About Me


Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quinta De La Rosa LBV Port 2004

Grape Variety: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz

Growing Region: Pinhao, Douro Valley, Portugal

Alcohol: 20%

Chief Winemaker: Jorge Moreira

TASTING NOTE:
This LBV 2004 port was made in the traditional manner - foot trodden in granite Lagares from 'A' grapes grown at Quinta de la Rosa. Ports from the 2004 vintage at De La Rosa tend to be very concentrated, with a high alcohol level and good acidity. A good portion of the grapes were trodden in temperature controlled granite Lagares; the rest were pumped over in small stainless steel vats. This LBV was matured in large wooden casks called 'tonels' in their cellars for 4-6 years until ready for bottling, The 2004 LBV was bottled in June 2008. Unlike most port shippers, all products are stored and bottled in the Douro (at La Rosa and not Porto), allowing full traceability and ensuring quality from grape to bottle.
The glass is filled with a lively, profound ruby colour. Initially on the nose you have young, fresh aromas of wild berries and wild roses, whilst also showing sweeter notes like those wafts emanating from a cake shop.
With 90g/L of residual sugar - the palate has vigour and strength, with a seductive roundness and 'moreish' quality encouraging you to take another sip and another. This port has extraordinary structure and tannins giving it length and guaranteeing its longevity if you were to age it, but why wait. This Port has not been filtered and might throw a little sediment, so it may require decanting near the end if the sediment is resting on the bottom. Serve at 16-18C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking perfectly well this winter season, and will age for another 8-10 years.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect match with chocolate dessert, fruit cakes, blue cheeses or on its own, enjoy.

Tradition and quality can go hand in hand.
 

 

Madeira Wine

Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made on the Madeira Islands, situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Africa. The wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines usually consumed with dessert. The islands of Madeira have a long winemaking history dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a regular port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies.
To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape spirit was added. On the long sea voyages, the wines would be exposed to excessive heat and movement which transformed the flavour of the wine as the wine producers of Madeira found out when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip.

 

Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 60C for an extended period of time and deliberately exposing the wine to levels of oxidation.
By the 16th century a well-established wine industry was on the island. Near the end of the 20th century, producers started a renewed focus on quality, ripping out the hybrid vines and replanting with the noble grape varieties of Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malvasia. The workhorse varieties of Tinta Negra Mole and Complexa are still present, but hybrid grapes were officially banned in 1979. The terrain of the mountainous volcanic island is difficult to cultivate with vineyards planted on man-made terraces of red and basaltic bedrock. These terraces, known as 'poios' are very similar to the terraces of the Douro Valley.
Since 1993, Madeira labels indicate the level of sweetness as seco (dry), ‘meio seco’ (medium dry), ‘meio doce’ (medium sweet) and ‘doce’ (sweet). Finest - means aged for at least 3 years, Reserve - 5 yrs, Special Reserve - 10 yrs, Extra Reserve over 15 years, Colheita or Harvest - a single vintage but aged for a shorter period than true Vintage Madeira. Vintage or Frasquiera - aged for at least 20 years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Valdespino - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

On my recent visit to this dramatic cellar, before working my way through the expansive winery, production facilities and their fine Sherries halls. I had a personal tour of the renowned stables at the rear of the estate where there are some 70 horses all pure Spanish breed, all with black or chestnut-black coats; all bred for official ceremonial occasions and with stables full of lavish carriages and coaches from and for royal events.

 

The Valdespino winery dates back to 1264, which was liberated from the Moors by King Alfonso and his knights. One of them, Don Alfonso Valdespino, was rewarded with land for his bravery and loyalty during the recon-quest of the town and ever since then the Valdespino name has been indissolubly connected to wine. 
The winery was acquired by the Estévez family in 2000, who at the same time asked recognized winemaker Eduardo Ojeda to ensure that the firm's legendary quality was maintained and even improved and he has definitely excelled in this role, nurturing his beloved soleras.
The characteristic calcareous soil in the surrounding region is known as Albariza; white and porous, it retains all essential moisture as in Jerez it rains less than 40 days a year. Valdespino owns 400 hectares including the vineyards of Macharnudo, considered the best growing zone in Jerez; with the primary grape the locally adapted Palomino Fino.
With somewhere around 25,000 barrels, Valdespino is considered a medium-sized bodega, but when you stand on the internal balcony and look down on the main cellar of barrels - it is a memorial sight. In Sherry, as in any style of wine making, medium or large size is no indication of quality. However, Valdespino does stand out as a bodega where no corners are cut and where quality is pursued.

