RKS Wines: Portugal’s Douro Seldom Disappoints

Although you may have had some familiarity with the wines of the Douro I am guessing most of that is with red wines including Ports. But the white wines of the Douro and that includes Ports are lesser known. That is a bit of a shame as the whites can grow on you. Part of the problem is that white Douro’s are not produced in mass quantities nor are they imported by the LCBO. Might one say the Douro is spoilt by its success? New Zealand may have been spoilt by the success of Sauvignon Blanc but that is one grape. The Douro has a variety of red grapes that make single varietals and blended wines escaping the mono success trend which may lead to consumer fatigue.

The most oft used red grapes in the Douro are Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Cão. Sousão and Tinta de Barca. Quality reds can be priced as low as $13.95. And go to a discount Portuguese supermarket in Porto and weep at the modest prices!

So why not try a Tom de Baton from the Douro. I have been to Portugal several times both for pleasure and on media trips so I know Porto and some of the Douro and its wineries quite well. As this is not a travel article why not just visit the Douro soon for some outstanding wines and foods and as well the terrain I refer to a bit erroneously as Europe’s Grand Canyon.

This wine has a black cherry colour when inspected over a white counter but from a distance it fools you into thinking it is purple. On the nose there is ample black currant, black cherry, blackberry and raisin pie in a gentle oak framework.

On the palate the tannins are just shy of medium intensity. The fruit is tightly intertwined or another way of describing it is “concentrated”. But not so tight you can’t taste the blueberry, cherry, pomegranate and a tiny bit of root beer. A very self-assured wine very confident of its strong yet non ostentatious character. It reminds me somewhat of the Portuguese veneer of formality and manners which if you manage to crack reveals a sense of warmth, subtle humour and pride. I remember a dear Portuguese diplomat friend of mine who worked for several years promoting tourism in Canada smiling with a twinkle in his eye often saying that many matters in life were “difficult”. We met him in Portugal several times and he helped organize a spectacular 3-week trip from the top to the bottom of Portugal which I will never forget. Of course, he introduced me to Portuguese wines and when I was knighted a few years in Portugal to the Order of Port Brotherhood during my enthronement ceremony I am certain he was smiling in heaven as he passed from us far too early.

Without his influence and attitude, I doubt I would have had so many wonderful experiences and friends in Portugal. Thank you JPDS. I try not to think of his untimely passing as it saddens me.

Sorry about my memories taking us off track but writing about wine must be more than nosing, sipping and opining. It should be interspersed with personal history as how many boring reviews can you ingest. As an antique dealer once told me people want a story about their antiques. I often try to relate to you a true story or in my Penniless Pensioner series of wine reviews an interesting fictious story. There is more to wine than simply wine in a glass. My mission is to not only educate but to entertain you.

Speaking of entertainment, you could happily sip this wine but my opinion is that Douro wines are meant to be consumed with food and in my times in the Douro that would range from roast baby goat, roasted pork, grilled ox, Douro Duck Casserole or a Douro Tomato Salad. And for dessert a Molotov Flan with some 40-year-old Tawny Port.

Have I convinced you to head to the Douro yet?

By the way this wine will open up in 2022 and can be consumed with increasing appreciation until the end of 2025.

(Tom de Baton das Herédias 2017, Douro DOC, Terroir D’Origem LDA, Tabuaço, Portugal, $16.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 363168, 750 mL, 13.5%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating, 92/100).

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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