, therefore a surgical vintage was necessary and this resulted in a significant fall in production.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares. After 48 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 50% of the clean must fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 50% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 2000.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (40%), Viosinho (30%), Códega (20%),Mix of Douro grape varieties (10%)

Tasting note: – in this difficult year the proportion of star player Rabigato is down and the proportion of the bland Códega grape is up.  Yellow gold with a toasty developed, rather dank nose and palate which put me in mind of musty drawers and mouldy orange peel.  12%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2000

“new douro at the dawn of the millennium”

Climate: The winter was exceptionally dry and with hardly any rain from October until the end of February. However, April was cool and damp and the rain persisted until May, therefore the precipitation registered was three times higher than usual. Flowering took place in May under very humid conditions, leading to a decrease in fruit production. All these conditions resulted in one of the smallest harvest we have ever had. July and August were characterised by the occurrence of some showers that proved very useful, although it was not a very hot summer, by which at the end of August, maturation was slightly delayed. September began with an abnormally warm period, leading to a rapid maturation. At the start of harvest, the fruit was in excellent condition.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares.  After 24 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 75% of the clean must fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 25% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 2001.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Viosinho (20%), Mix of Douro grape varieties (20%) Códega (10%)

Tasting note: the proportion of new oak has been halved yet this vintage declaration year possesses no little intensity and structure whilst being very fleet of foot – delicate even. A nutty mid-palate has richness and roundness with an impression of stoniness – minerality and stone fruits.  Hints of marzipan, petrol and pond lend complexity to its long, rolling finish. Lovely.  In its prime.  13%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2001

Climate: The winter of 2001 will surely be remembered for the extraordinary amount of rainfall and the damage caused by the deluge that continued for five months. Bud burst took place in mid-March, earlier than usual, due to the higher than the average temperatures throughout the winter. Flowering took place in May as the vineyard development slowed down due to mild weather conditions in early spring. Temperatures throughout the summer were not excessive and useful amounts of rain were experienced throughout July and August, with maturation taking placeunder favourable conditions.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares. After 24 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 75% of the clean must  fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 25% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 2002.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (40%), Viosinho (30%), Mix of Douro grape varieties (20%), Arinto (10%)

Tasting note: Arinto has snuck into the blend, replacing Codega.  A bright yellow hue with a rather sherried nose.  Out of condition.  12.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2002

“a tricky year”

Climate: The winter of 2001/2002 was relatively dry in the Douro region. The large fluctuations in temperature continued through most of the winter and brought about a later than usual bud burst in mid-March. April is typically a wet month in the Douro but the dry conditions continued and very little rain fell. Flowering took place in mid-May under dry but cloudy conditions, leading to a reasonable fruit set. The summer was mild, which was fortunate because low levels of rainfall continued throughout this period. The vines resisted the dry conditions surprisingly well, partly due to sporadic showers. August was unusually mild and in September we approached the harvest with confidence. Everything indicated that we were building up to what might be a classic year: low yields, some water stress, grapes in near-perfect condition and mild weather conditions for a balanced ripening.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares. After 24 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 75% of the clean must fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 25% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 2003.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (30%), Viosinho (30%), Mix of Douro grape varieties (20%), Arinto (20%)

Tasting note: yellow gold with a rich nose which reminds me of favourite fancy baked goods (eggy madeleines/nutty financiers).  It’s less rich on palate – a little attenuated, rasping even with an elbow of alcohol.  13%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2003

“the schist turns to dust”

Climate: Total precipitation during the 2003 wine-growing year was within the normal range, despite being marked by highly irregular distribution. From early spring to late May, there was no rainfall at all. Bud burst occurred in March and was normal. Flowering took place in the second half of May under excellent weather conditions. Ripening progressed during a very hot and dry period, with average temperatures of 45°C. This caused an increased concentration of different components and contributed to a perfect state of health for the grapes. Temperatures remained high during the harvest, producing small grape berries with a good concentration of sugar, aromas and smooth tannins. Despite all this, it was a good year with slightly irregular temperatures, but one which ultimately produced rich, concentrated wines.

