I’m in Euro trip flashback mode today, this time casting an eye back to August, and a trip to famed Douro Valley producer Quinta do Vallado.
This was an estate that I was looking forward too. A shit-hot producer that you mark down on the ‘must get there’ list and then feel excited when you pull into the winery driveway.
Quinta do Vallado have no shortage of history either, with a title as one of the ‘oldest quintas in the Douro Valley’. Their outward reputation has always been about innovation and the progressive, modern face of Portugese red wine, only enhanced by the knowledge that they were amongst the early movers towards single variety lots and table wines.
Yet the wines didn’t move much at all.
Situated in the heart of the Douro, the location of Quinta do Vallado is still quite magnificent. As you can see in the shot above, that aspect is remarkable, the terraced hillside vineyards on even steeper slopes than you can imagine. Unconsciously, I landed here just as harvest was kicking into gear, which meant ripe grapes on the vine and the smell of fermenting grapes in the winery (which you never grow tired of)…
The winery is a shiny, cleverly built thing cut into the side of the hill, utilising gravity and smart design to ensure that its a winery where you’d want to make wine. Not quite ‘winery wonderland’ territory like somewhere like Moorilla, but still smart and highly functional.
Inside, the equipment is ultra-modern, the traditional lagares stainless steel, the tanks equipped for auto pumpovers and with those fancy auto plungers (which are very rad), contrasting greatly to a traditional, almost forgotten, fortified cellar crowded with traditional cement tanks and very old casks.
That neglected old cellar is significant as they’re part of the reason the wines underwhelm – everything tastes too modern. Too much reductive winemaking, too many polished-to-an-inch-of-their life, bright and fruity wines with not enough heart. It could just be me, but I found this a frustrating visit, with the sense that commercial reality and perfect winemaking process had taken precedence over interesting wines, especially after wandering out in the vineyard and tasting ripe Touriga grapes that carried so much potential.
Admittedly this snapshot was very much a lineup of young wines, but that doesn’t excuse the average value and lack of charisma amongst the releases, especially in Portugal, where good wine is ridiculously cheap. Interesting that the only wine I wanted to drink was the least modern wine of this whole tasting – the Port…
Notes are as written on the day; RRP is Australian approximate.
Quinta do Vallado Douro White 2014
A blend of five local varieties. Water clear. Lightly floral aromatics, a simple, clean and fresh palate with a little white peach and apple. Clearly early picked, it’s like a Douro Sauv, complete with a little tropical fruit and tart acidity. Simple crisp white that lacks much character but it does have fresh acidity. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, RRP approx. $25.
Quinta do Vallado Douro Red 2013
Sourced from 30% old vineyards and matured for 16 months in old oak. 70% from youger (30yr vines) and spends 16 months in stainless. Bright purple, the nose is bright purple with exuberant fruit, yet the palate shows its stainless maturation, with a slight confection and simple. My partner in crime decried this as boring and she’s dead right – it’s a simple, fruity red with juiciness but looks sharp and light on. Commercially attractive, and clearly Douro with that red fruit character but more a wine for a price than a great wine. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, RRP approx. $25.
Quinto do Vallado Touriga Nacional 2012
30% new oak. 16 months in barrel. Lifted red fruits in a quite exuberant form. Thick, slightly sour red fruits, jagged tannins and firm acid. There’s character here, particularly on the nose. But it still feels hard edged, spotless and bright and too modern and angular to be great. Should be $20, not closer to $40. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14%, RRP approx $40.
Quinta do Vallado Reserva Field Blend 2012
90% old vines. 18 months in oak, 70% new. Bright purple, the nose here is wonerfully fresh, the oak a support player. There is some of the bitter herbs of Douro, with some red fruit prettiness. Slighty confected, there’s a lightness here that makes it immediately affable, the palate very clean, tannins light and soft. I keep waiting for something beyond simple fruits here, there is little of that old vine character or indeed much savouriness. Just fruit. Affable, but I expected much more. It’s still very young though. 17/20, 90/100+ 14.5%. RRP circa $80.
Quinta do Vallado 10yr old Tawny Port
Bottled in 2015. Orange/light brown, retains some ruby in the colour. A little rancio on the nose, some honey and ‘maple syrup’ backed by a palate which has some syrupy edge to the texture, but it’s very clean and no oxidation at all. Spotless tawny, almost too much so, with nary any rancio in sight. There is a slight turpene character here, but that’s about it. Quite delicious, if alarmingly clean and polished. 17.7/20, 92/100. 20%.
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