A Tour of Douro Valley Vineyards
Portugal’s Douro Valley is the largest mountainous vineyard area on earth and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Casa Ferreirinha, the first producer in the region dedicated entirely to producing table wine rather than Port, own 520 hectares of vineyard in this staggeringly beautiful wine region. Here, we take you on a tour of their vineyards, starting off with Quinta da Leda in the far eastern reaches of the Douro Superior.
Top image: Sunset at Quinta da Leda
Quinta da Leda
The Vinha da Concha plot at Quinta da Leda Rio
The Quinta da Leda estate covers 170 hectares and is planted predominantly with red varieties: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão. Grapes from the best plots on Quinta da Leda form the backbone of the top red wines in the Casa Ferreirinha range: the famous Barca-Velha and Reserva Especial and the eponymous Quinta da Leda. The Callabriga – named after a Roman settlement which was located close to the vineyard – is also made predominantly from Quinta da Leda fruit.
Schist soils and view down to the Douro river at Quinta da Leda Rio
The modern Quinta da Leda winery was built in 2001 and is arranged on several levels to facilitate gravity-flow winemaking. Grapes enter the winery on the top level via an especially scenic sorting table and pass into stainless-steel tanks or granite lagares on the levels below to begin fermentation. The winery is equipped with a selection of mini tanks to allow vinification of individual vineyard plots and individual varieties for the wines in the range which celebrate the lesser-known grape varieties of the Douro Valley including the 100% Tinta Francisca and the new Castas Escondidas, meaning ‘hidden varieties’.
Grape reception at Quinta da Leda
Interesting fact: Quinta da Leda is home to the largest collection of clones of Touriga Nacional in the world. This variety was facing extinction in the 1970s due to unprofitable yields. A clonal research study in the Vinha do Grilo plot at Quinta da Leda was carried out to identify higher-yielding clones and 197 clones are found here today.
The Vinha do Grilo plot at Quinta da Leda – the largest collection of Touriga Nacional clones in the world (197)
Quinta do Sairrão
The Quinta do Sairrão estate covers 115 hectares and is located in the Cima Corgo sub-region at an altitude of 600 metres above sea level.
Quinta do Sairrão
Cool nights at this altitude allow the grapes to undergo a perfectly paced slow ripening and the grapes accumulate great intensity of flavour, balanced by a vibrant acidity.
Grapes ready to be harvested at Quinta do Sairrão
Grapes grown at Quinta do Sairrão are used to produce the Casa Ferreirinha ‘Vinha Grande’ Branco – a partially oak fermented and oak aged blend of Viosinho, Arinto, Rabigato and Gouveio - and the Casa Ferreirinha ‘Vinha Grande’ Rosé, a perfumed and elegant rosé, unoaked and made from 100% Touriga Nacional. The 2011 vintage of Barca-Velha also includes a proportion of Quinta do Sairrão fruit in the blend, which contributes a refreshing lift to the blend.
A Touriga Franca plot at Quinta do Sairrão
Muxagata / Tapada do Castanheiro
Casa Ferreirinha have recently acquired two new estates: Muxagata and Tapada do Castanheiro, both in the Douro Superior. Muxagata, near Vila Nova de Foz Côa, covers 20 hectares and is in its first year of conversion to organic viticulture.
Muxagata – in conversion to organic viticulture
Tapada do Castanheiro, in the Meda area, covers 11 hectares and is planted with indigenous grape varieties such as Arinto and Códega do Larinho. All of the Casa Ferreirinha estates are equipped with weather stations to monitor the conditions and support their sustainable approach to viticulture.
A vineyard weather station at Tapada do Castanheiro
Quinta do Caêdo – Legado
Quinta do Caêdo, named after the tributary of the Douro that runs through the estate, is in the heart of the Cima Corgo. It is home to eight hectares of remarkable pre-phylloxera, stone-walled terraces upon which grow old vines (planted in the 1910s and 1920s), which yield tiny quantities of incredibly concentrated fruit, expressive of this unique sense of place.
Pre-phylloxera stone walled terraces at Quinta do Caêdo
These grapes produce the staggeringly complex Legado, which is without doubt one of Portugal’s finest wines, yet quite distinct from the legendary Barca-Velha. The latter is a blend of fruit sourced from different vineyard sites (similar in that sense to Penfold’s Grange), while Legado is a single-vineyard wine (akin to Henschke’s Hill of Grace). Steven Spurrier rated the 2014 vintage 98 points and described it as “an exceptional wine from an exceptional vineyard.”
The 8-hectare plot of old vines (over 100 years of age) at Quinta do Caêdo which produce the ‘exceptional’ Legado