“We cannot finish a Douro wine tasting without Port.” Tiago says it very seriously. “Domingos would be very sad with everybody.”
The Alves de Sousa family has just made Douro wines for some 20 years, but Port since generations. Tiago is the fifth. Tradition, but also development.
He puts a bottle of shimmering golden white port on the table. There is an indication of age on the label: “10 year old white”, which means that the port has an average age of ten years. A relatively new classification for white port, Tiago points out to us. Then he tells the story about it.
“White port is our oldest tradition; it used to be our specialty, when we made port to sell to the classic port shippers. We produced white port in the classical style, dry or extra dry. So when we decided to make our own port, we wanted to do something completely different.”
The result was a white port, made the same way as the red. The grapes ferment with the skins, as these hold so much flavours and provide richness and body to the wine. Then, instead of adding spirit in the end of the fermentation, which you do to get a dry wine, the spirit is added just as for a ruby, more in the middle, which keeps the sweetness in the wine.
Additionally, only the very best grapes were selected for this 10 year old port. The vineyards used to make the red premium wines, Lordelo, Abandonado och Gaivosa, have both green and black grape varieties. The black grapes were harvested, but the green ones were left on the vines to ripen a bit longer. After vinification and then about ten years in barrel we have the result in front of us.
“We are trying to take white port to a completely new level,” says Tiago and adds proudly that it has attracted great interest around the world.
Quinta da Giavosa 10 year old White.
Golden yellow, light amber. Big, mature bouquet of oranges, floral notes, almond paste, a hint of bitter almond. Medium bodied, balanced sweetness and acidity. On the palate, da capo with the aromas from the nose; almond paste, parfumed notes, muscovado sugar in the middle, floral notes, mimosa and a touch of oak. Supreme length.
Without any significant experience of the category we think this Port is very good, in fact excellent. There is a freshness that moderates the sweetness, resulting in a perception of being less than the actual around 100 gr/litre. Not the slightest hot feeling from the alcohol (which we are a little sensitive to) and on top of that a delicous palette of aromas and flavours.
“Drink to blue cheese, for example Roquefort or Stilton,” Tiago tells us, “or to a fruit dessert, an apple pie or an apricot pie is really good to our white Port.”
Then a 20 year Tawny. Well, that is the average. This blend holds some really old wine.
Tiago likes to make Tawny. The freedom to blend and design the wine over time. And the unique fact that several generations contribute and work to shape the same wine. A Tawny is the result of three components; the vineyard, the winemaker and the cellarmaster. The Tawny we taste includes wine that Tiago’s father, Domingos, made 40 years ago. Fascinating!
Quinta da Gaivosa 20 year old Tawny.
Tawny, with hues of dark orange ambers. Big nose dominated by brown sugar, christmas nuts, almond, dried figs and dates. Medium bodied with balanced sweetness. Complex, dried Christmas fruits and ditto spices. Very good length.
Once again, a fresh feeling when the acidity balance and downtune the sweetness. Once again well integrated alcohol. Delicious, very fine.
Time for the final with Vintage Port from the fabulous vintage 2011. Already proclaimed one of the best ever.
Alves de Sousa uses grapes partly from Gaivosa and partly from Quinta de Oliveirinha, another of the total six family properties. Oliveirinha is located in Cima Corgo, the heart of the Port vineyard area. It contributes with concentration and richness, while the cooler Gaivosa contributes with balance and freshness.
The grapes are foot trodden in lagares . “I’m always the first one to jump in,” laughs Tiago, “and the last one up.” Tiago reintroduced the use of lagares for the Vintage and LBV. Never for Douro wines, the extraction would be too big.
Alves de Sousa Vintage Port 2011.
Purple-red-black, totally opaque. On the nose, full of character, powerful young aromas. Blackcurrant, blackberries, blueberries, prunes, chocolate, mint, eukalypthus and green herbs. Fullbodied with fresh acidity and fine marked tannins and attractive sweetness. Immensely concentrated, complex flavour palette. Very long complex fruity aftertaste spiced with cocoa.
An outstanding wine: seductive, exquisite, beautiful. We ask ourselves how to possibly keep it when it is so good right now? Because it is meant to be kept. A wine for the new generations, for our children and grandchildren if we should listen to what Tiago says. This 2011 Vintage Port will peak in 50 years.
The afternoon has turned into early eventing. The hours have passed quickly, all too quickly. It is time to go back to Porto. To our enthusiastic, positive and knowledgeable host we want to say so much, but overwhelmed as we are it becomes no more than a sincere:
“Thank you, Dr. Tiago.”
We visited Alves de Sousa in May 2014. This post was previously posted on my Swedish blog Ljuva Druvor. Read more about our visit to Alves de Sousa:
Alves de Sousa; Meticulously, Dr Tiago
Alves de Sousa; Douro in white & red
Link to Alves de Sousa’s website.