Port Wine day 2017 with Vieira de Sousa

10 October, 2017

Port Wine day 2017 took place in September and Drinks International was invited to the Douro wine region in Portugal to stay with Vieira de Sousa, a small producer known locally for its white ports.

Over a long weekend in the Douro wine region, Drinks International was hosted by the family-owned producer who are based from a 17th century manor house. It is so old, that pictures inside the house are forbidden and the semi-detached chapel is only open to the public one day a year and still has the original murals gripping tight to its historic walls.

They have 14 port wines and eight Douro wines in their range which are produced in their six Quintas (vineyards) in the Douro valley.

The producers are so hands on that winemaker Luisa Borges even helps design and build light fittings and display cases in the entrance to their winery. Borges manages the production of the wine, the Quintas and makes the big decisions regarding harvesting, while caring for her new born child. The essence of a family business.

“This year we are short of rain and humidity in the soil so the vineyards are under hydric stress,” says Borges. “This means the grapes are more concentrated than expected and we started harvesting two weeks early this year.

“For port wines the concentration and quality of the grapes is good. It’s too early to say if it will be a vintage year but we are always expecting one, however the quantity will be less due to the lack of water and too much sun. We don’t irrigate our vineyards so the weather is everything.”

Believe it or not, Vieira de Sousa still treads some of its grapes and as with many other producers, must employ local farmers to hand pick grapes due to the dramatic contours of the Quintas in the Douro region.

Borges adds: “Treading still gives us the best results. Obviously we also have more industrial methods but when we can have people treading our grapes.

“There are other producers who have artificial feet which are used to replicate the process, but I don’t think it is very effective because when a person is doing it manually they can choose to focus on areas that need more attention and they can feel where the grapes are coldest and which parts are warm.”

Vieira de Sousa’s showcase port wine is its Very Old White Port, aged for more than 40 years in one barrel. It is an example of a classic aged white port and is Borges’ favourite wine in their portfolio.

One activation hosted by the Institute des Vinhos de Douro do Porto was a pizza and port wine pairing, lead by president Manuel de Novaes Cabral.

Cabral told DI that he is happy with the interest that young consumers have with port wine, and that innovations such as the pizza pairing are designed to make people think and potentially set trends.

“It’s important to make people understand that port wines can be enjoyed in lots of different ways, not just with cheese after a meal,” said Cabral.

Although this particular pairing receive mixed reactions, it’s hard to fault the ambitious nature of the institute.

Port Wine day begun with a tasting masterclass of rare port wines from the 1960s at the Six Senses hotel where 17 varieties were tasted by journalists and category experts. Guests were then welcomed aboard The Presidential, an old steam train which offered a four-course food and wine pairing for the journey between Régua and Porto.

Once in the capital, guest took part in the Port Wine day regatta on-board Rabelo boats. Each boat taking part in the race is either owned or sponsored by port producers and team Dalva (DI’s boat) came last by quite some way. It was the first time that guest had been included in the historic race which goes the full length of Porto’s, well…port.

The celebrations concluded at the Sunset Party which took place from late afternoon in the heart of the city. It was an event open to the public where local producers offered tastings while more pizza and wines were offered as a way of educating locals on port wines.

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