The Douro: Lavradores de Feitoria’s new “winter white” & first taste of Poeira 2009 & 2010 reds

Yesterday I arrived in the drizzly Douro.  If I had a penny for every time someone said “you’re unlucky, it’s usually  glorious at this time”  I’d be a wealthy woman!  (Note to self: consider alternative career as a rainmaker to drought-impacted regions).  Still, the snow and rain over the winter has been good to replenish the soils after last year’s heat. 

Lavradores de Feitoria’s winery is located in Sabrosa in the Baixo Corgo, the cooler, wetter, westernmost sub-region of the Douro from where most of the grapes for its (100% natural acidity) white wines are sourced.  This innovative group of 18 growers pool their grapes and, with a range of locations, aspects and altitudes to draw upon, have a strong portfolio of mostly (site) blended wines, which are made by Paulo Ruão and Raul Pereira (pictured). 

Whites are a particular strength so I was excited to taste their new baby, the youthful 100% Viosinho Meruge Branco 2009, which Ruão describes as “a winter white wine” and not just on account of the weather!  Lavradores make an excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Ruão told me they wanted to make a single varietal Portuguese white wine which was as good.  I venture to say it’s even better, with plenty of spice, complexity and mouthfeel to its fruit salad palate thanks to its fermentation and ageing in (untoasted) Portuguese oak with batonnage.  Impressive freshness too.  An ageworthy wine.

My other stand out was Quinta da Costa das Aguaneiras 2007, a single vineyard wine from a south-facing site (60% old, mixed vines) foot-trodden in lagares which Ruão describes as “very Douro.” I love those Douro salty schistous notes, which lend  freshness and minerality to the wines, here reinforced by a lovely saturation of juicy red and black berry fruit.  Lavradores ferment 5-10% in stainless steel to preserve fruit and freshness – nice touch. 

Next up, I met up with one of my favourite Douro winemakers, Jorge Moreira of Poeira, Quinta de la Rosa and, most recently, Real Companhia Velha.  Here we focused on tasting unfinished wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages, both of which were significantly hotter than the 2007 and 2008 vintages.  And in such years, Poeira’s north-facing, cooler vineyard really comes into its own.  As Moreira (pictured perching on a lagare) points out, its steep slopes, which range from 200m-400m are shaded from midday and see no direct sunlight.  Barrel samples of the 2010 and vat sample blends of the 2009 vintage retained Moreira’s hallmark freshness and elegance, albeit with more fruit power and tannin.  Most promising!

This morning, I’ll be spending time with Moreira finding out about his plans for Real Companhia Velha’s table wine portfolio before Dirk Niepoort and I head down to Bairrada to catch up with his Baga Friends and rebels (see here).

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