White grapes planted in the Douro valley
Now that the harvest of the white grapes is over, I thought you might want to know a bit more about the most popular white grapes of the Douro. How do they look and taste like. I kindly asked the tireless and enthusiastic Tanya Garnham to photograph representative bunches to show you the on-going process. On the other hand, I researched online an accurate description about four of the most planted grapes in the Douro. On the website of the Portuguese Wine Club Co Uk there is a great description about dozens of Portuguese classic grape varieties either red and white. Here are the main four we use in our blends:
This is a versatile grape, grown in most of Portugal’s wine regions. In the Vinho Verde area, it goes by the name of Pedernã. It makes vibrant wines with lively, refreshing acidity, often with a mineral quality, along with gentle flavours reminiscent of apple, lime and lemon. Arinto-based wines can keep well but are also delicious young. Because it keeps its acidity even in hot climates, Arinto is often added to other lower-acid white grapes to improve blends – especially in the hot Alentejo and Ribatejo. Its good acidity also makes it a great ingredient for sparkling wines.
This Douro grape is now planted right across Portugal and has recently become particularly popular in the Alentejo. It produces fresh, lively wines with good acidity, plenty of body, and fresh, citrus aromas, along with notes of peach and aniseed resulting in a lovely balance. It ages well in bottle. For years it was known as Verdelho in the Douro, which led to confusion, as Gouveio has nothing to do with the Verdelho of Madeira.
This is a grape of inland northern Portugal, especially the Douro, Dão and Beira Interior. Malvasia Fina wines are subtle, not particularly intense, reasonably fresh and moderately complex. You may detect a hint of molasses, a suggestion of beeswax and nutmeg, and the wine may appear slightly smoky even if it has not been matured in wood. Generally used for blending, it also contributes to base blends for sparkling wines in cooler areas and/or when harvested early, for instance in Távora-Varosa and Lamego.
This grape survives for the most part scattered here and there in the old mixed white vineyards of the Douro. Traditionally, Viosinho has been an unpopular variety with growers because of its very low yields. It’s only recently that winemakers have realised what a treasure it is, as a component both in Port and in unfortified Douro white blends. It makes full-bodied but fresh, fragrant, well-balanced wines, performing best in hot, sunny climates.
Other grapes could be mentioned here, such as Códega or Rabigato. Maybe for another post!
Now that we know what each grape brings to the blend, I’ll run to the winery to see if our blends smell and taste like what we read above!