The Douro – exploring biodiversity at Real Companhia Velha


Álvaro Martinho Dias Lopes – viticulturist at Real Companhia Velha

I am in the Douro this week, leading a tour of sommeliers for Wines of Portugal’s excellent Sommelier Quest initiative.  None of my group had previously visited the region.  It’s pretty clear to me that they will be back.  And soon.  


Jorge Moreira preaching to the converted (in my case) and winning new converts

After all, who cannot be seduced by this imposing valley and its rugged landscape.  Or inspired by these passionate two – Jorge Moreira of Poeira, Quinta de la Rosa and Real Companhia Velha with his viticulturist  at Real Companhia Velha Álvaro Martinho Dias Lopes.



I particularly liked Lopes’ observation “to know the wine you have to know the vineyard, but to know the vineyard you have to know the land.”  In short, what makes the Douro so special – truly unique.  He took us on a fascinating tour of flora and fauna at Quinta das Carvalhas – primitive plants (including vines) whose long growing cycle is perfectly adapted to a region whose extreme continental climate is described as “nine months of winter, three months of hell.”


And to its steep slopes and poor soil.  Soil which does not lend itself to high production, so flavours are strong – very intense – as the wild thyme, lavender and onion attest.  Not to mention of course the wines with, as Lopes put it, “fruit which is not just sweet but delicious – with sweetness, acid, flavour and texture.



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