 

After exploring the barrel halls, where there are areas dedicated to famous bullfighters who have signed them as well as Lora Flores, one of Spain’s most famous flamenco singers, I had a private tour of the bodega’s gallery, where they have an exhibition of the Spain’s second largest collect of original Picasso artwork, as well as stunning works from Dali and Botero, as well as an impressive range of 17th & 18th century antiques.
As there was a grand event being set up the day I was here and time with my kind host Silvia Menacho was coming to an end - we found time to enjoy a cheeky Fino Inocente sherry in the dining room. But that evening I had a very short walk into the heart of Jerez de la Frontera from my quaint hotel, where I found a well stocked Tapas’ bar, where I worked my way through an array of tapas’ and Valdespino sherries, with some passionate locals and fellow travelers.

Valdespino Fino Inocente: Produced from a single vineyard Macharnudo and a rare example of Fino fermented in cask prior to undergoing Solera maturation for more than 8 years. Crisp and exceptionally fragrant. 
Tío Diego Amontillado: Macharnudo fruit is fermented in oak and aged for more than 15 years. Amber coloured, this wine is dry, well-balanced and complex.
Contrabandista Amontillado: This is significantly darker than Tío Diego by virtue of added must and a touch PX. Fascinating aromas of caramel, roasted nuts and an emphatic bitter sweet tang. Round, elegant, and most appealing.  
Valdespino Solera 1842: Around 30 years old, this savoury Oloroso offers pronounced and concentrated flavours of almonds and caramel wrapped up in an agreeably subtle sweetness. Mouth filling and breathtakingly long. 
Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado (PX): Sweet yet by no means cloying thanks to its excellent, fresh, well balanced acidity, El Candado (means the padlock) is a fusion of liquid figs and concentrated hazelnuts. Try it with Roquefort, Stilton or a chocolate torte!

 

It was an epic journey to get to Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain - but it was well worth the effort. As by being here and experiencing this part of the world first hand; the history, culture, the heat and local cuisine - is truly the only way to better understand and enjoy Sherry and Tapas’.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nugan Estate 'Manuka Grove' Durif 2009

Grape Variety: 100% Durif

Growing Region: Riverina, New South Wales, Australia

Winemaker: Daren Owers

Gold - NZ International Wine Show 2010.

TASTING NOTE:
Durif is a rich and robust red grape variety that thrives in the warm and dry conditions of the Nugan family's Manuka Grove Vineyard at Hanwood in the Riverina region of New South Wales. Durif is a crossing between the Syrah grape and the Peloursin variety in the 1870's - otherwise known as Petite Syrah.
After harvest, the grapes were crushed, yeast added and pumped over in traditional style to avoid the extraction of bitter tannins. The wine was then transferred to American oak barrels for fermentation, followed by a further 12 months maturation in new, one year old & seasoned French and American oak barrels prior to final blending and bottling.
In the glass you will be greeted by a dense inky red with a bright crimson hue. The nose has aromas of ripe blackberry, blood plums, darks cherries and dried spice. On the palate these rich and intense flavours of black cherry, plum, Xmas pudding and earthy notes, with chocolate and spicy vanillin undertones give this wine a full mouth feel with balanced tannins and a long lingering finish.
Decant for 30-40mins and serve at 18C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking well this winter season; and over the next 5-6 years.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect wine match with seared lamp rump, rich veal shanks or aged hard cheese, enjoy.

 

Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine from the Minho region in the far north of the country. The name translates to 'green wine' (though it can be red or white), - it doesn't describe the colour of the wine produced - the name refers to the tradition of drinking Vinho Verde wines while they are young.
Vinho Verde is Portugal's largest wine region. It is also one of the most challenging places to produce wine in the entire country. The region's borders start at the Minho River, which separates northern Portugal from Spain, and follows the coast south to Oporto, then across following the Douro River.