Vinification: The grapes selected from Quinta de Ervamoira and Quinta dos Bons Ares are carefully harvested by hand to be vinified at the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares. After 24 hours of skin contact maceration, the grapes were pressed. 75% of the clean must fermented in stainless steel vats at 18°C and the remaining 25% in new French oak casks. The wine was bottled in the spring of 2004.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (50%), Rabigato (30%), Arinto (20%)

Tasting note: pale yellow with a rich toasty, buttery, almondy nose.  Unlike the 2001, the palate confirms the nose with a frangipane rich, textural nuttiness.  It’s a touch of warm, though this adds to this wine’s/the vintage’s sense of generosity.  With a hint of bitter marzipan to the finish I’d drink this up.  12.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2005

“back to the future”

Climate: Despite extremely dry conditions, 2005 produced excellent wines. In late August, the vines showed signs of high stress. The previous winter had been very dry. There was great concern over that year’s harvest when August came to a close without any signs of rain. But the weather changed in early September with a constant rainfall during some of the harvest days. The rain gave way to a  clear sky, offering ideal conditions, cool nights and a heavy dew for the remainder of the harvest.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and packed in small boxes and selected upon their arrival in the winery. After a short skin contact maceration, they were pressed. The clean must fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel vats (80%) and new French oak casks (20%). The wine was bottled six months later.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (60%), Rabigato (30%), Arinto (10%)

Tasting note: ripe yellow plum with a touch of brulée/smokiness, even a medicinal note.  Quite persistent with a delicacy to its stone, pondy, mineral finish.  Much nicer than that sounds!  Complex and funky but controlled.  12.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2006

“250th anniversary of the douro demarcated region”

Climate: In the Douro region, 2006 was a hot and variable year with increased ripening. At Quinta de Ervamoira, the harvest began very early due to the high temperatures recorded in early September, after a relatively cool August. The freshness and fruit of the picked grapes at this estate, together with the grapes harvested at Quinta dos Bons Ares, gave our wines balance and harmony.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and packed in small boxes and selected upon their arrival in the winery. After a short skin contact maceration, they were pressed. The clean must fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel vats (80%) and new French oak casks (20%). The wine was bottled six months later.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (55%), Rabigato (30%), Arinto (15%)

Tasting note: pale yellow with Anjou Chenin-like notes of quince and chamomile and a nutty back-palate.  It’s a little short and warm, but I enjoyed the complexity of the palate.  13.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2007

“a classical year in douro”

Climate: November and February were very wet, as was the month of May, and the month of June in particular, which was wet and cool, mainly in the Douro Superior. This originated a slow, gradual maturation of the grapes on our quintas, which attained their ideal condition with the rise in temperature in early September, which was dry and hot. This development of the maturation produced an optimal acidity/sugar balance, strength and great aromatic expression in the grapes, characteristics that define 2007 wines.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; 85% of the must is obtained by direct pressing and 15% was free-run after skin contact. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (80%) and in French oak casks (20%). This wine was bottled in March 2008.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (50%), Rabigato (30%), Arinto (20%)

Tasting note: though one notices the alcohol, this is a powerful, fruity vintage with good acidity too.  Very good length to its yellow plum and stone fruits – in fact still very primary, with no nuttiness to speak off.  Shows a clean pair of heels.  Very good. 13.5%

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco 2009

“an unexpected result”

Climate: 2009 was a very dry and hot year in the Douro Superior. The high temperatures registered at Quinta de Ervamoira accelerated the harvest. At Quinta dos Bons Ares the extreme heat didn’t affect negatively the final maturity, on the contrary, it improved it due to smoother and constant temperatures and the fresh nights. 2009 was characterised by a fast maturation of the grapes in the lower quotas, compensated by the equilibrium of the higher quotas. The final result was surprising.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; 85% of the must is obtained by direct pressing and 15% was free-run after skin contact. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (85%) and in French oak casks (15%). This wine was bottled in March 2010.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (50%), Rabigato (30%), Arinto (20%)

Tasting note: the proportion of oak (versus stainless steel) has progressively reduced from 50 to 25 to 20 to 15%. In this warm year the Branco has a nutty, frangipane amplitude, with slightly woolly stone fruits, firmer quince and a medicinal edge.  The acidity paddles away beneath, propelling the fruit along nicely.  Robust.  14%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2010

“tinta da barca enters the scene”

Climate: 2010 was a good year in the Douro Superior, both in quality and in quantity. The vegetative cycle was delayed due to the low temperatures and rain during the spring. The relatively slow maturing was very positive. The high temperatures of late July and early August accelerated the maturation of some grape varieties but caused a block on maturation in part of the plots. As a result, it ended up being a very rigorous and selective harvest. The qualitative results are wines in which elegance stands out.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; the must is obtained by direct pressing after cold maceration. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (90%) and in French oak casks (10%). This wine was bottled in February 2011.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (50%), Rabigato (30%), Arinto (20%)

Tasting note: fresh green apple to nose and palate with quince and an incipient nuttiness and briney, mineral complexity to its gently waxy finish. 13%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2011

“thank you nature!”

