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Wine & Soul; lovely spotty wines

Suddenly it looks like we have got yellow skin, all of us. A blazingly fast change of colour in the same second as we walk in through the heavy door to Wine & Soul. But we can take it easy. The reason turns out to be energy-saving lighting in the barrel cellar that weaves everything into a dim, misty yellow light. When Jorge shows us up the stairs and into the next space, where the lagares are full of barrels containing the 2013 vintage, the skin resumes its normal colour.

“Wine & Soul is a small company,” says Jorge. “And we want to keep it that way. Small is beautiful. But we have in fact grown a little the last years.”

Jorge Serôdio Borges and Sandra Tavares da Silva started Wine & Soul when they bought this old winery and 2,2 hectar vineyards. The year was 2001. Over the years they have bought more land and currently the vineyard area counts to 22 hectars. A neat little work to look after, at the same time as they have positions as winemakers on other quintas

Pintas the dogAnother member of the family, also with a soft spot for grapes, has played an important part in the company. Oh yes, Pintas really like grapes. This cute dog, with pleading eyes and a lot of small spots scattered over the white fur, has given its name to Wine & Soul’s red wine and vintage port. Pintas means spots in Portuguese. The white label of Pintas Character is also adorned by a lot of grey and silver coloured spots.

During the lunch we talked about Jorge and Sandra’s winemaking philosophy. Now I wonder about the name Wine & Soul, why “soul”? The answer comes very quickly.

Wine & Soul

“It is not just a company, it is our passion,” expains Jorge. “We respect the traditions of our families, we want to keep them and build something for the future. This is our lives.”

Wine & Soul produce in total 40.000 bottles, divided between four red wines, one white and two ports. All the grapes destined to port and red wines are foot trodden and fermented in lagares.

Today the winery is too small, there is not enought capacity to ferment all grapes. Thus, some of them are sold to a port wine company. The intention is to expand and get a bigger barrel cellar. Presently the lagares have to serve as barrel storage and it is a tedious work when the barrels must be moved. But it is a slow process to get a buildning permit in the world heritage protected Douro.

Guru 2012, Wine & SoulAlready at lunch we tasted the latest addition to Wine & Soul’s range of wines,  the white Guru 2012. Made of four different grape varieties from very old vines. Sandra explains that Viosinho contributes with tropical fruit, Rabigato with crispy acidity and the neutral Cordega and Gouveio with volume on the palate. The wine is fermented and matured five month in french oak barrels with battonage. No malolactic fermentation to keep the freshness.

Yellow-green shimmering. Large, developed buttery nose with fruitiness of yellow plums and citrus, a touch of oak. Medium plus body, dry with very good acidity. Fresh and at the same time a little thick buttery impression on the palate. Minerality, notes of tropical fruit, apricot, pineapple, well integrated oak. Good length with nice fruitiness.
Fresh, full of character. Lovely!

Now time to taste red. We stand in a corner of the cellar, wrapped in the yellow, misty light. Jorge pours the first wine and we smell the lovely aromas while he speaks about Manoella.

Manoella Tinto 2012.
From Quinta da Manoella, 5 km from here. Who the woman Manoella was, no one knows, despite the fact that the estate has been in the possession of Jorge’s family since 1838.
The grape varieties in Manoella are primarily Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Fransesca. One year in old French barrels. 2012 was a very cold year, which shows in a lighter wine, but still in the fresh, elegant style Jorge aims at.

Purple colour. A little shy nose, herbiness and red berries. Almost medium bodied, good acidity and balanced soft tannins. Dense structure with dark berries, cherries and a touch of oak. Nice, light aftertaste with sour red berries and notes of oak.  A tight, a bit lighter and fresher wine.

Pintas Character 2011.
From old vines, a field blend dominated of Touriga Franca . 16 months on French barrels, 50% new.

Dense, dark red with a little shy, young nose. Medium plus body with good acidity and marked fine tannins. Dark fruit, very complex, well balanced, very good texture, structure and concentration. Long aftertaste finished with deliciously ripe, sweet fruit. Excellent, elegant. Great ageing potential.

Pintas Character ed. 7 corkJorge passes the cork. Natural cork, selected by Jorge and Sandra when they visited the producer. They take quality very serious. On the top is the number seven. It means something special, that it is Sandra and Jorge’s seventh vintage of Pintas Character.

We continue with port. Wine & Soul Tawny Port 10 years, has an actual average age of 15 years, five years more thant the stipulated ten. Why? Simply to make a better wine explains Jorge.

Amber tawny colour. Lovely nose; nutty, caramel, brown sugar and blackberry fruit. Mouthfilling with very good acidity, attractively moderate impression of sweetness, very fruity notes among the caramel and brown sugar. Delicious tawny with concentration and suprisingly high fruitiness. Like!