 

There are currently nearly 35,000 hectares of Vinho Verde vineyards, making up 15% of the total in Portugal, with approx 30,600 producers, down from 72,590 in 1981.
Many of these growers traditionally train their vines high off the ground, up trees, fences, pergolas, along cross-shaped structures or up vertical poles and even telephone poles so that they can cultivate vegetable crops below the vines. Today this is continued to reducing rot caused by the region's high rainfall (1500mm on average).
Vinho Verde wines are now largely exported, and are the most exported Portuguese wines after Port Wine. The Vinho Verde Region was demarcated in 1908; regulations controlling production were largely set in 1929, with recognition as a Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC) in 1984. The Vinho Verde DOC is divided into nine sub-regions: Amarante, Ave, Baiao, Basto, Cavado, Lima, Moncao & Melgaco, Paiva and Sousa. Soils are mostly granitic with some slate, but almost all vineyards are planted on granite. This is the opposite situation to Port wines and the reds of the Douro, where granite is shunned in favour of slate.
From the 52 permitted grape varieties for Vinho Verde a few have emerged as strong front-runners in quality terms. Alvarinho (the same grape as Spain's Albarino) is certainly one. The majority of the slopes in Vinho Verde are gentle, but some vineyards are planted on steep or terraced slopes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Osborne - El Puerto de Santa María, Spain

When I was planning my trip to southern Spain to learn more about this dramatic region and in particular sherry. I sent a note to the Osborne Sherry Company in the chance that my schedule may fit in with meeting with their chief winemaker and key staff. I have always respected the reputation of the Osborne Sherry Company (founded by Thomas Osborne Mann, an Englishman in 1772). To many they are recognised for erecting large images of bulls across the countryside, starting in 1956 to advertise their Brandy de Jerez. They were in black (with the brand ‘Veterano in red on it) advertising boardings located on sites near to major roads throughout Spain. 

 

Later on a new law was passed in 1994, this time prohibiting such advertising, and so the boardings were to be removed. By this time the signs were nationally renowned, so although some campaigners wished them completely removed to fully comply with the intent of the law, public response resulted in the signs being retained, but completely blacked out to remove all reference to the original advertisers. The Court eventually allowed these signs to remain on the grounds that it has become a part of the landscape where it is present and its ‘aesthetic or cultural significance’ thus turning it into a figure of public domain. The black bull has become a symbolic icon for Spain, the image of the bull is now displayed on the national Davis-Cup Tennis teams’ shirts, and the bull is embedded by supporters in the Flag of Spain in the manner of a coat of arms.

Osborne is Spain’s most prestigious producer of wines and spirits. Its headquarters are based in El Puerto de Santa María, Spain, in the famous brandy and sherry-producing region of Jerez. Osborne currently produces world-renowned brandy, sherry, port, fine regional wines and anise liqueur.
Founded in 1772, Osborne is one of the oldest firms of wine and spirit producers in Spain. Upon Thomas Osborne Mann’s death, his sons, Thomas and John, inherited the business. While John served as a Spanish diplomat, Thomas distinguished himself as an industrious and enterprising manager of Osborne, and in 1869. Thomas received the hereditary title of Count of Osborne, making him the first producer of wines and spirits to possess a noble title.

 

Since those early years, Osborne has remained in family hands. Today, Mr. Tomás Osborne Gamero-Cívico, the fifth Count of Osborne, directs the Company as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Osborne’s winery located in Puerto de Santa María - where nothing is improvised, with cellars designed specifically for making sherry. The barrel halls face South and Southwest, so as to welcome the sea breeze, with high ceilings to allow fresh air to circulate and subdued lighting. All these factors are essential when it comes to making a perfect wine.

Names such as ‘Buenos Aires’, ‘Carraca’ or ‘San José’ recall some of the best cellars where Osborne makes and stores Finos, Amontillados, Olorosos and sweet sherry wines like PX. Procedures are supervised by José Ignacio Lozano, the technical director for Puerto de Santa María, where he oversees a total of 20,000 casks. José and my other host for the day Concepcion took me on a visit to the company’s own onsite cooperage, where two coopers were repairing and re-building their own barrels.

