The Lodge Meets the Douro

Cloud mass sitting atop the Marão mountains, as we drive up into the Douro

Thursday morning early, the Graham’s Lodge team boarded a bus at the Lodge to go up to the Douro for two days.  Having been told about all about our quintas and our grapes and winemaking, it was time to see what everyone had been talking about.

The trip upriver by bus was long and tiring, but gave the team a bit of a lesson in Douro weather patterns.  From Gaia into the Marão mountain range (which runs north/south and defines the western end of the DOC region) it was pretty clear and dry – mixture of sun and clouds, but not unpleasant by any means.  As we approached the crest of the Marão we could see a cloud mass sitting on top of the hills – see photo.  We drove into that, and stayed in it for a pretty long stretch down the eastern side of the range, so it was cloudy (clearly!), drizzly, damp and chilly.  By the time we had passed through the Baixo Corgo and reached Alijó, a village more or less north of Quinta dos Malvedos in the heart of the Cima Corgo, the weather was about like what we had left in Porto – some cloud, but dry and pleasant.  In the Ribalonga, a valley east of Malvedos and Tua, we passed briefly through a light rain shower, and when we got to Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira, in the Douro Superior, the sun was out, and we were removing our coats and looking for sunglasses – the perfect dry and sunny spring day in the Douro.

Between the best of old and new - traditional wooden toneis for ageing wine and robotic lagares. Ricardo Carvalho, centre
A lesson in traditional treading, as still carried out today at Vesúvio. Mário Natario standing far left.
Alexandre Mariz, centre, stops in the doorway of the Tua winery to answer a few more questions. Leaning on the rail left are Joaquim, responsible for the Tua and Malvedos wineries, and Arlindo, Malvedos caseiro

Ricardo Carvalho met the team at Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and reviewed the wine making process – but this time standing in front of the receiving area, then moving on to the traditional lagares, to the robotic lagares and finally the toneis where the 2010 wines are still stored.  Clearly seeing the winery and equipment made all the difference to their understanding of the process.  Ricardo also described how the same variety of grape will ripen at a different times, depending on its situation and micro-climate on the hillside, and indicated various parcels on the hills above and around us to illustrate his point.

From there, by boat across the river to Quinta do Vesúvio where we had lunch in the magnificent old quinta house, then visited the adega.  Mário Natario, the viticulturalist for Vesuvio and also for Graham’s Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, which is just next door upriver, talked through the traditional treading process in some detail, as it is still carried out for every wine made at Vesúvio.  The team were then rewarded for their attention with a tasting of some wine from cask.

Back across the river to our bus, and back down river to Graham’s Quinta do Tua.  We were joined by Alexandre Mariz, the viticulturalist for both Tua and Malvedos, who told us a bit about the history of the quinta, which was built early in the 19th century and served as a way station for those travelling into the Douro Superior, and then gave us a tour of the winery and house.

Across the Tua River to Quinta dos Malvedos, where we walked through the winery where Henry Shotton makes the wines for Graham’s own ports.  The 2010 harvest map was still up on the wall, and caught everyone’s attention, so Sr. Mariz explained how we track our progress picking the grapes parcel by parcel on a giant map of the quinta.  We visited the house, and then came down river again, this time to Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, where we have had dinner and are spending the night.

Tomorrow, viticulture with Miles Edlmann.