Just west of Pinhão a river runs up from the south to join the Douro called the Rio Torto – the twisted river. The incredible valley surrounding this river creates one of the finest microclimates in the Douro and has produced legendary ports for as long as port has been made. For nearly a century Graham’s have sourced grapes from a quinta there called Quinta das Lages. The agreement between the Symingtons and the family who own Lages is based on a handshake and several generations of trust between the two families.
Lages is one of the largest quintas in this valley, and all of the vineyards have the best possible “A” rating for Port vineyards, based on a combination of both topographical and viticultural features. Half the vines have an average age of 30 years, and the areas re-planted in the past decade are now mature enough to produce good and interesting grapes. The quinta generally is north-facing, which is a benefit in the valley, as the heat can become intense, held between the folds of the mountains.
The Tinta Barroca and the Vinhas Velhas (old mixed vine vinyards) had been completely harvested, and Pedro Leal da Costa, Graham’s head viticulturalist, together with the winemaker Pedro Correia and the caseiro Sr António were meeting to take a walk through the vineyards together to taste the grapes, and decide the best picking order for the next few days, in light of the showers Sunday and an unsettled forecast for the coming week. There are significant plantings of Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca still to go, and a small parcel of Tinta Roriz.
Asked about the rain on Sunday, the caseiro said they had not been bothered by it till very late in the afternoon, another good example of the microclimatisation in the region, as at Malvedos 13 km east northeast we had intermittent showers from morning till late afternoon.
During our visit on Monday the harvesters were working in a lower parcel of Touriga Franca, planted as a vertical vineyard. Very vertical, as you can see from the photo. The property has both modern (soil-banked) patamares, some incredibly steep rising 3 to 4 metres between terraces, and plots of vertical plantings at both the bottom and top of the property. The tractors used at the quinta are all the kind with tank-like treads, the caseiro’s comment “wheels just don’t work here” seems a terrific understatement.
Altogether we had a whirlwind tasting tour of six parcels of Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, and the viticulturalist, winemaker and caseiro all found reasons to be pleased with the quality of the grapes. The vines are healthy, producing low yields of high quality grapes which are at or near perfect ripeness, and the flavours and colour extraction are all excellent.
Quinta das Lages looks set to deliver its usual intensely aromatic profile to Graham’s wines again this year.