We believe in the indigenous grape varieties of the Douro
The Douro has a fantastic range of indigenous grape varieties that have been used to produce Port for hundreds of years, including Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional.
These varieties are superbly adapted to the Douro soil and climates. As well as producing Ports with excellent structure, colour and aromas, they also make outstanding wines. As these varieties are almost unknown outside of Portugal, the new generation of Douro wines are a unique proposition for the discerning consumer.
Our family has planted two separate grape variety libraries in the Douro, consisting of over 53 different Portuguese varieties. This study is aimed at understanding the potential of different varieities to be used in the production of great Douro wines, as well as identifying the strains that stand the best chance of coping with climate change.
We believe that planting international grape varieties in the Douro is not necessary, given the richness we already have in our region. We believe that the future of the Douro lies in communicating its unique credentials, rather than competing with countless other wine regions.
We believe in accepting the reality of our region
The Douro is the largest area of mountain vineyard on earth. This brings huge challenges. Erosion is a permanent challenge and cost is a major factor. The costs of planting and maintaining Douro vineyards are more than double that of a flat vineyard.
The Douro has extremely low yields, producing an average of 3,600 kg per hectare (1.10 kg of grapes per vine or 26 hectolitres per ha), compared to 12,000 kg/ha in Chile or 16,500 kg/ha in Australia. These low-yielding vines produce extraordinary wines but we can never compete with the huge productions of most other wine regions.
We believe the future of the Douro will be found in the production of quality Ports and wines, rather than competing on extremely low prices with other regions. Given our low yields and high costs of production, any other approach is simply not grounded in the reality of the Douro.
We believe in minimum intervention in the vineyard
The Douro is normally blessed with excellent growing conditions consisting of relatively high winter rainfall and long, hot summers. This means that vineyard treatments are very limited and far less than those needed in most other wine regions.
We do have to deal with normal threats such as mildew and oidium when they occur, but it is rare to have very damp April and May months, which is when the threat is most acute. Our biggest problem in recent years has been lack of rain, which has served to further lower our tiny yields, but has also reduced the need for vineyard treatments.
The result of this is that the intervention in our vineyards is very low compared to any other wine region. We farm 112 hectares of fully organic vineyard and all our other vineyards are managed under a certified 'minimum intervention protocol'.
Carefully controlled irrigation is clearly required in some areas of the Douro. We employ Deficit Irrigation, consisting of highly targeted watering in areas where the vines are at risk of extreme heat stress. We never irrigate to increase crop size as we believe the best grapes are produced by vines within the hydric-stress zone.
We believe in minimum intervention in the winery
Our winemaking processes are designed to allow our grapes to reflect their natural qualities and the terroir of the vineyard.
In our small specialist wineries we use Delta Oscillys destemmer machines which operate with a swinging motion to gently separate grapes from stems, avoiding unnecessary damage. These machines are very effective at rejecting excessively raisined or damaged fruit.
Our Douro DOC winery has no pumping from grape reception and sorting to the fermenter as these tubes can negatively affect quality. We use small containers and overhead gantries to lift the grapes to the top of the fermenting tanks. The grapes are only then crushed as they fall into the tanks.
We believe in planting our own vines and growing our own grapes for our top wines
This may seem an obvious comment, but the Douro has 22,000 farmers and most wine and Port in the Douro is made with purchased grapes. We are firmly embedded in the fabric of the region and we buy grapes from many farmers with whom we have long-standing relationships.
However we also believe that guaranteeing the supply of top quality grapes depends on owning and managing our own vineyards. As a result we systematically reinvest a significant percentage of our company’s profits in buying and planting vineyards. Today we are the leading vineyard owners in the Douro, with a collection of 26 Quintas in prime positions throughout the valley.
We believe that farming our own vineyards - understanding the terroir and the impact of each year's conditions on the grapes - is a critical ingredient in the production of great wines and Ports.