Climate: 2011 was preceded by two dry winters, which led to an early vineyard growing cycle, followed by a warm, wet spring and a dry summer with cool nights. The harvest started early with high temperatures and the maturation took quite a long time. This climate produced very aromatic and intense dark wines, with a fantastic acidity. It’s hard to say exactly how a great vintage happens, or which factors contribute to success – science cannot explain everything!

Vinification: 2011 was the first year that the winery of Quinta dos Bons Ares received the white  grapes in a cold chamber, before falling by gravity into the press. These innovations allowed a huge improvement on the vinification process of the Duas Quintas white. The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; the must is obtained by direct pressing after cold maceration. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (90%) and in French oak casks (10%). This wine was bottled in February 2012.

Grape varieties: Viosinho (50%), Rabigato (40%), Arinto (10%)

Tasting note: the first year in which grapes were received in a cold chamber, before falling by gravity into the press.  Markedly pale with a silver rim.  It shows crisp green apple skin to nose and palate.  Though brisk on the attack with breakfast and just ripe, slightly white peppery pink grapefruit, it softens/opens out going through.  A long, leesy textural finish is sluiced with quinine minerality.  Very persistent and intense.  Excellent.  13%

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco 2012

“the new winery”

Climate: 2012 was characterized by a low rainfall winter, cool spring temperatures and an early summer. High temperatures in August and very cool nights contributed to the excellent ripening of the grapes. These factors were especially reflected in the small size of the grapes, in their concentration and freshness. Amplitude and refinement are the two main features of the wines we produced in 2012.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; the must is obtained by direct pressing after cold  maceration. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (90%) and in French oak casks (10%). This wine was bottled in March 2013.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Viosinho (40%), Arinto (10%)

Tasting note: the alcohol brings some oomph to the palate, which bowls along, revealing white peppery grapefruit, raw potato, subtle lime zests and a persistent undertow of quinine minerality.  What it lacks in finesse it makes up for in power.  13.5%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2013

“a full bodied wine”

Climate: 2013 witnessed a rainy winter and a wet spring, followed by a hot summer, which a priori indicated a year with good characteristics. The low spring temperatures reflected on the small size of the berries (especially at Quinta de Ervamoira), with a direct impact on the concentration of the wines, which became one of the main characteristics of the wines of this harvest.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; the must is obtained by direct pressing after cold maceration. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (90%) and in French oak casks (10%). This wine was bottled in February 2014.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Viosinho (40%), Arinto (10%)

Tasting note: a pale hue with a flinty, quinine nose, lime zest and sweet yellow plum – lovely fruit, nice minerality and yet it struck me as a little flat.  The flavour profile is fresh, so perhaps it’s just going through a dumb phase? 13%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco 2014

“early vintage”

Climate: In terms of climatic characteristics in the Douro Superior, 2014 was marked by a dry winter and a warm spring, which speeded up the vine’s vegetative development. The summer was relatively cool with some heat spikes. Grape maturity was regular and more advanced than in 2013, so the harvest occurred 10 days earlier than usual. The September rains came after the white grapes had been harvested. 2014 has produced expressive, vibrant wines with good acidity.

Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported to the winemaking centre in small boxes and selected by variety and vineyard; the must is obtained by direct pressing after cold maceration. The clean must is fermented in stainless steel vats at low temperature (90%) and in French oak casks (10%). This wine was bottled in April 2015.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (60%), Viosinho (30%), Arinto (10%)

Tasting note: sweet, wild apple blossom and water melon (?) perfume with a pronounced quinine minerality to its yellow plum palate.  Lively acidity gives shape and lift to the flavours.  Long, very persistent with a pillowy lees texture to the finish.  Very good – interestingly, this season had the makings of a declared vintage until September’s/October’s rains, but picked before the rainfall, 2014 whites are very good.  13%

Duas Quintas Branco Reserva Vertical

João Nicolau de Almeida, Carlos Peixoto, Ana Rosas (Port Winemaker) & Teresa Ameztoy (Douro DOC Winemaker)

The first Reserva in our line up, the 2002, was a trial run.  I asked de Almeida why it took so long to release a Reserva.  He explained that he only started isolating wines for a possible Reserva around 2002.  By then he had a better handle on the different grape vareties and had more varieties to play with, including Folgazão.  Additionally, de Almeida was concerned not to ameliorate the Duas Quintas Classico.

