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Tannic Panic! Issue #13: Daddy Needs His Douro
Doubling Down on Portuguese Value
Dost thou remember the TORO issue?
> If you answered “YAE” — GOOD NEWS! We aren’t in totally uncharted territory: The Douro is a region in Portugal that follows the same river as Toro (it’s the Duero in Spain, and the Douro in Portugal). It’s just, you know… one country to the left.
> If you answered “NAY” — perhaps it’s time to go back to drinking school.
But BELIEVE YOU ME, whether we’re splashing around in the Duero or the Douro, the water is just as fine.
TBH it’s about damn time we angrily stomped around in Portugal sniffing for value, because as far as sources of bargain bottles go, Portugal is high on the list.
It’s a great place to find value across the board, but our little area of focus today is on dry reds from the Douro region.
DID YOU KNOW… Douro is the oldest demarcated and legislated wine region in the world, and wine has been produced there for nearly 2000 years.
“First, the river carved the deep valleys out of the land and then Man transformed the schist mountains into soil and walls and planted the vines, green in summer, flame-coloured in autumn. With knowledge handed down from generation to generation, he inclined the terraces to expose the vines to the rays of the sun which give the grapes the warmth that the wine craves. It was from the fruits of the land and Man’s labour that this unique wine and landscape were made.”
The Douro is well known for its port wines (WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT PORT WINES IN A SOON-TO-BE-RELEASED ISSUE), but it also produces exceptional unfortified reds made primarily from the same 5 varieties:
Touriga Nacional - One of the most esteemed Portuguese varieties, it's recognized for its dark color, rich berry flavors, and excellent aging potential.
Touriga Franca - Often used in port wine blends, this grape offers more suppleness and is usually more perfumed than Touriga Nacional.
Tinta Roriz (AKA Tempranillo) - This variety contributes body and flavors of strawberries and blackberries.
Tinta Barroca - A very sugar ripe grape that yields large amounts of fruit, making it popular among growers and a common addition to both fortified and unfortified blends in the Douro.
Tinta Cão - This variety yields low volumes but is highly valued for its ability to add spice and complexity to blends.
There are numerous other indigenous and lesser-known varieties planted in the Douro Valley, allowing for a broad spectrum of flavors and styles in its wines.
Yeah yeah yeah, you get it. Let’s dive into “the juice.”
… AND NOW FOR THE REVIEWS (IN ORDER OF PRICE):
2020 Cais da Ribeira Douro, Portugal / 13.5% ABV / 90 Points / $12 (VALUE PICK!)
Profile: Strawberry, black cherry, violets, vanilla yogurt, clove, black pepper, graphite
This delicious, easy drinking Douro delivers incredible value for $12. It’s beautifully balanced with surprisingly smooth tannins for its age.
This puppy delivers with red fruit flavors (strawberry and a dash of raspberry), ripe black cherry, a hint of vanilla yogurt, violets, and spice on the finish.
Fresh and ready to drink. Give ‘er a try.
2018 Quinta das Carvalhas Tinto Douro / 14% ABV / 90 Points / $17
Profile: Blackberry, black raspberry, crushed rocks, black pepper, clove
This deeply colored dingus pulls up with the whole damn brambleberry bush — lush blackberry and black raspberry flavors lead the way with a peppery and mineral twist. Full bodied and ready to party (JUST DON’T FORGET YOUR BRAMBLEPROOF MITTENS).
Pair with Impossible beef spaghetti bolognese.
2018 Destino Fifth Empire Douro, Portugal / 13.5% ABV / 94 Points / $20 (TOP PICK!)
Profile: Blackberry, cassis, blueberry, wet rock, dark chocolate, violets, black pepper, leather
Full bodied and complex with rich dark fruit aromas, violets, dark chocolate, leather and spice. Long grippy finish. This is an amazing bargain red wine and a fantastic introduction to great Portuguese red wines at a fraction of the typical price for wines of this quality.
2020 Quinta das Carvalhas Reserva Douro / 14.5% ABV / 92 Points / $23
Profile: Black raspberry, black plums, crushed rock, cocoa, orange peel, nutmeg
Another full bodied heavy hitter with a delicious finish, but this one differentiates itself from the others with an interesting combination of flavors. The black fruit and cocoa notes intertwine with orange peel and nutmeg to create an orange milano-like experience in the glass. For that reason, dare we say —
PAIR IT WITH ORANGE MILANOS.
Well wasn’t that just a-DOURO-ble. Some tasty bottles for your IMMEDIATE drinking pleasure.
Now we demand that you answer the following:
Until next time — Happy drinking, people.
Isaac & Zach
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