RKS Wine: 2014 Memories of the Douro: Exhaustion Mitigated by the Thrill

My media trip to the Douro in 2014 was memorable. It was early November and a chill had descended upon the Douro which can be furnace like in the summer. 5 days starting at 9 and ending around 5 hopping around from winery to winery in a Mercedes van with a guide. But that was only the beginning of the day as there were 6-10 more wines to try with a dinner served with the finest silverware and crystal. Then cheese and dessert with Port afterwards. One evening it went on to 2 a.m. So if you think this type of trip is a piece of cake think again. After trying some 250 ports and wines over 5 days you start to shut down. But the memories give you stamina. Perhaps the best might have been at a Sandeman quinta in the Douro at noon having Sandeman Splashes (Port and Tonic with a twist of lime) on a terrace high above the Douro in a feeble November sun being interviewed by the Portuguese press. My 5 minutes of fame. I might have been on the 11 p.m. news?

On our last day and I was with a freelancer for the Globe & Mail we pulled into Real Companhia Velha in Vila Nova de Gaia (right across the river from Porto) and it was a massive enterprise unlike the provincial quintas we had visited. Industrial wine production. Massive cellars. Wines being shipped all over the world some already labelled for distribution in French supermarkets. Dinner was to follow at their restaurant with no more tastings and an exit at 9 p.m. as we had a 5 a.m. flight to Frankfurt so it was arranged we would be out from our dinner no later than 9 p.m. Well shiver my timbers the no tasting deal was shattered as we walked into the private dining room with 10 bottles awaiting tasting. What a struggle and dinner arrived at 9 p.m. I had to pack so managed to escape with our driver back to the hotel the Teatro at 10 p.m. Packed and was in bed by 11 and up at 3 a.m. for the flight to Frankfurt. Thank God I learnt how to spit out wine. Not exactly easy to do initially but with practice easy peasy.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is one of the biggest purchasers of wine in the world so wine writers from Ontario are treated with respect if not veneration.

So when I see this wine in front of me from Real Companhia Velha I suddenly feel exhausted with a bit of post traumatic wine tasting disorder. I do remember learning that France was their biggest customer for Port as they used it many pastries!

We are trying a Porca de Murça Reserva 2017 Tinto which is 40% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz and 40% field blend. A field blend is a throwback from earlier days where a mixture of different grapes were planted in a field and not separated by varietal so who knows what you are getting! And on occasion you can score a huge winner not exactly knowing what grape is involved! Agony for a varietal obsessed person.

On the nose this is a mature wine that has lost the rashness of youth and is sliding into old age. Does it need some mobility assistance and is it restricted to throwing a medicine ball? Deep notes of black cherry, mocha, raspberry, lavender and yes rhubarb and raisin pie. The Portuguese looked at me with puzzled eyes when I said I noted rhubarb and raisin pie in some of the Douro red wines. Rhubarb was not in their vocabulary. And raisin pie? This was a truly a Quebec pie that has long disappeared but its taste and smell has never left my olfactory senses. My goodness 2014 memories are gushing!

On the palate dark chocolate, cherry nectar and Ontario butter tart. Short finish. This is a dense wine but is becoming befuddled and rapidly heading into decline. If you want to experience a mature wine this is for you. I am not sure why but I tried a Babu Reserva 2018 from the Tejo and a Lua Cheia 2019 Old Vines Red from the Douro recently and the Babu was long gone and the Lua Cheia very long on the tooth. This ageism is rare in Portuguese wines but thrice in the last couple of weeks? What is happening?

I think this wine would suit a Bachalau dish (dried cod casserole). Yes you express disbelief with a red wine matching a cod dish. Trust me as a former nonbeliever experience has taught me this is a great match as well as with a cod curry!

(Porca de Murça Reserva Tinto 2017, DOC Douro, Real Companhia Velha, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, $17.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 684753. 750 mL, 14.5%, RKS Wine Rating 87/100).

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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