The Douro: visiting Jorge Moreira part 1 (Poeira & Quinta de la Rosa)

In March I spent a day in the Douro with Jorge Moreira (pictured).  I first met the softly spoken Moreira in 2004 and his understated style of wines made an immediate impression.  In particular his own wine, Poeira, struck me as quite the most elegant Douro red I’d tasted and it remains so, though there’s a bit more competition on the elegance front these days since, as Moreira observes, “viticulture and tastes are changing – there’s better fruit purity with structure at the same time.”  I couldn’t agree more, in fact find it particularly striking in the region’s Ports.

Back in 2004, in addition to his own wine, Moeira made wine at Douro red wine pioneers Quinta de la Rosa, whom he’d joined in 2002.  Prior to that, he’d worked at Real Companhia Velha since 1986.  Part of my reason for visiting Moreira again was to find out more about his return to Real Companhia Velha, of which he became Technical Director in 2010.  Not to mention how he juggles his new position while still making the wines at Quinta de la Rosa and Poeira, both of whom have significantly expanded their portfolios since we met in 2004.    This I’ll cover in Part 2.  For now, a focus on Poeira and Quinta de la Rosa.

Quinta do Poeira

Moreira bought Quinta do Poeira in Provesende, the Pinhão Valley in 2001.  Fresh from showing a vertical of his flagship red (and original wine) Poeira, Moreira was riding high.  Apparently the 2002 (generally regarded as a poor, “light” year in the Douro) was excellent, as was the 2005, which he said is just opening up.

Poeira means dust and refers to the extremely fine clouds of the stuff that billow in the wake of cars or coat your shoes and trousers when you visit vineyards in the summer (that’s me last July at Quinta Nova).  But given its steep, north-facing aspect (between 200-400m), it might be expected that the Poeira vineyard is less dusty than others.  Why?  Because the site is shaded from the afternoon sun and doesn’t receive any direct sunlight.

More importantly, it means that the site is relatively cool which informs the style of wine Moreira is after – “based on freshness not tannin and fruit not oak.”  Though the shady site played into Moreira’s hands in 2009 and 2010, both hot, dry vintages, he admits that in his first two vintages (2001 & 2002), he was worried that it might prove too cool!

Of the nine hectares under vine, 2.5ha comprise older (60 year old) vines.   The balance, which has been progressively planted by Moreira, includes an experimental block of ungrafted teinturer Sousao (which produces next to nothing) and, more successfully, Alvarinho and Cabernet Sauvignon.

At harvest, the grapes travel a stone’s throw (literally) to the winery at the foot of the vineyard which Moreira built in 2005 (together with his house).  He observes that living in the Douro made a “big difference” to the wines, especially in 2005 when he was up at 1am to loan a shotgun to his neighbours, Jorge Serodio Borges and Sandra Tavares of Wine & Soul so they could deal with a rampaging wild boar.  He recollects it was so hot and sticky that he realised the grapes would “burn” if he didn’t pick them the next day.

More generally, he says he has really got to know his vineyard and become more “open-minded” about his wines.  He elaborates “every year I taste and decide what’s the best wine I can make this year – every vintage is different so it’s like a fresh start each time.  It’s very important for the success of my wines.”  

The winery is simplicity itself, comprising four traditional granite lagares (pictured) and an old vertical press.  Moreira emphasises that slowly fermenting the wine in temperature controlled lagares means he can really control the extraction process.  From here the wines are aged in the cellar below, whose temperature never exceeds 16 degrees.   We tasted barrel samples of the 2010 which, sure enough, despite the heat of these vintages, retain Moreira’s hallmark freshness and elegance, albeit with more fruit power and tannin, especially for the old vine component.   In fact, the Touriga Nacional is incredibly floral and fresh thanks, he says, to a very heterogenous year in 2010 which resulted in even ripening.

Quinta de la Rosa

Next, we made a pit stop at Quinta de la Rosa to taste 2010 and 2009 vat samples from Quinta de la Rosa and Poeira.  Also based in the Pinhão Valley, Quinta de la Rosa is owned by the Bergqvist family.  The estate was gifted to current owner Tim Bergqvist’s mother as a christening present by her parents, the Feurheerds.  The Feurheerds, port shippers, had established the property in 1906 but after the shipping business was sold in the 1930s, the grapes were in turn sold to other port shippers.  That is until 1988, when Tim and his daughter Sophia decided to launch their own ports.  These were swiftly followed by table wines which, made in consultation with David Baverstock, were among the first of the 90s new Douro reds. Back then Baverstock, whose full-time job was making port for the Symington Family, told me was champing at the bit to start making table wine in the Douro!

