At Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, just above the winery, there are a few short terraces which were planted in 2000 with just one or two rows each of the most important grape varieties used in Port wines.
One of the great strengths of Port is that it is a blended wine, so we can make use of the flavour profiles and structural qualities of several different grapes in order to produce wines with the perfect combination of deep colour, great flavour complexity and a firm, balanced structure to ensure a long life.
As previously reported by both our head winemaker Charles Symington and our research viticulturalist Miles Edlmann, the vines are fully two weeks ahead of the average development cycle, and we have had an early pintor (colour change). See for yourself with these photos taken on the 22nd July at Malvedos, and take a virtual walk with us through this demonstration vineyard to learn a little more about our grapes.
Tinta Roriz, above, is best grown in dry, well-exposed areas as these grapes have a thick skin which protects against sunburn. At its fully ripened best, Tinta Roriz gives Graham’s wines long-lasting structure, intense colour and powerful tannins all of which make it an ideal choice for wines meant to age for a long period of time. The nose is aromatic, often characterised by spices and rockrose, and the palate tends towards black fruits such as mulberry, blackberry, black cherry and jam.
Tinta Roriz is also known as Arogonês elsewhere in Portugal, and Tempranillo in Spain.
Long a favourite of Port makers, Tinta Barroca is known for high tannins and high sugar levels. The bunches are long and loose and the berries thin skinned which make it susceptible to sunburn.
The colour of Tinta Barroca wines is not particularly intense, and acidity can be low, but it brings flavours of cherry, raspberry and mulberry, elegant aromas and a long finish to our blends.
Touriga Nacional is probably the most well known of the Port grapes, and prized for its intensity and complexity. Its flavour range includes raspberry, black fruits and floral notes, particularly violets. With high tannin levels and good natural acidity, this grape ensures our Ports age without loss of structure or balance.
This variety typically produces only one kilo of grapes or even less on older vines, the clusters are small and the individual berries are smaller than other varieties, with a distinctly dark blue colour, almost like a blueberry.
Touriga Francesa is a widely planted grape for reasons of both quality and quantity. Whilst the wines are not as intensely concentrated as those made from Touriga Nacional, they have good natural acidity and fabulous lifted floral aromas of esteva (rockrose) as well as red fruit and sometimes blackberry flavours. The vines are naturally and consistently high yielding, and in fact we need to control that tendency somewhat to ensure the quality of the grapes.
The Francesa has thick skinned berries, which makes it very resistant to the intense heat of the Douro. It grows well throughout the region, but it really thrives where it can enjoy maximum sunlight to ensure full ripening.
The grape is also known as Touriga Franca, its official name since 2000.
Souzão is a thin skinned variety which is very susceptible to sunburn – in fact we do not grow Souzão at Malvedos, except this demonstration row, because the south to southwest facing exposure is not ideal. In blends, this grape brings notes of herbs, pine tar or smokiness.
Tinta Amarela has thin skins and compact bunches, which can make it a bit of a challenge to the viticulturalist to keep healthy. Good canopy management and a dry situation lower the risk of disease and ensure full ripening.
The wines are remarkably fragrant, and have a nice balance of acidity which make it well worth including in blends, despite its rather low tannins and less intense colour.
Would you like to learn more about these grapes and Douro viticulture in general? Miles Edlmann writes very clearly and entertainingly about viticulture. The Vintage Port Site has a series of articles by Miles about viticulture, including one about the annual cycle of the grapevine, another with more information about the grape varieties, and more.
If you want to follow the cycle of the current viticultural year and keep up with meteorological conditions in the region, you will want to follow his Douro Insider reports which are posted each month in this blog. The full archive can easily be accessed directly on this page of the Blog site.