Despite the sales of Port Wine in Germany present a negative trend over the last 5 years (-12% in value), Axel Probst from World of Port and Christopher Pfaff from Passion Port keep entertaining Port lovers, organizing tastings that bring German consumers to meet Port winemakers. Contrarily to the neighbors from Belgium where the annual consumption of Port per capita is 0.9L, or Dutch which drinks 0.7L, in Germany this figure drops to 0.04L. There is a lot to do to educate German palates for Port, which it is something that takes time and time and time.
The event that Axel and Christopher organized in November 2012 was focused on 20 Year Old Tawnies versus Vintage Port from 1991 and 1992. As you will have the opportunity to see in the video, the colours of these two styles vary from amber/orange/brownish of the 20 Year Old Tawny to cherry colour that this 20+ years old Vintage Ports currently present. I am sure you know that this colour difference is explained by the aging process of these two styles: Tawnies in pipas while Vintage ages in the bottle. End with explanations, lets grab a glass of Port and watch Christopher’s video.
Three years after making the first contacts to have our wines and Ports available in New York, we found Washington Square Wines to represent us. Jeffrey Ghi and Subir Grewal, the owners of the company founded last year, are passionate about Port and wine in general. When you put passion on what you do, the results sooner or later show up and they are actually making an outstanding job, fighting like gladiators in the overcrowded and hiper competitive NYC wine market.
One of the most recent missions accomplished was to get our LBV Port in Café China, a Michelin starred restaurant. In case you don’t have the opportunity to visit the restaurant soon and see with your eyes, we have a report from Sinovision, a TV station for Chinese people in America, talking about some of the wines the restaurant is carrying. One of the wines featured is our 2006 LBV Port, with valuable food suggestions for Chinese food lovers.
Thank you Jeff and Subir!
The snow is gone. Actually, it didn’t resist that long, so we have no excuses to stop working in the vineyards. After preparing the soil, it is now time to plant those young and tender pre-grafted plants of Viosinho, Rabigato and Gouveio. That is what Marian, Marius and Cosmin, among others, are doing. We first trace a line with a rope from top to bottom and then, with an iron stick, we make a 50cm hole where we’ll insert the vine. Later it is covered with earth and immediately irrigated. If there is not that much rocks at the surface, each worker can plant 300-400 vines a day. Otherwise, on a rocky soil, which is the case of Quinta da Trovisca, productivity drops quickly and, each day, no more than 200 holes are made by each man.
This plantation has been pretty unusual because of the number of rocks we have to remove. Normally, small rocks help vine roots to quicker go deep and water to better drain down to a lower level less exposed to sun evaporation. But in Quinta da Trovisca is unreal. We have so many rocks that I think my father has nightmares about rocks these days!
Next steps? Install wood sticks as well spread wires to allow a vine training system to properly manage canopy. I shall come back soon with more photos. Don’t forget to share your comments.
This was the view we had last Wednesday from the tasting room over the vineyards of Quinta Senhora do Rosário. All happened during a couple of hours of very intense snowing. I woke up early in the morning to see a vine planting machine working in Quinta do Ataíde, in Vila Flor. When we got back to S. João da Pesqueira this is what we found. I think we never had some much snow in the Douro. If I recall well, it was over 6cm which would justify to take the skis out of the closet.
On Thursday morning there was still a little bit of snow left in the vineyards, but with the sun back to the valley it quickly melted down. As David Spriggs said on facebook about this photo, “So hot in the Summer and so cold in the Winter”.
While ants work on warm months to store up food for winter, we work on winter expecting to collect grapes on summer. And now is that time of the year when we are working on the next crop. But in the case you will see today, we are also preparing many more crops to come. We are working the soil, making it arable so vines can live and be happy, while produce good grapes. Being this a not so recurrent moment and very important for our future, I want to share with you how we prepear the soil of Quinta da Trovisca for a new plantation of white grapes. So please play the video above.
On the video you can see a bulldozer pushing the soil. In this land, nothing was ever planted before. At the same time, an excavator is grabbing bigger rocks dropping it deep into the ditch so the roots of the vines won’t shock with big stones during the first years of their lives. New vines will be planted during the next weeks so stay in touch!
One of the key elements, if not the most important after the grape in the winemaking process, is the yeast. Why is yeast so important? Because despite its small size (around 0.003 mm), this microorganism has the very important task of transforming fructose into ethanol, the form of alcohol present in wine. Yeast is present in the surface of the grapes and in the vines. Once the grapes are crushed, yeast starts its mission: it immediately begins transforming the sugar of grape into alcohol. Broadly speaking, it can tolerate temperatures between 10 ºC and 35 ºC; higher the temperature, the quicker yeast works and reproduces itself.
But are all yeasts the same? No. Different vineyards within the same country or region have different yeasts. And which are the best? Probably there is no answer to that question as it depends on the kind of aroma and taste the winemaker prefers. Once grapes arrive to the winery, the winemaker has two options: rely on the native yeasts that have been adapted to the local terroir or add a selected yeast, that is very likely brought from another wine region, possibly in another country, and was developed in laboratory to drive the fermentation into a certain kind of flavours and tastes.
In the Douro we have two realities, depending if we are talking about Port or still wine. From what I see, I would say that most of the Port is made with native yeast. On the other hand, for the Douro wines, a generous number of producers use selected yeast. The fact that, within the same region, this is the Douro, for a kind of wine we usually use native yeast and for other seldom, is curious, but not difficult to explain. Port is a worldwide reference, it is copied, imitated and even faked in several and respected wine regions in the world. But looks like no other place but the Douro can make something as fantastic as Port. And besides grape quality and winemakers’ skills developed through centuries, yeast plays a very important role. Thus, Port winemakers trust that the best yeast they can use is in the Douro vineyards.
