Many young, ambitious producers are keen on making Douro table wines more well known but they also endeavour to make sure that the tradition of port lives on. Sandra Tavares and her husband Jorge Serodio Borges are among these. Together they run the company Wine and Soul – an innovative winery that promotes wines made from local grapes. Sandra also works alongside Cristiano van Zeller at the Quinta do Vale Dona Maria which produces a range of prize-winning table reds as well as own-label ports. She also is the only female member of the Douro Boys – a group of winemakers who banded together to shout about their wines to the outside world, and among whom are Quinta do Vallado and Quinta do Crasto. This equal emphasis on both the ports and table wines can only help both get the recognition the Douro wines deserve.
At the Symington’s recently built tasting room, Joe and I enjoy a glass of Symington’s Altano red, made from grapes usually used in port and which are grown in the Douro superiore. Its juicy, fleshy dark fruit is underpinned by a subtle mineral streak; an ode to the Douro’s schistose soil. Though each producer has their own style, Douro reds tend to have perfumed, aromatic dark fruit similar to port, but a similar structure to Bordeaux with a wilder side! I am also a huge fan of the intense, complex whites – which combine radiant lemon curd fruit with herbal tang.
Looking out over the vineyard over the breathtaking undulating setting, I couldn’t believe that this was my first time to this part of the world. The Douro is a UNESCO heritage site that is plentiful in fantastic wine, food, derelict chic towns as well as stunning natural beauty. Joe and I did a port wine tasting on a boat up the River Douro which was truly enchanting. To get back to Porto it is possible to take the most picturesque train journey on a steam train from Pinhao. Quintas like the Symingtons are encouraging wine tourism by building contemporary tastings rooms or offering visitors the chance to dine or stay in the Quinta.
I was just speaking to a couple who had come back from a long weekend to the Douro. Their tales of white port tonics, fantastic seafood, welcoming Quintas and awe-inspiring sunsets over the dramatic Douro valley made me wistful. How could people not realise that such a special place was right on their doorstep? Hopefully, as with the cocktails themselves, people will soon realise what they are missing out on. And I will just embrace Porto in the meantime – my house summer drink being white port with tonic of course (don’t forget the orange peel)!