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2002 (not released)

“a tricky year”

Climate: The winter of 2001/2002 was relatively dry in the Douro region. The large fluctuations in temperature continued through most of the winter and brought about a later than usual bud burst in mid-March. April is typically a wet month in the Douro but the dry conditions continued and very little rain fell. Flowering took place in mid-May under dry but cloudy conditions, leading to a reasonable fruit set. The summer was mild, which was fortunate because low levels of rainfall continued throughout this period. The vines resisted the dry conditions surprisingly well, partly due to sporadic showers. August was unusually mild and in September we approached the harvest with confidence. Everything indicated that we were building up to what might be a classic year: low yields, some water stress, grapes in near-perfect condition and mild weather conditions for a balanced ripening.

Tasting note: golden, a little cloudy and cidery.  Oxidised.

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2008 (magnum)

“the cool year”

Climate: 2008 started with a quite cold winter though not very rainy, followed by a rainy spring the rains providing high water supplies for the soils. During summer and harvest time the temperatures were exceptionally low in the region, resulting in a very long and soft ripeness of the grapes,  especially Touriga Francesa. The harvest began a fortnight later. The crop yielded sound grapes with good concentration and freshness, which ultimately produced exceedingly appealing wines of the same characteristics.

Vinification: Driven by curiosity and interest in exploring the more traditional values and most modern techniques such as instruments, we selected 7 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares. These white grapes were carefully harvested by hand and pressed. The must fermented in French oak casks where, after turning into wine, it matured during 7 months on fine lees. The wine was bottled in June 2009.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Mix of Douro grape varieties (50%) Viosinho, Arinto, Folgazão, Códega, Malvasia Fina, Gouveio

Tasting note: pale, still very young with nice weight, texture and layer to the palate.  Subtle watercolour shades of green apple peel, raw potato, lime zest and flinty, quinine minerals steal over the palate.  Well-integrated toasty vanillin oak and persistent lemony acidity draw it out.  Very good.  13%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2009 (magnum)

“an unexpected result”

Climate: 2009 was a very dry and hot year in the Douro Superior. The high temperatures registered at Quinta de Ervamoira accelerated the harvest. At Quinta dos Bons Ares, the extreme heat didn’t affect negatively the final maturity, on the contrary, it improved it due to smoother and constant temperatures and the fresh nights. 2009 was characterised by a quick maturation of the grapes in the lower quotas, compensated by the equilibrium of the higher quotas. The final result was surprising.

Vinification: We selected 7 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares. These white grapes were carefully harvested by hand and pressed. The must fermented in French oak casks of various capacities and ages where, after turning into wine, it matured during 7 months on fine lees. The wine was bottled in May 2010.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Mix of Douro grape varieties (50%), Viozinho, Arinto, Folgazão, Códega, Malvasia Fina, Gouveio

Tasting note: like the Classico, the Reserva reflects the vintage with its riper, sweeter, broader, nutty palate and just evolving honey notes.  It doesn’t have the clarity or precision of the 2008 and shows a trace of alcoholic warmth.  Drink up. 14%

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2010 (magnum)

“tinta da barca enters the scene”

Climate: 2010 was a good year in the Douro Superior, both in quality and in quantity. The vegetative cycle was delayed due to the low temperatures and rain during the spring. The relatively slow maturing was very positive. The high temperatures of late July and early August accelerated the maturation of some grape varieties but caused a block on maturation in part of the plots. As a result, it ended up being a very rigorous and selective harvest. The qualitative results are wines in which elegance stands out.

Vinification: We selected 4 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares: Rabigato, Viosinho, Folgazão and Arinto. The carefully harvested white grapes were pressed. The must fermented in French oak casks of various capacities and ages where, after turning into wine, it matured during 7 months on fine lees. This wine was bottled in May 2011.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Arinto (20%), Viosinho (20%), Folgazão (10%)

Tasting note: back to a more restrained style, in fact quite closed on the nose.  So I was surprised to discover that the palate was quite warm and expansive (but not as broad or developed as the 2009).  It shows green apple peel, raw potato and anise notes with savoury, textured lees to the finish.  A little lacking in concentration and structure, perhaps a function of more generous yields?  13%

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2011 (magnum)

2011 – a cracker for both the white Classico and Reserva

“thank you nature!”

