Exploring portwine-paradise (4/7): Tradition meets modernity

Finally in the Douro I visit one of my favorite Quintas. Winemaker Tiago Alves de Sousa belongs to the rising new generation.

 

Next to the original, bright yellow Quinta da Gaivosa, the family set up a black and modern wine cellar two years ago. While here only the Douro-Doc wines are produced, the port wines of the family are made very close by on a second quinta.
The new building has a lot of architectural highlights. But we start our tour where the wine starts: in the vineyard.


Above the slate is only about 2 meters of fertile soil, which is why the vines develop meter-long roots to meander through the rock in search of water. On the terraced slopes, the vines are planted in a variety mix and will later be harvested as well. Port and most Douro-Doc wines are cuvées. The list of grape varieties used in the Douro is long. The special skills of the winemaker therefore starts here in the vineyard: Not every grape ripens at the same time and yet you have to find the perfect moment to harvest all of them at once. During the year each grape variety needs a different care. Tiago himself identifies each variety simply by looking at the vine, although there are more than 80 varieties here in the Douro.

Now we enter the cool cellar. Here it is all about hightech and stainless steel. Tiago has invented a special grape press, where interval, duration and pressure can be set separately for several vats at a time as the production of each wine has different needs. It even contains a water based cooling system so that even in hot Douro the grapes do not start fermenting during the process. Thanks to his progressive ideas, the young winemaker is now even working with the nearby located University of Villa Real, which is currently replicating this unique piece for their research.

At Alves de Sousa all bottled wines are stored for at least seven years on the Quinta. „The market of wine drinkers has changed, but our wine still needs enough time to mature, even in the bottle. That’s why we decided to take over the job for our customers, since they often do not have space to properly store their wine. Anyone who buys from us will definitely get a ready-to-drink product, „says Katarina.

In the modern sales room, the bottles are stuck upside down in a specially designed table with holes. This way the bottles are presented well and yet the corks remain moist. I am allowed to taste a lot and therefore have only written about my absolute highlights for you:

Memoires is a cuvée made from the best wines of the last 10 years. The next Memoires will come out in 2022 and Tiago prepares the extracts for it already in various barrels. A great, but also extravagant project, in which the entire family now participates for the second time.

Abandonado is a wine from a vineyard left to itself. The vines were planted 80 years ago by Tiago’s grandfather at the top of a mountain in a poorly accessible area. Already after the first year about 50% of the vines were broken. It was soon clear that it was too much trouble to cultivate this piece of land. For decades, the remaining vines were simply left to their fate. Locals spoke of this vineyard only as „abandonado“. A few years ago, Tiago and his father Domingo took up the vineyard again. They wanted to make the abandonado run with the help of the new possibilities in viticulture. But despite all efforts they could not manage to plant more vines there. The old vines however still existed and, as it turned out, produced a decent amount of grapes each year without human care. This fascinated the family. Since then, the vines up there have been genetically studied by winegrowing students and the wild grapes are being harvested to produce a very limited, delicious, deep red and full-bodied wine.

 

My thanks for this blogpost goes not only to Tiago and Katarina for the very detailed tour, but to the entire Alves de Sousa family, who have welcomed us with so much kindness. We will definitely be back.

 

More info on:

www.alvesdesousa.com

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