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The International Wine Industry
Dinner with Sandra Tavares - Portuguese Winemaker
Thursday, 19th February, 2010  - Richard Farmer
Paulo, Sandra and Alice Tavares da Silva

Despite a long history of wine production, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, parts of Spain, Italy and Sicily remained in a long slumber with poor to indifferent wine being made for a local market. This is changing very fast and numerous well made wines frequently using local varieties are now on the market.

As good a story as any to illustrate these sweeping changes are the striking wines being made by the Portuguese winemakers Sandra Tavares de Silva and husband Jorge Serodio Borges. I attended a dinner in London at which Sandra showed the current releases and several older vintages.

They make wine at two family properties; Pintas in the Pinhao Valley, Douro and about 400 kilometres south and north east of Lisboa; Quinta de Chocapalha in the Estramadura region.

Very interesting wines are coming from the Douro region based on the traditional port varieties and I have been sampling many over the last few weeks. The use of traditional varieties (some of which are in the Barossa), the steep vineyard slopes and the Atlantic influence appeals and is likely to lead to exciting and different wines. If Pintas is an example that is indeed what is happening.

I rated highly the Pintas Douro Red 2007 and the Pintas Character 2005. Both are made from indigenous varieties (possibly as many as 30 and including staples such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca) and are foot trodden in granite stone lagares. This is important as these varieties are prone to make tough, hard, tannic, extractive wines that can be very unpleasant. This method of crushing and open vat fermenting in a shallow trough will introduce a lot of oxygen, useful in softening. The Pintas receives more new oak than the Pintas Character.

Sandra also showed an interesting white, the Pintas Guru 2008 made from Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato, and Codega do Larinho which had lovely mouthfeel.

From Quinta de Chocapalha I liked the Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva 2005 though this is not as complex as Pintas. I'm not entirely sure what the varieties are at Quinta de Chocapalha though the vines were planted 20 years ago and now cover 40 hectares and I assume are traditional varieties plus International varieties but more orderly than those at Pintas. They have built the traditional lagares but made from concrete.

I had trouble with the others reds from this estate being Quinta de Chocapalha Tinto 2006, Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet 2007 and Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva 2006 which tended to be extractive and tough. I only had a short moment with Sandra and gained the impression that some of these wines were made in stainless and it maybe that this created the extracted taste which I do not like.

Surprisingly Sandra mentioned that the wines are inoculated as she does not favour wild yeast ferments.

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