    

Under Jerez-Xèrés-Sherry and Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda appellation, Osborne sells the following brands: ‘Fino Quinta’, ‘Manzanilla Cara de Gallo’, ‘Fino Amontillado Coquinero’, ‘Oloroso Seco Bailén’, ‘Oloroso Médium 10RF’, ‘Santa María Cream’, ‘Pedro Ximénez 1827’ and aged wines ‘Solera AOS’, ‘Solera BC 200’, ‘Solera India’, ‘Solera P_P’ and ‘Pedro Ximénez Viejo’. 
Total annual production exceeds 5 million bottles, of which approx 51% is Fino, and 47% being Oloroso, medium and sweet sherry and 2% Manzanilla, 80% of production is exported to over 30 countries.

I had the opportunity during the day to sample their fine Brandies and commercial Sherries, plus an extremely rare opportunity to taste the private family stocks of a 90+ year old PX Sherry, alongside other limited production family sherries. During the very insightful Sherry tasting - I was given the opportunity to enjoy their own critically renowned Iberico ham (reared on acorns and with ‘Designation of Origin’ status).
I could have rightly thought that was the end to a great day, but an unexpected surprise was to come and one that I still pinch myself regularly - to ensure that it wasn’t a dream. Alongside dignitaries, famous international athletes, performers and the king of Spain - I was given an exclusive place in history by being offered a barrel to sign in the cellar across from the family offices. Those who know me well - know that I am never short of a word, or comment when it comes to wine - but I was very humbled and had to take a moment when this was presented to me and had to take a deep breath and compose myself before I signed the barrel and had my photo taken. As you can imagine - my trusty annual European travelling companions have offered their support to help me work my way through the barrel.

  

Generation upon generation (now the seventh generation), the Osborne family has managed a company devoted to making and ageing sherry wines and brandies that are appreciated around the world. Their key to success is a family tradition combined with ongoing innovation and careful management committed to upholding quality; aware of their tradition, but at the same time enthusiastic about growth and innovation. It was a real pleasure to have the Osborne Family experience - a true highlight in my wine career and one I will never forget.

Restaurant Casa Flores

Ribera del Río, 9, El Puerto de Santa María - Spain

During my recent visit to southern Spain, I based myself in Puerto de Santa Maria, as I explored the Sherry Triangle, plus while here I had to make my way to a local institution with regards to quality seafood cuisine. Restaurante Casa Flores has a long and respected history dating back to 1975 - when it was founded by Francisco Flores Herrera.
I had heard that its personality and philosophy was influenced by two key factors - one being the closeness to the Guadalete River at Sanlucar de Barrameda, both Conil and Cadiz Bay and all its natural fish resources has shaped their menu and seafood focused cuisine. The other being an honest and humble approach to gastronomy and creating a friendly atmosphere for everyone to enjoy their hospitality.

 

Casa Flores began as a simple bar situated in the historical part of El Puerto de Santa María, just on the banks of the Guadalete River, at the northern edge of the town. From their humble beginnings in the late 70’s, they had a fast transformation to a local and then nationally recognised establishment. As my two hosts for the day and I walked in off the street we were greeted with a large smile from all the staff and the decor and friendly manor creates a feeling of arriving in some ones home.
Francisco’s children have inherited his enthusiasm for the hospitality business, which has been very important to preserve this special environment and offering. Over the years they have won many a cuisine and service award including for example in 2001, 2002, and again in 2004 - the National Gastronomic Awards - ‘Golden Dish’.
The atmosphere is classic and refined with wood panelling and vibrant blue and white Spanish tiled walls. Original seascape paintings and framed nautical photographs of the region hang on many of the dining room walls. The elegant, antique tables & chairs add to the atmosphere plus a bonus they are even comfortable. We were escorted to our table surrounded on 3 sides by floor to ceiling wine racks, and our waiter with extreme confidence guided us through some of the subtleties of the menu and how the chef was to cook many of the daily specials, plus wine match suggestions.

