Quinta de São José – Douro

After my visit to the Douro Valley last week, when I barely scratched the surface of the region, visiting just two producers and covering only a small stretch of the river, I made a discovery at Apolónia Supermarket this week that proves just how little I actually know about Portugal’s greatest wine region.

The two bottles pictured here were being offered for tasting by the charming Sofia Brito e Cunha who together with her winemaker husband Rui runs the Quinta de São José estate. I had heard of Rui Brito e Cunha before, a well known consultant winemaker whose name is behind some other excellent Douro wines, but I had no idea that he and his wife had established their own winery and tourism business at a riverside estate in Ervedosa do Douro.

This oversight on my part can be blamed in part on my passion for Portugal’s less lauded wine regions such as Lisbon, Bairrada and Dão, but it also goes to show just how vast is the offering of different wines from this relatively small region.

The tasting featured the 2013 red and the 2015 white, both at the entry level of the small portfolio of wines and ports produced from their 10 hectares. But what we have here is a high entry level, the red and the white both priced at just under €12 (Apolónia) and worth every cent.

It was the white that initially grabbed my attention with its seductive floral bouquet that had me thinking there was something in the mix other than the traditional grape varieties of the region. But no, what we have is pure Douro, a blend of Viosinho, Rabigato and Gouveio. The wine is unoaked and fermented on the lees resulting in a delightful balance of complexity and freshness with a long clean finish.

The red is every bit as impressive, an elegant wine of relatively light body by Douro standards, made from Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. The wine is partially fermented in used oak vats, serving to soften the tannins without leaving any perceptible oakiness behind; fresh, fruity and sophisticated. A great red to serve slightly chilled on these hot summer evenings.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]