There are some amazing traditions that have been created from the beginning of the 21st century that I truly want to keep alive. One of those traditions is Vindouro, a wine, food and culture festival which takes place at the beginning of September in my town, S. João da Pesqueira. Additionally, there was a conference dedicated to Port and Douro wines, where we gave a speech about its current status and its future evolution. The two main points the audience focused upon my presentation were:
- the predominant concentration on famous grape varietals, and
- the reduction in the number of Douro wine producers
Let me just clarify that I am not an advocate of either one of these points; and consequently, I pitched my argument as to why we need to stop this from happening:
- Historically, small viticultures, who are the core grape growers in the Douro, would follow empirical knowledge to choose which varietals should be planted to craft Port wine. Consequently, in 1981, a major study concluded that there were 5 main varietals to craft quality Port Wine; whereby chiseling into stone the destiny of viticulture in the Douro. Soon farmers started to block plant the recommended varietals and limit any “extraneous” vines. And I might have supported such a practice if our ancestor’s vineyards had grown the same recommended 5 varietals, but this was not the case. Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca were one of dozens upon dozens of native vines. Vineyards were jam packed with a plethora of vines that together crafted exquisite port wine, not a chosen few. Are these 5 varietals also good for Douro wines? No, or better stated, it depends on the proportions. We all want to preserve the culture and diversity of the Douro valley; and for that, we need to keep the old vines with lesser known varietals. In short, we need more field blending.
- There are around 360 Douro wine producers, all of which lack a market share. In the last few years, with the price of grapes decreasing to under 1 euro per kilogram, in some cases under 50 cents, many grape growers have decided to make Douro wine instead of exclusively selling their grapes. And for a majority of these producers, this is a part-time job, as very few have a marketing background to sell there own wines, nor do they want to spend 1 cent in traveling, tastings or social events. The internet is still an unknown variable. Some of these producers have stocks of older vintages, while new harvests continue to stream in every September. This is not sustainable, and they will eventually have to stop selling wine in bottle. In my opinion, the Douro wine industry will follow the steps taken by Port Wine industry few years ago, when wineries went under and the market shrunk. There are around 98 Port Wine producers, the top five sell 75% of the total. At the Douro and Port Wine Conference, I was alone defending this argument. While Cristiano van Zeller from Quinta Vale D. Maria was with me in the first point, in this particular point, he thinks the Douro wine industry will never shrink.
Lets continue the online the offline discussion. Share your thoughts and comments. It’s great to have the view of outsiders.
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