Douro's terraced vineyards seem to perch on every bank of the twisting river from Vila Nova de Gaia to Pinhao and beyond, a sight its many tourist visitors have marvelled at. The vines have produced port wines for centuries, to be trod to pulp in stone lagaars in the numerous wineries which dot the landscape. The last decade has seen the emergence of a successful table wine made from the same grapes, an imposing cross, stylistically, somewhere between the Médoc and Coonawarra.
With its thick, dark skin and its floral aromas with spicy overtones, this is a highly valuable contributor to many port blends. Care needs to be taken to pick at full ripeness to avoid a bitter, green pepper character.
A dense, tightly-packed grape that provides the tannic backbone to port. It is far from clumsy however and is regarded as Portugal's finest red grape, substantially contributing to the best Douro table wines and to those of Dão. Its aromas show a refined floral note and the palate offers crisp red and black fruits in addition to impressive structure.
If not Spain's most planted red grape, then certainly its most prestigious. The backbone of rioja, and under 'sous-noms', the grape of Toro, Ribera del Duero and elsewhere in the north of the country. Early ripening, it can be picked ahead of the autumn rains of the Rioja region, and it remains trim and sleek in the Spanish sun. The temptation is to pick at high yields and in Rioja blending with the sturdier Garnacha and the more tannic Mazuelo and Graciano is the rule rather than the exception. There is a growing trend to specialise in the variety however, and with careful viticulture, rich-textured, deep coloured single-varietal wines - reflecting the quality the grape has achieved on its own in the higher altitude ribera del Duero for example - have resulted.
Grown in Portugal where it is Known as Aragonez in the Alentejo region reflecting its Spanish origins this early ripening variety can be picked ahead of autumn rains and it remains trim and sleek in the Iberian sun. It contributes a fleshy harmony to numerous blends. Also important and in the Douro where, as Tinto Roriz, it finds its way into many port wines.
An important component in the blend of most ports, where the deep pigment and high alcohol potential of the variety are fully exploited. Also found in Douro table wines. Tinta Barocca has transferred successfully to South Africa’s warmer vineyards where it makes an impressively deep, plum and berry scented table wine. Foursquare and solid, it nevertheless offers smooth tannins and a satisfying finish.