 

If you are not a seafood enthusiast, there are many other local dishes that will fit the bill - but clearly if you wish to enjoy the best of local seafood head to Casa Flores. Their king prawns, langoustines, ‘Bocas de la Isla’ (crab pincers), lobsters and spiny lobsters as well as red banded sea breams, gilthead breams, sea bass and tuna are specially valued by those who visit. Though their love of bullfighting has led them to also search and select the best national meat, such as Galician beef, or ‘Ibérico’ lamb and pork, in order to create dishes that match their quality standards and to shape a personal style that can be specially appreciated in dishes like ‘partridge ‘a la portuense’.
Every dining room has been given its own unique personality to add different nuances to the atmospheres during the day or night. Furthermore, the limited number of tables also contributes to the cosy feel that characterizes a home. The dining rooms have all been named, most of them, with the name of a close celebrity friend that have dined there or they admire. If you want more personal service I would suggest that you dine for lunch or early in the evening, as after 9pm the restaurants atmosphere becomes a hive of activity.
I must thank my wonderful hosts Concepcion and Carlos who gave me unbelievable insight into the history behind many of the dishes and the culture of the region; they made it a most memorable and pleasurable dining and educational experience.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quinta de La Rosa - Douro Valley, Portugal

I have been trying to visit the Douro Valley in Portugal for a number of years - so it was an extra special occasion when I found out that Tim Bergqvist was to be celebrating his 80th birthday while I was here.

 

After taking the morning train from Oporto, which winds its way along the river’s edge for nearly the entire 100+kms through to Pinhao. I made my way up to the winery and boutique retreat, and transferred my compact luggage to my room overlooking the Douro, as I was staying the night on the estate. The Bergqvist family have a distinguished Port wine history dating back to 1815 and the past twenty two years have provided an invaluable opportunity to evolve an impressive portfolio to rival any in the Douro valley of northern Portugal. A combination of determined effort, fastidious attention to detail and great winemaking skill has placed Quinta de La Rosa at the peak of Portuguese winemaking.

Quinta de La Rosa is a small estate in the heart of the Port wine-growing region in Alto Douro, in walking distance to Pinhao, owned and operated by the Bergqvist family. On my second day after breakfast - I had the great pleasure to meet with Tim Bergqvist and his wife Patricia, their son Philip with his wife and their daughter Sophia - (whom I had met several times before - pictured below). 

 

Though during my visit, I missed to opportunity to talk with their talented winemaker Jorge Moreira, whom has steadied and directed the ship since 2002. Jorge Moreira has a considered and thoughtful approach to winemaking; by combining subtle expression and refinement, his intellectual wines offer an authentic snapshot of La Rosa's great terroir and micro-climate. Moreira is a man of understatement and comprehends how to create wines that sit comfortably on the dining table, wines of balance and harmony - wines which will age and are designed for food - my kind of wines.

The Quinta and its vineyards were given to Tim's mother as a Christening present by her parents, the Feurheerds, who established the property in 1906. Sophia’s great-grandfather Albert Feuerheerd once owned one of Porto’s biggest shipping companies but due to the economic downturn in early 1930s, he was forced to sell his company to Barros. The La Rosa estate was kept and run by Claire and her husband Eric Bergqvist, during which time (1933 to 1987) the grapes of the La Rosa estate were sold to the well-known port manufacturers Croft and Sandeman.

 

In 1988 the Bergqvists, led by Tim and his daughter Sophia, decided to re-launch Quinta de la Rosa, taking advantage of the change in the Port Wine regulations. These changes enabled producers to sell port direct from their estates and not via Vila Nova de Gaia near Porto.
It remains one of the few ‘Single Quintas’ where the vineyards start at the bank of the Douro and rise 450 meters to the towering top of the mountain. From the river's edge to the top, one passes through 11 different microclimates. This gives La Rosa great flexibility to add variety and complexity to its unique Port.
La Rosa is very special, in many ways they represent what the Douro is all about... pride, courage, tradition, and the determination to produce the finest product from in one of worlds' most difficult geographical and climactic conditions. Quinta de la Rosa produces small quantities of superb quality Ports and interesting red wines.

