At the end of 1993, when leaving Quinta do Noval, my ambition was to support the development of independent producers in the Douro, and thus contribute to the establishment of a new and strong wave of innovation in the Region. The changes brought by this innovation had the potential to complement, and at the same time diminish, the region’s dependence on a single type of wine; port. It must be... Read more
At the end of 1993, when leaving Quinta do Noval, my ambition was to support the development of independent producers in the Douro, and thus contribute to the establishment of a new and strong wave of innovation in the Region. The changes brought by this innovation had the potential to complement, and at the same time diminish, the region’s dependence on a single type of wine; port. It must be understood that in no way was I then, or am I now, trying to get away from Port. On the contrary, I believe that Port is and will continue to be one of the truly Great Wines of the World and I remain committed to making outstanding Port wine.
The Douro, however, has more to offer. There are immense opportunities for winemaking if approached with an open mind and a willingness to try new methods of making and marketing the wines of the region. The opportunity is greatest for Ports and wines of independent producers, where their unique personalities and special characteristics serve to differentiate them from larger, well-known brands. In the past, these traditional Port brands have dominated the market, producing Ports (mainly Vintage Port) marketed under the name of a single vineyard as Single Quinta wines. But in most cases the brand was their first priority.
In 1986, as a result of new regulations, a small number of independent farmers started to produce, promote and sell their wines directly. These were marketed under the name of the Quinta, but only a hand-full were able to get international recognition. Among the problems that faced these independent producers was the fact that a great majority never extended their experience in the trade beyond the production of grapes.
Marketing and winemaking skill, and control over the different markets, naturally concentrated in the hands of the traditional Port companies. Independent producers tried to emulate the Brands by producing an over-extended range of Ports, from standard Rubys and old Tawnies to Vintage Ports, filling the same market space.
This, however, is not taking advantage of their strongest asset; the uniqueness of their wines. Single Quinta producers would be better served by focusing on niche products and concentrating their strengths on producing top wines. Single Quintas can complement the Brands by creating and developing new niche markets of high image, high quality wines. The primary concern of the independent producer must be quality, not volume; volume should be left to specialists, the Brand Companies.
The richness of the Douro Region and the wines produced there can and should be promoted using the very aspects that make it unique in the world; its geography, soil and climate, the numerous different high quality native grape varieties, the different style of wines those grapes can produce (from all styles of Port to white and red still wines), all the different vineyards (Quintas), and their ancient history.
Looking at the wines produced in the Douro, Port clearly stands out as the driving force. It is at the centre of the region’s great history and character. Port is basically a blend of wines from different years (Ruby, Vintage Character, 10 Year Old Tawny, etc.). Sales of these styles account for nearly 95% of all Port sales. These sales trends, along with an understanding of the strengths of Single Quinta wines lead to the conclusion that Single Quintas should concentrate production on only the best Ports and those that have an image that can be clearly and easily linked to the vineyard or Quinta. Those are all Ports with a date: Vintage Ports, Traditional Late Bottled Vintages for the segment of young wines, and old Colheitas (vintage Tawnies) for the segment of old Tawnies. All other styles (the blended Ports) should be left to the Brands. Read less