New Douro highlights: Wine & Soul
I’ve now tasted Wine & Soul’s latest releases twice and with both winemakers. With Jorge Serôdio Borges in Oporto in May, then this month with Sandra Tavares. I think that Wine & Soul’s 2015 Douro reds are their best to date, indeed among the best in class full stop.
They epitomise a vintage – ‘the 11 and a half vintage’ – which has produced wines of elegant balance. Mouth-filling and fleshy, yes, but juicy too, with lovely fruit purity, perfume and freshness. You’ll find my notes below. I’m still awaiting the technical fiches and, as and when received, will add more detail about the winemaking and alcohol levels.
Tavares and I had a quick catch up about the 2017 vintage and news at Wine & Soul at last week’s New Douro tasting. It was not a year for holidays. Hot and dry (see Paul Symington’s detailed 2017 vintage report here), Tavares told me they picked the whites grapes three weeks earlier than usual, starting on 10 August, while they began harvesting grapes for red wines/Ports on 18 August. Despite the heat and drought, Tavares exclaimed “in 2017, everything was amazing.”
She was quick to add that they didn’t (and don’t) pick unripe to get acidity and, just as importantly, avoid over-ripeness “because the wines could then be from anywhere – you lose the style.” What’s important, said Tavares, is to focus on a tiny production, “which is all about expressing terroir rather than blending. Our way is more about the vineyard.” In tribute to vineyards “which exist because of Port,” the couple are making more and more Port. “It’s important to re-invest in Port,” she contends and the results are impressive – Wine & Soul Vintage Port 2015 was one of my June Wines of the Month.
Wine & Soul wines are imported into the UK and sold (retail) by Corney & Barrow.
Wine & Soul Manoella Douro White 2016 (Douro)
This new junior white comes from a 60+ year old vineyard at 600m overlooking the Tua River on 100% granite soils. Unoaked, “the aim is for a very fresh, vibrant style,” said Tavares. On the attack it shows lemony fruit with a hint of green olive. Going through, it fleshes out showing a nice purity of pear fruit (it spends 6 months on lees with batonnage). Crunchy acidity keeps it fresh. When I tasted it in May, it seemed more mineral, especially going back to it when my notes record powder puff and curry powder notes (curry powder being a mineral character I’ve previously picked up in Loire Sauvignons on silex soils). I didn’t pick this up second time around (though there was no opportunity to give it time in the glass).
Wine & Soul Guru Douro White 2016 (Douro)
Guru comes from transitional soils, featuring both granite and schist. Tavares and Serôdio Borges ferment the parcels separately and, Tavares told me, it’s the schist parcels which give Guru its pronounced flinty minerality. A real kick of cordite, which I’d initially thought was a reductive character. In the mouth, the flinty, smoky notes follow through on a tightly wound palate with grapefruit and whetstone notes. An energetic finish is taut, very long. Very good. This wine is fermented and aged in 500l French oak barrels, 20% new (reflecting a progressive toning down of the oak influence).
Wine & Soul Manoella Douro Red 2015 (Douro, Vale de Perdiz)
Serôdio Borges’s father planted the vines from which this field blend comes in the late 1970s. Darker than the Vinhas Velhas cuvee with a subtle vegetal, (black) liquorice edge to its fresh fruits of the forest (red & black currant and berry) and fleshier plum. Super smooth, fine tannins and lovely freshness make for a fluid finish with a marked salty, schistous note. I find the fruit spectrum a little darker/riper seeming than in previous years but, with no loss of freshness or definition, Manoella 2015 has an elegant, juicy drinkability. Very good.
Wine & Soul Quinta da Manoella Vinhas Velhas 2015 (Douro, Vale de Perdiz)
Deep crimson in hue – at the paler end of the spectrum for 2015. But don’t be fooled. This is a complex, characterful wine with a dynamic sweet/savoury interplay of fruit (plum, wild red currant and cherry), toast, red liquorice, inky and pot pourri florals (roses, parma violets), dried herbs, salty minerality, coal dust and fresh, very persistent acidity. Striated tannins are ripe but present, chocolatey and mouthcoating quality. The saltiness is pronounced on a long finish with a whole bunch-like sense of old vine sinew – a firm (but not green) stemminess. Great depth, layer and structure.
Wine & Soul Pintas Character Douro Red 2015 (Douro, Vale de Perdiz)
Fifty to seventy year old vines from the Pintas vineyard always produces dark, black-fruited wines. Character 2015 is a very deep, inky hue with a bright pink, youthful rim. Looks do not deceive. True to form it has lashings of bright, very pure black and blue berry and currant fruit, aromatic spice (crushed coriander seed, with fennel seed in salami), perfumed toast and a smoky, schistous minerality. Ripe but present tannins have an energetic touch of grip and, together with lively acidity, lend plenty of impetus to the palate. Fabulous polish and length for this junior cuvee.
Wine & Soul Pintas Douro Red 2015 (Douro, Vale de Perdiz)
When I tasted this imposing wine in May, but for a touch of youthful oak (banana), it was somewhat inscrutable. I had a strong sense still waters ran deep because, dark and brooding, it bristled with energy – a sense of concentrated, compact, spring-loaded fruit. Re-tasting it this month, the oak ‘bounce’ is still there on nose and attack, but its glinting black fruit core (though still coiled and concentrated) is a more palpable presence. Powerful, ripe tannins and incisive freshness confirm that Pintas 2015 has all the makings of a great long distance runner. A keeper. Terrific.