 

During my visit - I had the genuine pleasure to taste their fine selection of Ports and red wines, then that evening overlooking the Douro from the terrace patio - I had an unpretentious but flavoursome traditional meal matched with wines and finished off perfectly with Port and coffee. As the sunset and the dramatic angled terraces started to blend into the hillsides and the lights of Pinhao started too reached down the river towards the Estate, sitting out on the terrace with another glass of Port was a great end to a special day.
I encourage all of you to make your way to the Douro Valley, that in its self will be worth the effort (in my opinion the 8th wonder of the world), but if possible, please do all that you can to visit Quinta De La Rosa and experience a little of the history of this humble region and sample a small - but very proud family owned selection of Ports.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Barros Tawny 10 Years Old Port

Grape Variety: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca & Tinta Barroca

Growing Region: Douro Valley, Portugal

Master Blender: Fernando Oliveira

TASTING NOTE:
This Port has gone through the traditional production process, including stopping the fermentation of the 'must' by adding pure brandy spirit, the blending of fine wines and the ageing for an average of 10 years. The fermentation in stainless steel vats with oxidative maceration and pump-over's at a temperature of 30C, until reaching the desired extraction, then the adding of brandy at this stage. This high quality wine was achieved by the blending of wines from several harvests, in order to achieve an assemblage of desired characteristics. The wine then matures in wood for a variable period of time, and the age on the label of Barros Port corresponds to the average age of the different blended wine ages and expresses the character of the wine, developed and matured by the ageing in oak cask.
A brown-tawny colour fills the glass. On the nose you have rich, ripe dried fruit aromas, with highlights of delicate vanilla and chocolate notes. On the palate this Port has a soft and silky texture and the subtle nuances of oak are balanced by a fresh acidity and good tannins which culminates with a long and elegant finish. Serve at 12-14C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking perfectly well now, once open store in a cool place and enjoy within 2 months.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect match with rich cheeses, fruit cakes, Tiramisu and chocolate desserts, enjoy.

The hard part will be putting the cork back in after opening.
 

 

Algarve wine region

Algarve is a Portuguese wine region covering the same areas as its namesake region. The region is classified as a 'Vinho Regional' (VR), a designation similar to the French 'vin de pays' region. Located on the southern coast of Portugal, the region's wine industry is driven by the local population and tourist industry with very little wine exported.
Although the Algarve has had a historical link with wine (winemaking has been practised here since Phoenician times and especially since the Romans) the truth is that traditional winemaking was insignificant for many decades and has not produced wine of quality. Only in the last few years have young producers and enologists with enough technical know-how invested in advanced winemaking techniques and modern wineries to produce quality wines with the ability to produces some excellent wines, capable of competing with varieties from more established wine-growing areas such as the Alentejo, Dao and Douro and internationally.

  

The region enjoys a southerly location, protected by the Monchique mountains from the cold north winds, and its southern-facing aspect creates a favourable climate for vines. There are three appellations (DOC) in the Algarve: Portimao, Única - Adega Cooperativa do Algarve (which includes what was: Lagos & Lagoa) and Tavira - from where new brands have recently come onto the market. Now that sufficient quality has been achieved, it has become vital to publicise the wines outside of Portugal.
The wines of the Algarve consist of reds and whites made mostly from the Negra Mole and the Crato Branco, respectively. The reds are soft and low in acidity due to the warm climate, but rather high in alcohol, the whites are also very full-bodied and best enjoyed very chilled.
The soils are sandy and gritty and produce wonderful almonds, oranges and avocados. Most Algarve wines are made by cooperatives - half by the region's oldest co-operative. The region's second-largest cooperative, in Única, produces about 30% of Algarve wines. The rest of the production comes from Tavira, Portimao and private growers.
 

Barros - Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

As I woke in my boutique Hotel in Oporto, Portugal - I had no idea too the depth of knowledge and insight into the history of the country, cuisine and Port that was to be shared, nor the genuine hospitality I was to be shown this day by my hosts from the Sogevinus Group. This was originally to be - as with most of my visits, a full day packed with information and tastings with not much time to digest or ask all the questions I usually have. But the mutual respect and understanding of all things wine related was evident from the start and a one day experience, was soon increased to two - *(one in Vila Nova de Gaia and then another in the heart of the Douro Valley at their vineyards. Ironically after my visit to Quinta de la Rosa, who sold them to Barros back in the 1930’s).  

