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Hanging With The Douro Boys

Reading Time: [est_time] I can't get enough of the Douro. Located in northern Portugal, the Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Douro meanders through the mountains, making this an unforgiving environment to grow grapes. There

douro boys auction 2019

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I can’t get enough of the Douro.

Located in northern Portugal, the Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Douro meanders through the mountains, making this an unforgiving environment to grow grapes. There are steeply terraced vineyards as far as the eye can see. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful wine region in the world.

Vineyards and terraces as far as the eye can see.

The Douro has a long history of fortified wine production. It’s officially the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. Ports are known the world over for their collectability and age-worthiness. In recent decades, dry wines have become an important part of the Douro’s identity.

The Douro Boys

In 2003, a group of five producers banded together to promote the region. They made a massive push for dry Douro wines to receive worldwide recognition. The group consists of Quinta do Vale Meão, Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta Vale D. Maria, and Niepoort. I recently joined them for the 2019 Douro Boys Auction.

All of the Douro Boys make stellar Ports but much of their production centers on dry table wines. All of the producers work with the local Douro grapes. You can find delicious field blends and varietal wines in their portfolios. The wines can be everything from oaky, concentrated blockbusters to wines that show more restraint.

Cristiano Van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria.

Personally, I prefer the reds from the Douro to have less oak and show more tartness from the grape Touriga Nacional. Francisco Olazabal of Quinta do Vale Meão agrees, “When I started, I was looking a little more for concentration,” Francesco said. “Nowadays, I think the good winemakers in the Douro are looking for freshness and balance.”

Douro White Wines

The Douro contains mostly red grapes, although all of the producers in the Douro Boys make at least one white wine, all of them are good with some being stellar. I was impressed with the Quinta do Crasto Douro Superior white, which is a barrel-fermented blend of Viosinho and Verdelho. The grapes come from a high elevation vineyard that overlooks the estate (see below).

Looking down at the Quinta do Crasto estate.

“When I first started here, I had zero confidence in Douro white wines,” said Manuel Lobo, the winemaker at Quinta do Crasto. “Now I am completely the opposite, there is a real future for Douro white wines.”

Douro Boys Cellars

We visited each cellar throughout the week, here are some of my impressions.

  • Quinta do Vale Meão: The entire property and vineyard holdings are located in the Douro superior. The house style is creating wines with bright red fruit notes that are big without being too bruising. They produce a number of experimental reds from Baga and Touriga Nacional and the flagship red is still one of my favorite dry wines in the region (see below in wine recommendations).
Francisco Olazabal of Quinta do Vale Meão.
  • Quinta do Vallado: This large producer has a fabulous hotel in the heart of the Douro. Their dry reds are big, tannic, and oaky. The wines are a little tough to drink young but the high structure allows them to age well. The Vallado style bodes well for their Ports, which are dense and fruity.
  • Quinta do Crasto: We’ve been buying and drinking the wines from Quinta do Crasto for a long time. They produce a variety of wines across all price points and their entry and mid-level wines offer tremendous value for money. The top-end wines from the Maria Teresa and Ponte vineyards are dense and serious.
Manuel Lobo, winemaker of Quinta do Crasto.
  • Quinta Vale D. Maria: The smallest producer in the Douro Boys. All of their wines are foot trodden (except the white). The wines of Vale D. Maria are blockbusters that are no stranger to big critic scores. These are big, dense, and concentrated reds that need time in the bottle to unfurl. The wines of Vale D. Maria are for fans of big Napa Cabernets. Their Vintage Port is also highly recommended.
  • Niepoort: Dirk Niepoort is an ambitious producer that makes wine throughout Portugal. The dry wines are all about low alcohol and elegance, a stark contrast to the rest of the dry reds made in the Douro. Niepoort’s portfolio is huge but the dry wines can be phenomenal and are worth exploring. The Niepoort Vintage Ports are also outstanding.

Wine Recommendations:

You can find out more about our scoring system on the WINE RATING page.

  • Quinta do Vale Meão, Douro 2016

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

The Quinta do Vale Meâo Douro is the flagship red of the estate and this vintage is excellent. Dark cherry, strawberry, pepper, cedar, and a touch of mocha. I really like this wine in every vintage. It’s full in body with high acidity and fine tannins. This is a spectacular finish and a long life ahead of it.  Score: 95/100

*This wine was listed as #56 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2019

  • Quinta do Vallado, ‘Reserva Field Blend’ Douro 2011

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

The Quinta do Vallado Reserva Field Blend is made from a vineyard over 100 years old and containing 45 different grape varieties. This is aged for 18 months in new and used French oak and the time in bottle has served it well. There are flavors of black raspberry, violets, black cherry, and tobacco. It tastes like a true, dry Vintage Port. Big time tannins and a long finish with the right amount of development. Score: 93/100

  • Roquette & Cazes, ‘Xisto’ Douro 2015

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This wine is a result of a partnership of knowledge with Quinta do Crasto and Chateau Lynch-Bages. The Xisto Roquettte & Cazes is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz. A darker and denser offering from Crasto. It has notes of black raspberry, red plum, black cherry, meat, and tobacco. This is a big-bodied and floral on the palate. Tangerine-like acidity on the finish. Score: 94+/100

  • Quinta do Crasto, Honore 2015

This is made from Quinta do Crasto’s two great vineyards, Maria Teresa and Vinha da Ponte. It is a field blend of Douro varieties aged in new French oak and is only bottled in magnums. This is a big wine and it’s expensive, but it is extraordinary. There are notes of cedar, cherry, strawberry, and raspberry with tobacco. Rich and full on the palate, it’s ultra-modern yet retains the Douro character. Big, chewy tannins and a long finish, it’s for fans of Napa Cab. Score: 95/100

  • Quinta Vale D. Maria, ‘Vinha do Rio’ Douro 2009

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The Vale D. Mari Vinha do Rio is made from old vines and 29 grape varieties. This has an intriguing nose of red fruit jam, pepper, tobacco, cedar, and tangerine peel. Rich and full body with high acidity. The crunchy red fruit has resisted aging. Fine-grained tannins and a long finish with intensity and length. Score: 94/100

  • Niepoort, Vintage Port 2005

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The Niepoort Vintage Port 2005 is already showing some development. There are notes of leather, tomato leaf, dried cherry, and mocha. This is a rich and complex Port. It has an intense burst of citrus acidity on the finish. Velvety and smooth with a long finish. What a wine. Score: 96/100

  • Douro Boys, Cuvée 2017

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Only 750 magnums and 28 double magnums of the Douro Boys Cuvée 2017 was produced. It contains wine from all five of the Douro Boys. This is a big wine, rich and structured. The oak shows a little bit too much now but should subside with age. Plus red fruits and tobacco fill the mouth and the high acidity guides a long finish. If you are fortunate enough to get a hold of this bottle, put it down for another five years before opening it. Score: 91/100

  • Douro Boys, Vintage Port 2017

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

A wine to last decades. There were 350 magnums of the Douro Boys Vintage Port produced in 2017. This has so much luscious black cherry, red currant, cherry kirsch, and chocolate notes. The wine is ripe but never feels too heavy thanks to the vibrant acidity. It’s so delicious now but should really unfurl and gain complexity after years in the bottle. Top-notch stuff. Score: 94/100

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The cover photo is courtesy of the Douro Boys website. Thanks to the Douro Boys for providing local transport and accommodation in addition to Wine & Partners for the communication. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

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