Moscatel do Douro

I have undoubtedly drunk Moscatel do Douro before, but I must have thought they were either Douro DOC wines or varietal white Ports, because it came as a bit of a surprise to discover that it has its own DOC. The wines are made from at least 85% Moscatel Galego Branco (AKA Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), and have their fermentation stopped by fortification to at least 16%, but typically less than Port. The wines described below were brought back from the Douro by a friend, and offered for tasting at my local wine group.


The parish of Favaios lies roughly 10km to the North of Pinão, in the Cima Corgo region of the Douro, and Adega de Favaios is a coop winery located there. It is probably best known for its range of Muscats, but does also make other wines.

Adega de Favaios, 10 year old, 17.0%, 75cl, €15 in Portugal, £28.00 from a UK merchant
Blend of different vintages with an average age of 10 years. Medium pale tawny colour. Smells a bit cheesy, something I also tend to notice on cheaper Madeiras. It is something I dislike, but does not seem to bother many other people; friends round the table found this wine more agreeable than I did. Vague caramel. Medium low acid. Sweet, but not as lusciously sweet as some wines. Drink now. Maybe OK at the Portuguese price, but no way would I pay £28. Just about scrapes ***

Adega de Favaios, Colheita 1999, 18.5%, 75cl, €30 in Portugal
Wine of a single vintage, and quite a bit older than the 10yo. Very similar in the basic dimensions, but this is a lot more elegant and classy, with a figgy caramel nature that is both intense and fresh. Dread to think how much this would cost in the UK if it were available here ****


The producer Fragulio is also from the area just North of Pinão but, unlike Adega de Favaios, it is a family run business, and this is its only Moscatel.

Fragulho, Reserva, DOC, 2010, 19.0%, 37.5cl; €15
Note that the quoted price is for a half bottle, so volume for volume it costs the same as the Favaios colheita wine. Pale amber.  Intense, fresh, and I think drier than the other Moscatels tried this evening. A bit sharper too, with medium acidity. Aromatic and grapey, with Muscat varietal typicity. Finishes dry. Drink now ****

So not wines that I will be dashing out to buy, but it was interesting to try a few side by side. However, nothing much wrong with them though, and others were a lot more positive than me. I am a lot more fussy about sweet wines than I am with other styles, tending to favour those that achieve balance through extremes of acidity and sweetness – unlike these wines, which were more moderate in both respects.

Port and the Douro – book review

port and the douroHere I review Port and the Douro by Richard Mayson. This is the 3rd edition, which was originally published in 2013, but I have a paperback version published by Infinite Ideas in April 2016. It has an RRP of £30, but I didn’t pay a penny of my own money as I was sent a review copy. This printing was apparently “heavily revised” – from the first printing of the 3rd edition presumably. But as I do not have the original 3rd edition, I cannot really comment on that, apart from to say that all vintages are described up to and including 2015, and the sales and production statistics now go as far as 2014.

The look and feel is very similar to Biodynamic Wine, which I reviewed in my previous blog post: a 234 x 156mm paperback with clear printing and a rather nice general feel to the book. But this is a bigger book of 308 pages and a slightly smaller typeface. Most of the illustrations are hand painted sketches, but there are a few diagrams and maps, and several colour plates clustered together in the centre of the book. The text is also broken up by boxes. This is something I generally do not like, as I would much rather the author figure out for me how best to incorporate everything into the flow of the narrative, but here I thought the series of boxes on the theme Men who shaped the Douro worked rather well.

The book is very much in the mould of many other specialist books on wine regions, and in that sense it works well – very well indeed, to extent that it is difficult to fault. Better maps perhaps? But I am very much aware how much good quality cartography costs. Tasting notes? Maybe, but I personally find them of very limited value. Another possible criticism is that it somehow fails to excite. But what sort of excitement can one reasonably expect from a book on Port and the Douro? For me, perhaps only in the sense that I regard the Douro region to be the most atmospheric wine region I have ever visited, with its vastness and haunting beauty, and it would have been nice to have more of that feeling communicated. Though I admit it is a big demand on a specialist wine writer – there are only so many Andrew Jeffords in the world 🙂 However, still on the subject of the feel of the Douro region, I was delighted to find that Mayson mentioned Miguel Torga’s novel Vindima (Grape Harvest in English translation). It is a novel I had been intending to dig out after visiting Quinta da Cavadinha, which features in it, but later forgot the name of the author and book –  now I am grateful to be reading it in translation on my Kindle, and it is giving me my required shot of Douro poetry. But I digress… there follows below a description of the contents of Port and the Douro.

