Port wine is world famous, known wherever wine is drunk. It’s a powerful, sweet, fortified wine that has become the name of a style – just like Champagne – even though it should only be used for geographically demarcated wines from Portugal. Although the Port Houses are innovating, with a multitude of styles and colours being marketed, demand for their fortified wines isn’t as strong as it could be, considering their quality.
Table wines from the Douro have therefore increased in importance. The style of Douro wines is evolving as well; initially they were often “dry Ports”, made from the same varieties and full of alcohol, flavour and body. Although popular, some of them were a little rustic and lacked elegance. Enter Casa Ferreirinha, taken from the Liberty Wines Ireland website:
Founded in 1952, with the production of the first ever vintage of Barca Velha, Casa Ferreirinha pioneered the quality revolution in Douro still wines and was the first producer in the region dedicated entirely to producing wine, rather than port. Named after the legendary Porto matriarch Dona Antónia Ferreira, Casa Ferreirinha, pays homage to the memory of this visionary woman. Today, the winemaking is headed up by Luís Sottomayor, who restrains the Douro’s natural exuberance to produce wines that have a vibrant freshness allied to a lovely texture and depth.
Earlier this year I joined a zoom masterclass presented by Luís Sottomayor himself and got to taste some of the wines (disclosure: which were samples, obvs):
Casa Ferreirinha “Vinha Grande” Douro Branco 2019
Although there are white Port grapes grown in the Douro (white Port and tonic is the “in” summer drink these days) we don’t tend to think of dry white Douro wines. The Vinha Grande Branco has been made since 2005 since the acquisition of 25 hectares of suitable vineyards at high altitude. The precise blend changes from year to year, but for 2019 it is:
- 40% Viosinho – a well balanced and highly aromatic local variety
- 35% Arinto (aka Pedernã) – a high acidity grape, better known in Bucelas
- 15% Rabigato – a high acidity grape almost solely grown in the Douro
- 10% Gouveio (aka Godello) – which gives roundness and complexity
Vinification took place in stainless steel tank and then the wine was split into two; 50% was aged in 500 litre barrels and 50% in steel tanks. Both halves received regular lees stirring and then were recombined after six months. Per Luis, the aim of using oak is to add complexity and capacity for ageing, but only 50% as they don’t want oak to dominate the fruit.
Initially it shows white fruits and flowers on the nose, then citrus and passionfruit, rounding off with some oak notes. The high altitude of the vineyard shows up on the palate which is very fresh and has good acidity. There’s some body to this wine and beautiful ripe fruit notes in the mid palate. Overall this is an excellent wine, and one that I suspect will continue to improve for several years.
- ABV: 13.0%
- RRP: €21.99
- Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Egans, Portlaoise; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; wineonline.ie
Casa Ferreirinha “Vinha Grande” Douro Tinto 2017
This is the daddy, one of the first Douro reds, and originally was made with grapes sourced from a specific vineyard called Vinha Grande; nowadays the wine includes grapes from Cima Corgo and Douro Superior subregions. I don’t have the exact varietal composition for 2017 but for 2018 the blend was:
- 40% Touriga Franca – the most widely planted black grape in the Douro
- 30% Touriga Nacional – perfumed and powerful king of the Douro
- 25% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) – for suppleness, the second most important black grape
- 5% Tinta Barroca – early ripening Douro grape which adds colour and alcohol
Alcoholic fermentation is carried out – separately in each subregion – in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, with some maceration to extract colour, flavours and tannins. The two are then blended together and matured in used (two to four year old) French barrels. Luis stated that French oak is regarded as more neutral, less aromatic than American oak. Portuguese oak was used until 2001 when supplies dried up – it gave more tannins and was more aromatically neutral still, but was a little rustic.
The nose of the Vinha Grande Tinto exudes rich black and red fruits, spice, freshly made coffee and hints of cedar. The palate is lovely and supple, with blueberry, blackberry and plum plus smoky notes. The body is generous but not too thick; with its soft tannins this is a refined and elegant wine.
- ABV: 14.0%
- RRP: €21.99
- Stockists: Avoca Handweavers, Ballsbridge; Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; McHughs, Kilbarrack Road; Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; wineonline.ie