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Another New Douro newcomer: Quinta da Touriga – 2011 reds reviewed

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Last week I wrote up a pair of altitude-specific Douro wines from Duorum who, for the first time, will participate in the annual New Douro (trade) tasting.

Another new participant at next month’s tasting already qualifies wearing his day job hat (he is Export Manager at Ramos Pinto).  But this year Jorge Rosas, pictured above, will also be showing off the wines of Quinta da Touriga, which I first tasted when I met with him in December 2012 in Oporto.  From the Douro Superior, the wines impressed me and, as I discovered, have great pedigree where Quinta da Touriga was conceived by Jorge Rosas’ father, José António Ramos Pinto Rosas (pictured below).

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José António Ramos Pinto Rosas

José António already had form in the Douro Superior.  While CEO of Ramos Pinto he led the charge at Quinta de Ervamoira, a pioneering modern estate, ably assisted by Jorge Rosas’ cousin, winemaker João Nicolau de Almeida. Among other things, Ervamoira was the first Douro quinta to be block planted (i.e. with single varietal parcels, each carefully chosen for optimal grape performance and site suitability), also vertically planted (a break from the tradition of contoured, horizontal terraces).  In many respects, Ervamoira marked the birth spot of a new viticultural era in the Douro.

Recalling the vineyard visits with his father every weekend during the summer through autumn “to ensure he got the best juice,” Jorge Rosas told me José António was a gardener for many years, “so he understood that, for good wines you need good grapes.” He added, it marked him out from other shippers where, “30 to 40 years ago the Douro was isolated from Oporto, so there was a split between shippers who blended, aged and sold wines and, at the other end of the valley, growers who empirically knew a bit about viticulture and how to make wine.” 

When Ramos Pinto was sold to Roederer Champagne, Jorge Rosas said “it was impossible for my father to keep away from vineyards so, at the age of 72, he decided to plant and build the perfect quinta.  His masterpiece, Quinta da Touriga, was completed a few years before he passed away.”

As he had done with Quinta de Ervamoira, José António used military maps, which show contour lines, to identify the site.  His aim?  To find a flat site (hence the Douro Superior location) which was easy and more economic to work, but which was also high on a plateau – a chã in Portuguese. (Quinta da Touriga is at 350m).  Jorge Rosas explained the logic – “flat but high gives you two in one – concentration with finesse and higher acidity.”  The only real downside is frost.

José António’s next step was to persuade his son (then in his twenties) to take in on.  Jorge Rosas recalled the first visit to the quinta, which is near Vila Nova de Foz Côa – “a beautiful place with a very rustic old schist house.”  He was charmed and, all the more so when his father told him “I’m planning to buy for this exceptional terroir for you.” Though Jorge Rosas immediately said yes, his father told him he had to be sure and to go away and think about it.

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Well, you know how it turned out… José António bought the 20ha quinta in 1991.  Having planted 8.5ha of it, predominantly to Touriga Nacional (c. 80%, the balance being Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca), he registered the name Quinta da Touriga which Jorge Rosas reflected would be impossible now, “but back then no one was talking about grape varieties.” The Touriga Nacional is a selection massale – i.e. propagated from cuttings taken from particularly high performing, strong vines. Just as well where, despite the low average rainfall (c. 300-350mm/annum), the vineyard is dry farmed.  After 23 years, the roots run deep (which helps them to locate water reserves in the soil), but being dry farmed undoubtedly contributes to the muscular tannins of the wines which Jorge Rosas likens to “long distance runners.” For him, “it’s important to make wines that can age for the next generation… I was brought up in this environment and ageing capacity important.”

Adega Quinta da Touriga, Chã (2)

The wines are made by Fernando Lázaro and João Brito e Cunha at the impressive state of the art winery pictured top, which was built in 2004.  Brito e Cunha is no stranger to these pages and makes excellent wines from his own estate, Quinta de S. José (you can read an earlier report of a visit here).

Here are my notes on Quinta da Touriga’s 2011 releases – an excellent vintage for Douro reds as well as Vintage Port.

Quinta da Touriga-Chã 2011 (Douro)

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A deep opaque, plummy hue. In the mouth it delivers a toasty, concentrated mouthful of dark berry and currant fruit with an attractive lick of schistous, dusty minerals and powerful, slightly chewy tannins.  On day two when the oak has blown off a little, brighter red cherry and currant and lifted bergamot and violet shine through. Moreover, its initially austere acidity, the tannins too, seem better integrated with the fruit – juicier and suppler respectively. A very long, layered finish still satisfyingly fresh and focused on day 3 reveals a savoury rub of dried sage, gum cistus, coffee bean and liquorice spice. With great mineral extract, this is a powerful, complex wine of stature, which will age for 10 years plus with ease. 14.5%

Quinta da Touriga Puro 2011 (Douro)

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Though well structured and markedly mineral, with classic Douro Superior bergamot and orange blossom lift to nose and palate, the style is a little more forward, international even, in terms of its fruit and oak profile. A ripe but present backbone of tannins is fleshed out by velvety, sweet vanillin oak-perfumed kirsch, cassis and succulent black cherry fruit. A long, bright-fruited finish reveals a hint of smoky gun powder. 14.5%

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  1. John J

    Sarah,

    Excellent wine, the 2011 vinho tinto. I found myself in Lisboa for several day’s business conference and traveled to Oporto beforehand where my brother & I split a bottle, and fought over the last drops. Subsequent to that experience I found your blog and it guided us as we selected wine to fill our bags for the return home.

    Would hope someone can recommend how an American can find this, or order it? I can locate 2012, but am unsure how the vintage compares.

    Thanks!


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