Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Three Treasures of the Douro with ace winemaker Luís Sottomayor

Three Treasures of the Douro with ace winemaker Luís Sottomayor

On these hills -  the white wines originate

Luís (screenshot)

Offley Vintage
Port 2018

Luís Sottomayor (left), head winemaker of Sogrape’s Douro and Port wines, threw down quite a challenge towards the end of Tuesday’s Liberty Wines Masterclass. He’s so convinced of the “great ageing potential’ of the Offley Port 2018 vintage that he asked Liberty to stage another gathering in 2045, inviting all of yesterday’s participants to meet and check up on the 2018!

Quite a few of us won’t be around then but you don't have to wait that long to enjoy this superb Port which is already drinking very well indeed. But what should you enjoy it with? Aside from good company, of course. Well, as Luis suggested, cheese and chocolate are the usual pairings, tried and tested over the decades.

But he came up with another one, a local Portuguese dish called Feijoada: beans, sausage, pork, vegetables (carrots etc), usually served with rice. “Cassoulet like” wrote participant Ligia Marques who texted in the details.

Luis started off by saying that Offley 18 is “a really classic vintage”. “We wanted to have a wine to be simpler, made for those who want to drink and understand what a classic vintage is, that they might go on and try other vintages. It is easy-drinking, tannins are there but are round.” The only difference from other vintages is that a higher quality of Tinto Roriz (perhaps better known to us as Tempranillo) was used. The others are Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca.

The aromas are pleasant, not overly complex: “Black fruit, balsamic, approachable, a wine for young consumers” “It is made from our best grapes and, on the palate, there are tannins and acidity (so many years in bottle ahead!). Very drinkable from now!”

In reponse to a question by wine-writer John Wilson, Luis said it was not easy to say how long it will last. “But is has all the essential components to live many, many years… will live after me!” Closure - why the regular cork? “This kind of cork is best for ageing the wine.”

Vinha Grande from Casa Ferreirinha

The pleasant morning masterclass continued with tastings of two Vinha Grande, one of the oldest brands of Casa Ferreirinha, itself one of the "pioneering" wine companies in the Douro. While the red was first produced in 1960, the white didn't appear until 2005. Then, as Luis explained: “We acquired high altitude vineyards in the Cima Corgo region with lots of white wine varieties.”


Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro (DOC) Douro Branco 2019, 13%

Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro (DOC)  Douro Tinto 2017, 14%

Multiple varieties are used in the Branco. The main ones are Viosinho for its aroma and Arinto/Pedema for freshness. Fifty per cent of the wine was matured in new French oak barrels for 6 months and 50% kept in stainless steel tanks before the final blend is assembled and bottled.

Luis: “Very fresh and elegant, white fruit in the aromas, some citrus, a little passionfruit. I don’t like to say minerality - I feel that doesn’t exist but the soil and the stones of the Douro do. You can feel the acidity and freshness on the palate (because of the altitude), a nicer style of Douro white."

"The grapes come from a big property, amazing quantity of different kinds of grapes, helps us every year to compose the best wines!” Must say, I loved it. It's got everything: aromatics, flavour, mouthfeel, finish. Top notch!

The red is also a blend, the fruit taken from across the Douro’s regions. Soil here by the way is all schist. The terroir and the winemaking makes for another gorgeous wine. Luis pointed to its harmony, elegance, acidity, body and aromas. “It is easy to drink but also can go with sophisticated food and lasts well in the bottle.” The grapes used are Touriga Franca (45%), Touriga Nacional (30), Tinta Roriz (20) and Tinta Barroca (5).

It spends 12 months  in French oak “not new”. “We do not want to have the aroma of oak but use it instead as a medium to knit the blend. We always like a good freshness in our wines. And the first job of wine is to pair with food.”

That led to a question: “What is your favourite food with the red?

“I prefer meat usually but Vinha Grande is more elegant and goes well with dried cod - we eat a lot of that in Portugal! And it’s brilliant with octopus.”

For me, this was another beauty, smooth, packed with flavours and fresh on the balanced palate, magnificent depth, rounded tannins and the finish is smooth, dry and long.


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