© Quinta de la rosa 2013
"The Douro Valley has over sixty indigenous grape varieties but only five are recommended for quality wine and port production"
The Douro Valley has a rich history of wine and port making having over sixty different indigenous grape varieties. Pioneering research, led by Ramos Pinto in the 1970's and 1980's, assessed which varieties were of quality and recommended only five as the best for port production. These included Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cao. Today, most modern quintas plant the five recommended varieties which are considered to produce the finest wines with lesser known varieties in smaller amounts.
At La Rosa we mainly grow a selection of the five red grape varieties approved by the Casa do Douro and occasionally we use other lesser known varieties, such as Souzao. All the grape varieties cultivated on our vineyards are indigenous to the Douro Valley.
Most of our vineyards are planted in the modern style of a single-variety allowing us to harvest the grapes when fully ripe as well as giving us more control with the blending and fine-tuning of the wines and ports. In some vineyards, such as Vinha Grande Velha, the older vines (20 years old) are planted in the traditional manner of mixed varieties which often add a certain finesse and subtlety to our wines.
Touriga Nacional is widely considered to be the most favoured and preferred grape variety in the Douro. It is highly vigorous, has low yields and produces small dark blue berries high in phenolic compounds which impart a deep colour to the wine. It is a difficult variety to manage and in the Douro Valley it isn't widely planted, less than 5%, as most farmers prefer to grow a variety with higher yields.
At La Rosa we have recently been planting this variety and it now accounts for thirteen of our fifty-four hectares under vine. We prefer to blend Touriga Nacional with other varities as on its own it can be rather one dimensional in character. The natural high acidity and tannin levels of Touriga Nacional give structure and body to the wine. It is also very aromatic and fruity imparting flavours of black fruits, such as raspberry and cassis.
Originally known as Touriga Francesa, this variety is the most widely planted port grape in the Douro Valley. It thrives in hot, dry areas giving consistent and reliable yields of fairly compact clusters of grapes which can be sensitive to bunch rot. The leaves are very similar to Touriga Nacional making identification between the two difficult, although the leaves in general are rounder with less deep sinuses.
Touriga Franca is one of La Rosa's preferred grape varieties having a total of six hectares under vine. While the wine made from this variety is less concentrated than Touriga Nacional, it is robust and rich in colour and structure. It gives very attractive delicate flavours to our wines with floral and violet notes and ages well in the bottle.
Tinta Roriz is actually the well-known Spanish variety, Tempranillo, which is grown extensively in the Rioja region and is Iberia's premium winegrape. It is also grown widely across the rest of Portugal where it is known as Aragones. As it is very susceptible to Powdery Mildew, Tinta Roriz grows best on dry, well exposed slopes producing compact clusters of succulent and thick skinned berries.
We find that Tinta Roriz is a high yielding variety giving freshness and a reasonable acidity to our wines, however it is lacking in colour. We currently have six hectares of Tinta Roriz planted and have decided to replant some of this with Touriga Nacional.
Tinta Barroca was at one time a very popular variety for port production as it gives large yields and high sugar levels. The bunches are long and loose with very thin-skinned berries making them susceptible to sunburn, so this variety normally performs better on more easterly or northern facing slopes.
The colour and structure of our wines made from Tinta Barroca are not especially intense, although it does have a low tendency to oxidation so ages well. We now only have two hectares planted as we have re-grafted some of the vines to Touriga Nacional.
Tinta Cão or 'Red Dog'
This variety has been grown in the Douro Valley since the 17th century but in general is only planted in small amounts. Tinta Cao is characterised by small clusters with thick skins resistant to sunburn and fungal diseases.
In our vineyards Tinta Cao is usually slow to mature and our winemaker finds that the wines can be slightly aggressive and astringent. We only have 1.5 hectares planted with Tinta Cao.
Souzao is famous for its intense colour and vibrant fruit character. It is especially important for our Vintage ports as it imparts excellent deep purple colours as well as retaining a good acidity. We have approximately 3 hectares planted in Dona Sarah, Dona Sofia and Val de Inferno.
WHITE GRAPE VARIETIES
Viosinho produces low yields and ripens early, producing small clusters of fruit which are very susceptible to Botrytis. It performs best in hot, sunny locations and is only planted in small volumes due to it being a challenging variety to grow.
Grown on schist soils, Viosinho thrives and makes well structured wines with minerality and good acidity. It is very aromatic and imparts floral and stonefruit flavours
of apricots and peaches to the wine. Viosinho is one of our preferred white grape varieties being used in both our white ports and our blended white wines.
Rabigato and Codega
These are lesser known white varieties that are mainly used for blending and bring bright refreshing acidity to our wines.