This morning we woke up at Quinta da Padrela after a perfectly silent night on the Duoro Valley but for the occasional distant dog bark. We had a walk around the vines early with the dogs and then a leisurely morning before our 10.30am Wine Tasting.
Jose, came to meet us, he and his sister and brother-in-law run the vineyard. 6 motorhomes worth of visitors joined the free tasting which lasted for 2 hours. Jose started overlooking the vineyard with his enthusiastic and informative description of viticulture and wine production.
They have 12 hectare farm with unusually both north and south facing vineyards with 10 and 25 grapes varieties respectively mainly Portuguese varieties. In the Duoro valley there are over 173 on total though some are edible, the smaller more concentrated fruits are reserved for the wine. They used no pesticides as the low wine growing quantities due to the terracing means that the wide life can thrive between the vines, maintaining the bird population and naturally controlling “pests”. No herbicide is used as they either manually or by machine cut the grass between the fields.
The Portuguese have apparently been producing wine since before the Romans. The Duoro valley was established in 1755 due to the nature of the shale stone ground which helps to keep the heat in the soil overnight as a thermal store as rejecting the worst of the heat through the day. For this reason, the vines are pruned close to the ground so they get the benefits of the natural heat store. It is the oldest DOC (controlled protected area denomination) in the world.
After sampling grapes from across the vineyard to monitor the Ph and sugar then the full 12 hectares are harvested over 5-7 days using contracted labour. The population of Duoro having reduced from 12,000 to 5.000 in the last few years limiting local supply. Depending on the year, approximately 20,000 bottles will be produced.
They also produce olive oil from trees interspersed in amongst the vines deliberately to reduce the wine. Some of the trees being up to 200 years old. It is pressed to a lower pressure to make it Extra Virgin Olive Oil and in fact, they have theirs pressed to even reduced pressure for extra flavour. You can really taste the different. Also interestingly they also store in tins as he says that light can impact the oil during storage.
We tasted their white, rose, 2021 red from their northern vineyard aimed at a fruity lighter flavour, 2019 reserve from their upper southern slopes and the 2019 grand reserve from the lower southern slopes. We honestly enjoyed every one. The white was light and sharp but not too acidic. The rose aimed as a gastronomic blend and left with the grapes skins a little longer for a deeper pink (over 1 hour in the skins gives red wine) was full of flavour and depth and one of the best rosé I have had. The lightest red was our least favourite, although still nice when followed with the full bodied flavour of the reserves, it was against tough competition. We also got to try more sheep’s cheese from a producer they have partnered with which was delicious.
So obviously we had to buy a selection of the wines. Certainly more expensive than average supermarket wines, but so different in quality and worth it for the experience we have had, not to mention the overnight stay. Although I have to say that Jose was the most unassuming and laid back guys, with no pretentiousness at all. He was very clear that it is all a matter of personal taste what is a good or bad wine. He was very prepared for anyone tasting not to like his wines and he shrugged his shoulders and said just throw it away. It was the least pushy presentation you can imagine. He even made a point that each campervan occupancy should be able to buy their wines separately so that there was no pressure and he could deal with us all individually. Needless to say, we all came away with a box or two of wine and certainly with the olive oils and cheese too.
After that great start to the day, how do you improve on that! We had lunch at the van, then decided to move on to Peso da Régua for a lovely free pitch by the Duoro river with a selection of bars and restaurants nearby. Even though we are at river level to park, our digital thermometer is measuring 31 degrees C in the shade 😥 The Portuguese are however still walking about in jeans and long sleeves. Although I gather it can get to 45 degrees C in Duoro in the summer due to the altitude.