New Douro Tasting

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In London to present the 2007 red wines of Quinta do Noval at the New Douro tasting at the Tate Modern. I managed to escape from behind my table from time to time and so taste all the wines there: this sort of opportunity arises rarely in the region of production, so I try to make the most of it when I can. There were some very exciting wines on show: 2007 was a lovely year in the Douro, both for Vintage Ports and for the unfortified wines.

Paul Symington gave a presentation to the assembled visitors about the Douro region, the theme of which was that it is quite possible, though unusual, for a great vineyard region to be able to produce two different world class wines: Vintage Port and now unfortified Douro wines. To re-enforce the message, we showed the 07 Vintage Ports after the red and white wine tasting.

I find the emergence of the new Douro wines, both red and white, an immensely exciting phenomenon. I have now spent nearly sixteen years working in the Douro, at Quinta do Noval, and also more recently at Romaneira, and I lost my heart to the region a long time ago. To see red wines being produced that express the Douro terroir, as Vintage Port has done for a very long time, is a huge pleasure. More than anything, these new wines have given the Douro a new vitality and dynamism, as they make it possible for small winegrowers to establish themselves independently, something that is very difficult to do with Port wine.

The result has been the emergence of a new generation of Douro winemakers, establishing their reputations on the world stage with wines produced under their name or that of their quintas, and this can only be positive for the region, and of course for wine lovers everywhere. Although I cannot claim to be very small or very young, we would probably not have acquired Romaneira for example, had the project only been to produce Port wine: one of the principal attractions of the Romaneira vineyard is its potential for the production of Douro red and white wines. At Noval, we are certainly not giving up the day job, and the production of great port wines is and will remain our principal reason for existing, the red wines of Quinta do Noval, and the Cedro do Noval play an increasingly important role in the life of the Quinta. So in general: exciting times in the Douro Valley.

Harvest at Pichon

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Harvesters in front of Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

2009 harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard

These pictures show the harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard. Very old vines on deep beds of gravel give Cabernet of wonderful finesse and purity. With the very low yields that we practise here, and the precision of the work that takes places in the vineyard, beautiful wine is made from these vines every year, but some years are more special than others, and it looks as though 2009 will be one of those. Summer was hot and dry, and by the beginning of September we were beginning to be just a little worried: was there enough water in the soil for the vines to continue to do their all important work in the last few weeks to bring the Cabernets to full maturity? And then we had a weekend of rain, that put everything right. Slowly and steadily over the past few weeks the Cabernets have been ripening before our eyes. We knew that the Merlots were spectacular, but to make it a great vintage the Cabernets had to come round. And they did. You will see the results in the 2009 wines, which I think will be among the greatest of Pichons.

Grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background

 Grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background

Here you see the grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background. Watch this space: the 2009s will be something special.

2009 harvest at Pichon