The secret in our barrels
Traditionally, portuguese grape growers and producers from the Douro valley would store the recently vinified Port in large barrels named balseiro or tonnel until spring. As the Douro winter is cold, Port Wine could safely remain there. Before the hot days of Summer, the producers would begin their journey on the Douro bringing pipas of Port downstream to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, where the merchant or shippers would buy their Port to age them in their lodge and then ship the nectar around the globe. This uniquely shaped pipa was designed to keep the boat stable, hence the shape and size.
As producers were aging Ports, they quickly found out that Port aging in pipas was evolving faster than the ones aging in larger formats like tonnels and balseiros. The reason for this is the ratio of liquid vs oxygen contact. This micro-oxygenation lets some air into the barrel through its porous planks and some wine evaporate as air comes in. This is what we call the angel share! Through this process oxygen will slowly alter the wine structure and create unique flavours.
For Rubies, micro-oxygenation is intended to smoothen the tannins and increase the complexity. For Tawnies, it helps us build beautiful, rich and complex wines through long and gentle aging.
The pipas, as they offer a greater contact with oxygen, are then better suited for the production of Tawny, while the tonnel and balseiro are a perfect fit for the Ruby style as they preserve the freshness and purity of the wine by limiting the contact with oxygen.
When aging Port in wood barrels, we don’t want any flavours coming from the wood, this is why we prefer them to be old and neutral. The wood essence is not so important either. While most of the pipas were made from Baltic countries oak, the tonnels and balseiros are made of any large plank of wood available: walnut, oak, cherry tree, mahogany.
Quevedo is located in the heart of the Douro valley, where intense hot summer brings more stress on the Port than the fresh and cool climate of Vila Nova de Gaia. For this reason, we’ll also age some of our Tawny in tonnels and balseiros, this is our secret to keep our Port fresh and away from what we call ”The Douro Bake”. By varying the type of vessel we use to age our Port, we can then build more personalities in our cellar to create complex and multi-layered flavorful Port.
Our barrels are part of the family. They have been working with us for 5 generations now, providing the Quevedo signature we all enjoy!
Lets toast to the barrels Cheers!