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2008 Pombal do Vesuvio DOC
As a general rule, the further one travels up the Douro, the better the quality and concentration found in the fruit, though as a result of the drier conditions, the quantities are greatly reduced. The Symington Group took the plunge in 1989 and purchased Quinta do Vesuvio, which despite its remoteness, has to be the grandest quinta, with about 400 hectares of which about 100 are covered with the finest vines.
The transformation of Vesuvio into the Douro’s showpiece vineyard began with António Bernardo Ferreira who bought the Quinta in 1823 with a vision and determination to build a vineyard on a scale never seen before in the Douro.
In addition to building hundreds of terraces and planting thousand of grape vines, an adega (winery) was built. It took thirteen years to complete and within a few years Quinta do Vesuvio became widely regarded as the Douro’s finest property.
Quinta do Vesuvio only produces Vintage Port, both in declared years and those which are not - though only the latter if conditions are of a very high enough standard. This ability to declare in most years is due to the quality of fruit produced on the estate, which is trodden by foot in stone lagares - the time-honoured method that the best producers use for making the best wines. Although released in most years, quantities can be scarce of this most impressive, long-lived wine which frequently rates among the very best for sheer finesse and depth.
In May 1827 António Bernardo Ferreira wrote “All the English have poured praise on my lodge and hold that they cannot find another adega to match mine in the Douro… stating frankly that both in Oporto and the Douro, nobody has better wines”
The Douro region begins 100km inland from Porto and extends east to the Spanish border. With its winding river, sculptured terraced hillsides and wild, hilly vistas it is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world.
Dominated by the region’s famous fortified Ports, the Douro’s still wines are gaining a rapidly improving reputation. Most top wines are labelled as Douro DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada) although there are also some good wines using French grape varieties (not authorised under the DOC) that are labelled as Vinho Regional Terras Durienses.
With much of the areas overlapping, the Douro DOC covers almost 38,000ha, the Vinho Regional slightly more (45,500ha) and the DO for Port slightly less (32,000ha). The region’s soils benefit from a thick layer of schist on top of the typical granite that abounds in most of northern Portugal. The schist absorbs and radiates heat back into the vines, while allowing the limited amount of rain to seep far into the ground and the vine roots to delve deep into the vertical planes.
The wines are predominantly red and range from relatively light, lively and fruity to deep, dark, concentrated and fully-flavoured. The former tend to be made from Rabigato, Gouveio, Codega, Donzelinho, Malvasia Fina and Viosinho while the latter come from the better-known Port varieties: Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional, Tinta Francesca, Tinto Cão, Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Amarela and Tinta Barroca. Classic French varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer are also planted and used to produce the Vinho Regional wines.
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