Pintas Vintage Port 2011.
2011, the year when everything was perfect.  The weather gods blessed September and all plots could be harvested at exactly the right ripeness.  For vintage an ideal year. The best in a century, an opinion shared by many.

First I was bewitched by Quinta do Passadouro Vintage 2011 . Then this an hour later. The Pintas Vintage 2011 will be the wine that definitely turns me from port skepticism to salvation.

Very high intensity, blue-red-black. A symphony of aromas; dark fruit, blackcurrant, flowers, smokiness, spicyness with cinnamon, cumin and peppar, then a complexity which permeats and seduces. On the palate full bodied, velvet soft, fine marked tannins and a very good acidity lowering the impression of sweetness. Fantastic complexity, fruity, blue berries, nuts. A length stretching into eternity, fruity and complex. Wow, gorgeous, such a fantastic wine! A top score dances into the margin of the note book.

We just stand and cuddle with silly smiles to the top of our ears. Jorge notes the reaction and chuckles back with a big smile and great warmth in his voice; “You know, one of the missions of a winemaker is to produce something that can make people happy.”

Yes, we are happy. So happy that we make the biggest mistake of our journey. We should have bought many bottles to take with us back home.

“Do you want to see our old vineyard before you leave?” asks Jorge. He means the little 2,2 hectar vineyard with 80 year old vines, the starting point of Wine & Soul.  A small vineyard with a lot of soul. Of course we want to see it.

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Wine & Soul’s wines are imported to Sweden by Handpicked Wines.

Previous posts about our visit to Jorge Serôdio Borges and Sandra Tavares da Silva in May 2014:

 

 

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Quinta do Passadouro; one white, three red and two port

“This is a small, but very efficient winery,”  emphasizes Sandra. Plot by plot, the harvest is brought here for vinification, starting in the lagares.The destiny for each and every grape, surviving the sorting table,  has been determined a long time ago, as every wine is based on specific vineyard plots, the same each year. The basic rule is very simple: hotter location port, cooler red Douro wine.

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Sandra Tavares da Silva welcomes us outside Quinta do Passadouro’s winery. Her husband, and the winemaker of Passadouro, Jorge Serôdio Borges, is delayed.

Quinta do Passadouro was bought by the Belgian business man Dieter Bohrmann in the beginning of the 90ies. He loved Portugal and port wine, but had also a vision to produce red Douro wine at the estate. That vision has become a reality.  When Dieter Bohrmann passed away three years ago, the ownership was transferred to his two daughters. Jorge Serôdio Borges is also co-owner, with responsibility of the daily management of the estate.

Around Passadouro there are 20 hectars of vineyards, whereof Sandra counts seven to the very old: “We start to say old when the vines are more than 60-70 years old and then it is always ‘field blends’, that is several different grape varieties planted together.”

The vineyard next to the winery has reached the respectable age of almost  80 years, a field blend with about 30 varieties, planted with high density, 7000 vines per hectar. This is the base for the Quinta do Passadouros Reserva.

Organic methods are used for the vineyards, but there is no certification. Sandra explains that certification not has been that important for them and should additionally imply loads of paper work, very much for a small company. The climat is dry, the vineyards well established and ‘balanced’. Only oïdium can be a problem, which is treated with sulphur when needed. Biodiversity and organic methods, that is the way we manage the vineyards, declares Sandra.

The best red wines and the ports start their lives in the lagares, the large basins made of granite, where the grapes are foot trodden and the must fermented. Even the entry level wines are foot trodden during one or two days, but are moved to stainless steel tanks when it is time for fermentation. The grapes for the white wines are destined directly to the stainless steel tanks.

French barrels are exclusively used for Passadouro’s wines. A larger share new ones, up to 50%, for the premium wines Reserva and Touriga Nacional. Those two get about 16-20 months in barrel, depending on vintage.

Quinta do Passadouro and Wine & Soul lunch winetasting

Quinta do Passadouro’s red entry level wine, Passa, was not tasted at the visit. Instead we enjoyed five other Passadouro-wines during the garden lunch with Sandra and Jorge: one white, three red and two ports. And we can make the confession at once; the wines of Passadouro were completely to our taste.

Passadouro Branco 2013.
A blend of Viosinho, Rabigato andd Códega do Larinho grown on schist and granite soils, at an altitude of 500-600 meters around the village Murça, 50 km northeast of Passadouro. Fermented and raised on stainless steel tank.
Very light yellow. Medium intensity aromas with minerality and pears. Relatively light bodied, dry with fresh acidity. On the palate passion fruit, apricot and minerality resembling of blackboard chalk.  Refreshing.