Unlike Quinta do Poeira, Quinta de la Rosa’s mostly south/south-west facing vineyards very much reflect their port heritage and the wines are correspondingly richer than those from Poeira.  Still, with Moreira at the helm and a range of elevations to draw upon (from around 150m at the river to around 400m), the wines are poised, with consummate balance.   Here are my tasting notes.  Please note that these mostly relate to samples of unfinished wines which had just been filtered, but nonethless, I think they convey the character of the vintage (warmer than 2008 for reds and Moreira’s light touch):

Quinta de la Rosa douRosa Branco 2010 (sample) – the grapes for this final blend vat sample (Rabigato, Viohsinho and Codega) are sourced from two vineyards at around 500m on granitic soils.  In this ripe vintage this unoaked white shows a nice weight of tangy fruit with lemon peel balanced by fresh acidity and a kick of quinine.  Good – really drinkable.

Quinta de la Rosa douRosa Branco 2009 – incidentally, at the time of writing, I’ve just shown this vintage at a tasting.  It was extremely well received for its flinty nose and nicely developing palate, with its sophisticated blend of citrus and melon notes as well as fresh almonds (lending weight to the mid-palate) and mineral acidity.

Quinta de la Rosa Branco 2010 (sample) – sourced from the warmer estate vineyard this more concentrated wine, a blend of  Viosinho, Rabigato and Codega and mixed old vine fruit, is part barrel fermented.  Though toasty on the nose it’s intensely mineral, saline even on the palate with good salty length, which lends freshness.

Passagem Branco 2010 (sample) – fruit for the Passagem label, a joint venture between the Bergqvists and Moreira, comes from Quinta de Bandeiras, a 100 hectare property in the warmer Douro Superior which Moreira discovered and the Bergqvists acquired.  Moreira told me it’s near the river, which has a cooling influence and ranges from 200m to 400m, with some slopes.  Though the grapes for this wine come from around 400m, Moreira says the Douro Superior’s warmer conditions don’t naturally lend themselves to an aromatic style so instead, he focuses on mouthfeel.  This barrel fermented and aged wine sees an element of skin and lees contact with batonnage.  Moreira says old barrels make for a funkier style.  The sample was quite reduced with struck match and nose and palate.  One to review post-bottling – see here for my review of the very good maiden 2009 vintage.

Quinta de la Rosa 2009 (sample) – a big, powerful meaty wine with a generous mid-palate of black and red berry fruit supported by savoury, textured tannins.  Yet to open up and show itself after being filtered for this tasting.

Quinta de la Rosa La Rosa Reserve 2009 (sample) – surprisingly much more expressive than the previous wine with a floral edge to its ripe but succulent black fruits, savoury tannins and a lick of toast.  Attractive.

Passagem 2009 –  from the Douro Superior this is a deeply coloured, expansive, generously tailored wine, rich and sweet-fruited with a savoury dimension too.  It’s got plenty of satisfying oomph to the mid-palate if not the finish of the La Rosa wines, though it’s well balanced – sweet, not jammy.

Quinta de la Rosa 2009 Vintage Port (blend sample 1) – an elegant, lifted port with eucalypt and a really good depth of bright, well-defined cassis and spicy, briary fruit.  Good balance and length.

Quinta de la Rosa 2009 Vintage Port (blend sample 2) – darker and tighter on nose and palate with more instrusive, blockier tannins.  Interesting!

Quinta de la Rosa Late Bottled Vintage Port 2007 – LBVs as a category seem to have become brighter fruited and this is a great example, with lovely cherry fruit and lifted floral and peppery noes.  Very good.

Poeira Po de Poeira Branco 2010 (sample) – I’m a big fan of this ultra-sophisticated unusual, quite possibly unique, blend of Vinho Verde grape Alvarinho and Gouveio. For Moreira it has a lemony and floral character from the Alvarinho which you don’t get in the Douro varieties. I selected the 2008 vintage for my 50 Great Portuguese Wines (see here) and, in my experience, this is a powerful, intense wine that needs time to open up – it typically tastes better on day 2!   Moreira reckons in 2010, it’s closer to Vinho Verde and it’s racy – very mouthwatering and salty/saline with the green apricot/mirabelle plum fruits (with bite) that I usually find in this wine.    He intends to leave it in the barrel for longer to soften the acidity and for complexity.  Lots of potential.

Poeira Po de Poeira 2009 – the cooler 2008 vintage was my February Wine of the Month (see here) and, in the warmer 2009 vintage, it’s equally seductive with really juicy, animated fruit with a core of succulent black cherry fruit and a schistous undertow.  Love its digestability.

Poeira 2009 (sample) – unfortunately, much to Moreira’s (and my) disappointment, this was a little embattled post filtration and really  sulky.  Moreira tells me he’s very happy with the wine which he describes as very attractive if less elegant and more imposing than 2007 and 2008.  I look forward to tasting the finished article!

Poeira 2008 – still, the good news is the current vintage is on great form right now.  I showed it at a tasting yesterday and the wine shop crew and sommeliers at Harvey Nichols were blown away by its sheer elegance and finesse.  With its lovely saturation of fruits, well-defined and pure and fine grained tannins, all remarked on how beautifully it’s drinking now.

Click here for my notes of Poiera and Quinta de la Rosa’s current releases which I tasted in London at the New Douro tasting in October 2010.

 

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
(Wines tasted 14 March 2011)

 

 

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