The Duorum project tries to make world-class wine in Portugal’s region from Alentejo to Vinho Verde. The winery and vineyards in the Douro were established in 2007 by João Portugal Ramos and José Maria Soares Franco, at Quinta Castelo Melhor in the Douro Superior (the hottest and driest part of the region, extending to the Spanish border). I wasn’t able to make it all the way to the end of the Douro, so José Maria Soares Franco very kindly stopped off at Pinhao on his way to a dinner in Porto so that we could taste the range.
José Maria was in charge of production at Sogrape (Portugal’s largest wine company) from 1978 to 2006 (his responsibilities included Barca Velha, the iconic red wine), so he has a very detailed knowledge of the region. Duorum is producing mostly table wine, but also some Port. The high level wines come only from estate grapes, but grapes are purchased for the entry level wines. “We use only indigenous varieties,” he says, “we think consumers will get tired of the similarities of wines made everywhere from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.”
It’s dry and hot in Douro Superior, so it might seem counter-intuitive to base table wine production there. “The most important tables wines at Sogrape came from Douro Superior, so I know the area well, and I know that conditions are more reliable. We can irrigate there (this requires an application to the authorities each year) and we harvest 2-3 weeks earlier. Keeping alcohol down is a good reason to go to Douro Superior. We think that more than 13.5% kills the aromas and quality of the wine, this is very important in our style.”
The range includes Tons (and entry level wine), Colheita (I was a bit surprised that this term is allowed for table wine as it is also used to describe a tawny port from a single vintage), a reserve, and O. Leucura (a play on words which loosely means astonishment, and is a top flight wine in the European tradition), and both LBV and vintage Ports. Robotic lagares are used for the initial maceration of all the wines; table wines are transferred to vats after three days. “We want to extract tannins in the absence of alcohol,” José Maria explains. Aside from the entry level wines, these are really wines that need some time to come around. Duorum would like to hold on to them longer before release, but “our agents are always asking for young wines.”
The Reserve gives a good impression of the potential of Douro Superior for making table wines with a signature character.
Douro, 2012, Reserve
The Reserve is produced with grapes only from the slope, that is, low altitudes, that give high ripeness. It is matured for 18 months with 70% new oak. There’s a concentration of blackberries and other black fruits on the nose with an impression of acidity. Palate is quite concentrated but tannins are gripping the finish, although quite chocolaty. Needs time.