 

My hosts Sofia Morais and Fernando Oliveira (Master Blender for the Sogevinus Group) - first took me through the old cellars and production facilities in Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Ports are aged, blended, bottled and hand labelled and where they have their own cooper. Fernando took me through a thorough tasting - showing all the components and most select barrels that make up each of the Ports, before we headed back down the hill to the head office on the edge of the Douro River. 

Fernando Oliveira is a fourth generation ‘master blender’ - he runs the daily blending of new Port vintages and also oversees the care and transfer of cask-aging ‘Colheitas’, some of which have been aging in barrels for a century.

In Port wine history, and until today, Barros has become known as a prestige brand due to the quality of its Port wines. Founded as a company in 1913 by the hands of Manuel de Almeida, with the designation Almeida em Comandita, Barros was at the time mainly dedicated to the Port wine trade, the reason it was located in Vila Nova de Gaia. Barros is presently recognized and appreciated all over the world not only for its ‘Colheitas’ style of special quality Port but its entire range of vintage and non vintage Ports.

 

Since 2006 - Barros is now under the Sogevinus Group management. Sogevinus Group is the Port and table wine group owned by Spanish Bank Caixanova (based in Galicia). Established in 1998, it began with the purchase of Port house Cálem, and then followed the acquisition of Burmester (2005), Kopke (2006) and Barros (2006). Altogether this is a reasonably sized operation, selling some 12.5 million bottles annually, with a 90% being Port wine and 10% table wine.

After tasting so many outstanding Ports - the taste buds were in need of some local cuisine and what better a place to achieve this than at ‘Dom Tonho II Restaurant’ located across the street on the edge of the Douro River, whom the Sogevinus Group have an interest. After a full day it was time to find my way back to my hotel - then make my way to the heart of the Douro Valley and to meet up with Fernando again in 2 days.


Part 2:
After being collected by Fernando from Quinta de la Rosa - it was only a short drive back down the valley along the left hand side to the Barros vineyards and winery. The winery has recently had a great deal of attention - to retain its traditional techniques alongside very modern-bespoke wine making equipment. We were greeted by a local icon and arguably the most knowledgeable people in the region. Jose Manuel Manso is the manager and viticulturist of the Quinta, but it was clear he is more than this - when he spoke about the Douro and its vineyards. It was like he was passing on the responsibility to share this history, knowledge and to nurturer it for the next generation.

 

After a short drive up slopes that I’m sure goats would take a second guess at - we walked up a portion of the vineyards and he took time to explain the importance of this dynamic terroir. With numerous microclimates contained in the Douro, he described to me the difference between the north and south facing slopes with respect to the ripening of the grapes. The north facing slopes receive sunshine in the morning but not in the afternoon, while the south facing vineyards receive sunshine all day.
This can lead to more complexity in the north facing vineyards as they ripen at a slower pace. There was also a distinct policy at Barros to move away from using herbicides over their vineyards and identifying organic methods to protect the vines as well as local insects and bird life. Their vineyards are planed with approximately 30% Touriga Nacional with other grape varieties making up the remainder of the 70%. The vineyards are planted along the slopes on horizontal levels and, more recently, they are planted along the lines of the greatest slopes, so called ‘Vinha ao Alto’ (vertically planted vines).
The soil, if you can call is that - is made up of schist greywacke ante-Ordovician, with some inclusions of a geological formation of granite. Even the posts where wires are tied for young or fragile vines are made from this schist. The height of the vines reach up to 600 meters, with the following traditional varieties being planted: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca.

 

After reaching some breathtaking heights that gave an unprecedented viewpoint of the Douro Valley - it was time to make our way back down (very carefully I might add) - and sample some of the wines and Ports with the team and then share an authentic lunch set on the edge of the hillside overlooking the river and surrounded by spectacular terraced vineyards (some at nearly vertical angles) in all directions.

As we pulled away from Barros at Quinta de S.Luiz, and started the drive back to Oporto - the patchwork terraced vineyards stood proudly in afternoon sun. I could not have asked for better hosts or teachers during my time in the Douro - I could never have learnt or experienced what I have in the past 3 days in 30 years of reading. If you are truly serious about wine - you have to make your way to the Douro Valley; before you leave this mortal coil we live and share.