And why using selected yeast in the still wines? It’s like buying an insurance, you know that if all goes right the insurance is not necessary, but if it goes wrong, insurance guarantees you don’t lose everything. In our case, as I guess you want to know, we use native yeast for all our Quevedo Ports except the Quevedo Rose. And for the Douro wines, we do sometimes buy an insurance!
In the future I think very commercial wines will continue to use selected yeast. But as yeast research develops, the number of selected yeast available will rise and more wine regions will use their own lab selected native yeast.
Is there any question about winemaking that you have been keeping for sometime and want to make now?
Some years ago my sister came home and said do my father: “Hey dad, why don’t we convert the olive grove into organic production?”. My dad looked at her and replied with another question: why should we do that?”. And Claudia said something like this: “if we stop using chemicals to grow the olives it won’t take us too much work, and I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate it. Moreover, more and more people are looking for organic grown food. In the end all of us want a more sustainable and less manipulated environment.”
And this is when all started, back in 2006. The olives trees are located in Valongo dos Azeites, which in English means “Long Valley of the Olive Oil” – which better name could the village have?!? Valongo dos Azeites is located 14km south from S. João da Pesqueira, where we live. This is the place where our ancestors were based, several decades ago. Few hundred meters from the olive trees, we still have the house where our great-grand parents grew up. Valongo dos Azeites is a small village, with 227 inhabitants (2011), which embodies the word olive oil in its name. I’m sure this is not random, but actually because the village has extraordinary conditions to produce golden colored with amazing taste olive oil.
In total we have 25 hectares of olive trees and most of them are over 50 years old. As there was some land with no crops planted, in the last years my father decided to plant some more young olive trees. In total we have now over 4.000 olive trees, producing around 5.000 liters of olive oil.
We are very happy with the organic project. It is true that organic production consumes more time and resources as if cultivated in a conventional way, but in the end we maintain a diversity of weeds, insects and small animals that if we used herbicides would not survive.
Here is a post I made some years ago in case you want to know more about the harvest of the organic olives. This video shows you the harvesting machine.
Let us know if you feel as excited as we do about organic olive oil and share with us what you know about the second most important culture of the Douro valley in Portugal.
There is still some confusion on people’s heads about Port winemaking. The basic details are not difficult, but when we talk about the spirit we use to fortify the must, sometimes explanations complicate what is easy simple. So very often I receive emails from people asking what wine spirit we use and how strong it is. I hope I can help you better understand this particular point about Port.
What makes Port Port when compared with the regular wine is the spirit we add during the fermentation. The first half of the fermentation, this is, the convertion of the sugar of the grape into alcohol, is similar to wine. What really changes is when half of the sugar is transformed into alcohol. At this point, for each four liters of must we add around one liter of 77% abv spirit, made from distilled wine. When this is happening, we still have around 7% of potential alcohol unfermented. And unfermented it will stay as the yeast that is eating the sugar of the must and transforming it into alcohol dies. Once the spirit is combined, the alcohol level rises to around 19% and at this point yeast can’t survive. Quick note to remind you that when we talk about sugar, we are referring to the natural sugar of the grape, known as fructose. Contritely to other wine regions with cooler temperatures and consequently lower sugar levels, in the Douro no sugar is added to the must as our grapes have plenty of sweetness and ripeness. Later, during aging in pipes or tanks, some alcohol adjustments may be necessary, but most of the time these corrections won’t be higher than 1 percentage point.
Currently, some research is being conducted to check whether using stronger wine spirit to fortify the must (+90% instead of 77%) would have similar effects on Port quality. To reach spirit with 77% abv the starting level is near by 100% and then water is added to dilute the spirit. So, is this water really necessary to dilute the spirit?
Let me know your questions and comments.
Happy New Year!
With the Christmas sale season almost over on our side, what keep us busy now is grape vine pruning and new plantings. All the orders that were scheduled to be delivered before Christmas are on the way. So it is time to look to the vineyards with more attention. These vines that you see on the photo are located at Quinta da Trovisca. This is an old vineyard, where mechanization is not possible due to the narrow space between the vine lines. Also some olive trees in the middle of the vines did not really help the tractor to move around.
After removing the stays and wires that help vine shooting to climb, we are now pulling off the old vines. After this, a big tractor will move and refresh the soil and young grafted vines of white grapes, Gouveio and Viosinho, will be planted. During the next two to three years these vines won’t grow any grapes, or very little. But in five to eight years they will produce abundant quantity of grapes, keeping a high yield until they are as old as 15 – 20 years. After that yields drop and better quality grapes are produced. Because of this quality/ quantity management, we can’t replant a full vineyard in one year, doing instead small fraction of the entire property, ensuring that we get a mix of vines with different ages and qualities.
Questions and comments as you know are always welcome!
During this last week I have been actively participating at the For the Love of Port forum. I was answering questions and comments at the Guest Corner, a section of the forum that from time to time brings someone from the Port trade to share views and ideas, for a full week.
I’m very please to be invited by Roy Hersh – a leading voice in the US talking about Port – to be part of this section of the forum and I had a great time as some questions made me think and reflect about a bunch of things!
Some of the questions were related with using social media to promote our wines, others related with the last harvests we had in the Douro and about the quality of Douro and Port wines. Among others, a question included strategies to launch our wines in a country where wine consumption is just now emerging. And more.
If any of these questions grabbed your attention, open a bottle of Port and visit For the Love of Port forum.