Climate: 2011 was preceded by two dry winters, which led to an early vineyard growing cycle,  followed by a warm, wet spring and a dry summer with cool nights. The harvest started early with high temperatures and the maturation took quite a long time. This climate produced very aromatic and intense dark wines, with a fantastic acidity. It’s hard to say exactly how a great vintage happens, or which factors contribute to success – science cannot explain everything!

Vinification: We selected 4 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares: Rabigato, Viosinho, Folgazão and Arinto. The carefully harvested white grapes were pressed. The must fermented in French oak casks of various capacities and ages where, after turning into wine, it aged for 7 months on fine lees. This wine was bottled in May 2012.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (50%), Arinto (20%), Viosinho (20%), Folgazão (10%)

Tasting note: another cracker from 2011.  Though initially a tad bitter on the nose with woolly apple and pronounced (but very attractive to this G&T lover) quinine, it builds in the glass revealing powerful citrus fruit and lemony acid drive, with notes of fennel and raw potato.  Plenty of drive and energy here from the fruit, acid and alcohol – so very 2011, with everything in abundance.  Powerful but balanced.  14.5%

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2012 (magnum)

“the new winery”

Climate: 2012 was characterized by a low rainfall winter, cool spring temperatures and an early summer. High temperatures in August and very cool nights contributed to the excellent ripening of the grapes. These factors were especially reflected in the small size of the grapes, in their concentration and freshness. Amplitude and refinement are the two main features of the wines we produced in 2012.

Vinification: We selected 4 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares: Rabigato, Viosinho, Folgazão and Arinto. The carefully harvested white grapes were pressed. The must fermented in French oak casks of various capacities and ages where, after turning into wine, it aged for 7 months on fine lees. This wine was bottled in May 2013.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (70%), Arinto (10%), Viosinho (10%), Folgazão (10%)

Tasting note: shorter than the 2011 but lots of complexity here, with camomile/herbal hints, pastis/anise, raw potato and a nuttiness, leesy roundness in the mouth. Medium length with a bit of warmth to the finish.  13%

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2013 (magnum)

“a full bodied wine”

Climate: 2013 witnessed a rainy winter and a wet spring, followed by a hot summer, which a priori indicated a year with good characteristics. The low spring temperatures reflected on the small size of the berries (especially at Quinta de Ervamoira), with a direct impact on the concentration of the wines, which became one of the main characteristics of the wines of this harvest.

Vinification: We selected 4 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares: Rabigato, Viosinho, Folgazão and Arinto. The carefully harvested white grapes were pressed. 75% of the must fermented in stainless steel vats and 25% in French and Austrian oak barrels of various capacities and ages where, after turning into wine, it aged for 9 months on fine lees. This wine was bottled in July 2014.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (70%), Arinto (10%), Viosinho (10%), Folgazão (10%)

Tasting note: a bright, youthful wine with pink grapefruit, green apple and quinine to the nose and palate.  Lively acidity makes for a persistent finish.  The oak is barely there.  Nice translucency. 13%

Ramos Pinto  Duas Quintas Branco Reserva 2014 (magnum)

“early vintage”

Climate: In terms of climatic characteristics in the Douro Superior, 2014 was marked by a dry winter and a warm spring, which speeded up the vine’s vegetative development. The summer was relatively cool with some heat spikes. Grape maturity was regular and more advanced than in 2013, so the harvest occurred 10 days earlier than usual. The September rains came after the white grapes had been harvested. 2014 has produced expressive, vibrant wines with good acidity.

Vinification: We selected 3 white Douro grape varieties from our estates of Ervamoira and Bons Ares: Rabigato, Folgazão and Gouveio. The grapes are harvested by hand and taken to the winery in small boxes, separated according to variety and plot; the must was obtained by direct pressing, following cold maceration. The clean must fermented in stainless steel vats and in French and Austrian oak barrels (25%) of various capacities where, after turning into wine, it aged for 9 months on fine lees. This wine was bottled in June 2015.

Grape varieties: Rabigato (85%), Folgazão (10%), Gouveio (5%),

Tasting note: a delicate toasty, nutty burnish to the nose with sweet yellow plum, green apple peel and hints of  pastis/anise and lime zest which follow through on an expressive palate. It has the richness with delicacy which categorises my favourite Duas Quintas whites.  A long, mineral lemony finish completes this stand out vintage.

The wines were tasted on Friday, 9 October at Ramos Pinto’s HQ in Vila Nova de Gaia.

 

 

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