The first chapter covers in some detail the history of Portugal – Porto and the Douro in particular. This is followed by one on the vineyards, vines, major grape varieties, and quintas (farms or estates). Then a description of the various types of Port, with a separate chapter devoted to Vintage Port. Port producers and shipper then get their own chapter, which is followed by one on Douro (unfortified) wines. Finally there is some guidance for the visitor to Porto and the Douro.

So – a very good solid book with very little to criticise (even if I seem to have spent most of this review writing about my criticisms).

Porto, the Douro, and some Vinho Verde

I returned a few weeks ago from the most most amazing holiday in Portugal.  The focus of our trip was Roy Hersh’s 2012 Port Explorers Tour, but we also spent a few extra days in Porto.  We stayed in Porto and Régua, visiting Port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia, and quintas in the Douro.  Additionally, we went on a refreshing excursion to Vinho Verde.

I recommend both Porto and the Douro very strongly as a wine destination. Even before the Port Explorers Tour started we enjoyed Porto very much, and found everyone friendly and helpful.  It was also nice that none of it has yet become a sanitised tourist destination, though bits of Vila Nova de Gaia are heading in that direction.  And if you want to have great tastings set up for you and meet the people behind the wines, I doubt you could do better than to join one of Roy’s tours.

I intend to blog with more thoughts from this trip – nothing too structured, and probably not many tasting notes – just the things that made the biggest impact on me.  For now here is a quick pictorial summary.

Here are some barcos rebelos with part of Vila Nova de Gaia in the background.  This was the style of boat that used to bring the wine down the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia for storage before shipping.  Now they are used to advertise Port houses, and the wine arrives by road in small tankers.

This was how we spent a lot of our time.  Here we are at our very first tasting with Roy – at Porto Poças.  Someone has to do it – that wine will not taste itself.

And this was our first meal with the group, at Adega e Presuntaria Transmontana II in Vila Nova de Gaia.  A selection of nibbles, which we soon were to learn was a common way to start a meal, and a mackerel dish in the foreground.

The Douro valley.  Back in Porto, everyone seemed to speak of it with misty eyes.   Now we understand why.  Wow!  The most impressive thing was the sheer scale of the landscape – horizontally as well as vertically.

And finally an example of some of the wine-making kit we saw.  These are the robotic lagares at Sandeman’s Quinta do Seixo – the modern version of the place where all the grape treading goes on.  See the robotic feet at the far end.

Below is a complete list of the significant wine and food related events on our trip.  Those marked with a star, were set up as part of the Port Explorers Tour.  I am not going to get round to writing about all of these, so if you want an opinion get in touch – use the comment box or drop me an email.

Port Lodges
Taylor’s (touristy tour and tasting)
Sandeman’s (touristy tour and tasting)
Dalva (tasting, in shop only)
Porto Poças (tour and tasting) *
Burmester (tour and tasting) *
Offley (tour and tasting) *
J H Andresen (tour and tasting) *
Graham’s (tour and tasting)

Quintas in the Douro
Pintas, Wine and Soul (tour and tasting) *
Passadouro (dinner) *
Seixo (tour, tasting and lunch) *
Crasto (tour, tasting and dinner) *
Tedo (tour, tasting and lunch) *
Vista Alegre (tour and tasting) *
Cavadinha (tour and tasting) *
Quinta do Portal (tour, tasting and lunch) *

Vinho Verde
Casal do Paço (tour, tasting and lunch) *

Dom Luis – Vila Nova de Gaia (lunch)
Fishe Fixe – Porto (two lunches)
Majestic Café – Porto (dinner)
Adega e Presuntaria Transmontana II – Vila Nova de Gaia (dinner) *
Ar de Rio – Vila Nova de Gaia (lunch) *
Bufete Fase – Porto (Francesinha bar for dinner) *
Pedro Lemos – Porto (dinner) *
Rui Paula, DOC – Folgosa (lunch) *
LBV 79 – Pinhõa (dinner) *
Rui Paula, DOP – Porto (dinner) *