Douro, douro Portugal

William Offley founded the eponymous wine merchant in London in 1737 and soon began importing Port to the UK. By 1787, Offley was described as ’one of the most considerable English houses at Porto’. The house became famous for its association with Joseph James Forrester, who came to Porto in 1831 to join his uncle, who was a partner in what was then Offley, Forrester and Webber. Entrepreneurial, charismatic and pioneering, he took the company from strength to strength and by the 1850s Offley was the third largest exporter of Port.

A scholar and an artist, Forrester was the first person to map the Douro Valley, he did extensive research into viticulture, wrote several essays on the Port trade, and painted many of the Douro’s stunning landscapes. In recognition of his huge contribution to the Douro, he was granted the title Baron of Forrester by the King of Portugal in 1855. Tragically, he died in a boating accident on the River Douro in 1861. Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, a great friend of Forrester, was also aboard the fateful boat, but she survived as her skirts ballooned and kept her afloat.

Since Offley was acquired by Sogrape in 1996, it has undergone a quality renaissance, moving back up the ranks of Port producers. This quality is derived from careful sourcing of grapes from prime sites in the Cima Corgo, including the high-altitude Quinta do Sairrão at 600 metres above sea level, combined with the winemaking expertise of Luís Sottomayor.

Offley is renowned for the fruit-driven and approachable style of its Ports, from the benchmark Rosé and Ruby, through to the Late Bottled Vintage, and right up to the Vintage Port. The latest vintage declaration is the 2018, described by Luís as “one of the best, if not the best, vintage years I have witnessed.”

The Offley range of Aged Tawnies is equally impressive and beautifully balances the evolved dried fruit flavours of oxidative ageing in barrel with a refreshing acidity. The Colheita, a Tawny from a single vintage, is also a feat of balance.


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