Passadouro Tinto 2011.
40% Touriga Nacional, 25% Touriga Franca, 25% Tinta Roriz and 10% ‘field blend’. 18 months in mostly used French barrels.  (Vintage 2010 was 2013 ranked number 37 on Wine Spectator’s top 100-list, where quality, price, quantity and imported quantity to the US are considered as criteria.)

I ask Jorge if the blend is the same every year. The answer is that the wine always is based on those three grape varieties, but the share of each can change a bit depending on grape quality. However, the mental picture of the wine he is aiming for, is always cristal clear before the blending procedure is started.

Purple. Pronounced, developed nose dominated by dark fruit, oak and a bit spicyness. Medium bodied with fresh acidity and fine marked tannins. Beautiful fruitiness of dark berries and plums. Well integrated oak. Spicy, peppery. Very good, lovely length. Tight, elegant, beautifully structured. Very good indeed! Would not say no to a case of these.

Passadouro Touriga Nacional 2011.
100% Touriga Nacional, awarded gold medal at the International Wine Challenge this year. 50-70 year old vines, 18 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Keep for a long time is the advice from Jorge, at least five years.

Purple, high intensity. Big, young, nose of dark fruit, blackberry, plums, together with a light floral touch. Full bodied, with fresh acidity and marked fine tannins and very good length. Powerful, concentrated.

Passadouro Reserve 2011.
Field blend of more than 20 different varieties from more than 70 year old vines. 1,5 year on French oak, 70% new barrels. Very good aging potential.

Purple, high intensity. On the nose medium intensity, developed aromas with complexity. Dark fruit, plums, blackberries, delicate notes of oak and some floral nuances. Full bodied, fresh acidity and soft, but emphasized tannins. Very good length. Focused, dense, fresh, very concentrated and complex. Excellent, gorgeous!

Then, port. First a Ruby and finally a Vintage.

Passadouro Porto Ruby Reserva.
Field blend from old vines. A blend of about four vintages, matured on average five years in large oak vats. The oldest wine is ten years old, the youngest three years.
Made to be easy to drink. Jorge emphasizes the importance of tempererature, serve at 12 to maximum 14 degrees.

Deep red. Fruity with floral notes. Medium bodied, fresch acidity and medium sweetness. Lovely touch of chocolate in the aftertaste. Yes, really fresch and easy to drink, despite the 19,5%.

Quinta do Passadouro Vintage 2011.
Another gold medal from IWC 2014. Field blend, old vines. Everything was perfect this super vintage 2011. Only 4000 bottles made. Today very Young, but at the same time seductively accessible .

“Perfect to drink today, but in 20 years the complexity and elegance will have developed perfectly,” says Jorge. “So why drink now, when it will be so much better? It is made to for keeping more than 50 years. Unfortunately, this wine will survive me.”

High intensity, tremendously concentrated with dark fruit, fresh acidity, balanced tannins, delicous dimmed sweetness and gourgeous body. Excellent length, fruity, dark berries and chocalate nuances. Young, focussed and seductive.

We enjoy the last drops of vintage and discuss when the best occasion should be to drink such a marvelous wine.  Personally, I conclude that the best time is exactly this very moment. A warm and sunny afternoon in May, in the garden of Quinta do Passadouro, in the company of Jorge, the winemaker himself.

Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serôdio Borges

We visited Quinta do Passadouro in May 2014.

Lunch with Sandra & Jorge

“It is a scientific art, winemaking,” explains Jorge. “It is knowledge and feeling, and you have to be very, very careful with the small details.”

C and I listen carefully. Jorge speaks thoughtfully, almost reflective, as if he chooses the words for us to really understand.

It is so great, being here in this lovely garden, talking wine and winemaking with Jorge. But the lunch did not start in the same happy mood.

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The chair at the end of the table is empty. C and I sit next to the empty place. Chat and have a nice time with our neighbours on the other side. Still, I am a bit disappointed. Had hoped that Sandra should be in that chair, but her place turned out to be on the other end of the table. Far away from us. No talking distance.

The long table stands in the garden at Quinta do Passadouro in Vale de Mendiz. A beautiful valley, close to Pinhão in the classic district Cima Corgo of the Douro valley. It is in the middle of May, wonderfully sunny and warm as a Swedish summer day. The garden is pIeasantly green with trees and bushes and at the end a nice view over terraced vineyards where light brown soil shines between the vines.

Sandra pours us the Passadouro Vinho Branco 2013 and we exchange a few words about the wine. Cool climate grapes, grown about 50 km away, to the northeast. Here the soil is schist. There partly granite.

“The granite brings nice mineral notes to the wine and the grapes get a longer maturation period, even if they are grown at the same altitude as here,” Sandra tells us and disappears. Far away. Had wanted to ask more. It feels like that other end of the long table is so distant, as if it was on the other side of the crafted valley.

Sandra is the renowned Sandra Tavares da Silva. The female part of the married winemaker couple behind the acclaimed wines from Wine & Soul. She is also winemaker at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria and at her parents estate closer to Lisbon, Quinta de Chocapalha. Today it was Sandra who welcomed us to Quinta do Passadouro, as her husband, the winemaker of Passadouro, had been held up elsewhere.

Then suddenly it just happens. A slim, dark-haired man in blue shirt and jeans has materialized next to the lunch table.

“Hello, my name is Jorge,” he says and sits down. Sits down on the empty chair next to C and me!

“Hello, welcome”, we say with one voice and smile to each other. Happiness has arrived. There will be some wine chat between the bites and the wines from Quinta do Passadouro and Wine & Soul. Winemaker conversation with Jorge Serôdio Borges.

Jorge has, like Sandra, many projects ongoing. He is the winemaker of Quinta do Passadouro and, since some years, also co-owner. In addition to Wine & Soul, the familiy owned quintas today also comprise Quinta da Manoella, located not far from here. And he runs the joint project M.O.B. in Dão with his fellow Douro winemakers.

Jorge Serôdio Borges
Jorge Serôdio Borges

We have the next white wine in our glasses, Guru 2012. I make a comment about the elegance and the perfect balance of the wines. And hit the nail on the head.

“Balance and elegance, that is our philosophy of winemaking,” says Jorge.

“Interesting,” I say, thinking about the conversation I had the other day on the subject with Mafalda at Quinta do Côtto. “I say elegant. You say elegant. But what is your definition of elegance?”

“It is a wine that first of all is balanced,” explains Jorge after a short initial pause. “It has finesse, freshness and a very good acidity. Of course, the fruit and the identity of the grape has to be there too. It is the combination of these components that contributes to the profile of the wine. So, it is a wine that gives you pleasure to drink. That is for me elegance.”

That part about the acidity is important. The philosophy turns out to start in the vineyard, not surprisingly. With finesse in the grapes. The yield is controlled by adapting or limiting the amount of nutrition. Vines with too much vigour will for example have to compete with grass between the rows. The pruning is another important part, to get the right balance of the canopy and the right shading of the grapes, to protect them from the sun.

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We smell the aromas from the Quinta do Passadouro Touriga Nacional 2011. Just recently awarded a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge. Floral notes together with the fruit.

To get a wine with finesse, the grapes must not be overripe. That is especially important for Touriga Nacional explains Jorge.

“We like Touriga Nacional when it is not just black fruit, but also some flowers and a touch of vegetables, in a good sense. The combination gives elegance to Touriga Nacional.”

Finesse, acidity, grape character. We discuss picking date. The decision about picking date is very important. Especially for the tannins Jorge explains. The key is to known each plot very, very well, and for each year to learn more.

Jorge made his first wine 1996, 18 years old. Since then, he has made many wines, but “only” 18 vintages. 18 years with different conditions. 18 times to learn. That is the particular circumstance of winemaking, so closely connected to the seasons passing by.

“How do you organise all knowledge?” I wonder and image a huge excel sheet in front of me. That is when Jorge laughs and starts talking about personal knowledge and about feeling. About winemaking as an art, a scientific art. And that it is all in the details.

2011 was a fantastic vintage in Douro. You would think that 18 vintages crowned by 2011 should calm the ambitions. The answer on my question if he still has a dream, a vision to strive towards, shows how wrong I am.

“A winemaker cannot loose the hope to make better wine,” says Jorge and explains that he all the time has the head full of ideas. To test new things, explore Portugal’s treasure of grapes and not least develop the white wines.

Jorge make a comparison with Bourgogne where the development work so to say already is done. In Douro winemakers are in the middle of the process. Which are the best grapes? Which plots are best for what? That is a big challenge for everyone in the Douro valley, a challenge met with excitement, enthusiasm and cooperation between the winemakers. They often taste together and cooperate for example in marketing activities.

“It is really a privilige to work in Douro right now,” Jorge says with emphasis. “I am the fifth generation in a family of winemakers in the Douro. The previous four were totally focussed on port wine. It was only about 20 years ago that we started to focus on the red wines. We are creating a style.”

After our Douro journey we can conclude that the style is far away from the robust and rustic wines of earlier times. Tight elegance and balance are instead the words in vouge.

We remain at the table, enjoying the last drops of port and get a lesson from Jorge in the art of holding a port wine glass. Sandra has said goodbye a long time ago.

What did we get for lunch? Not a clue, don’t remember. Something simple. The gorgeous wines, the people and the winetalk, that on the other hand, will I not forget.

Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serôdio Borges

About Quinta do Passadouro and Wine & Soul’s wines, to be continued…