September 2013
The Douro Valley in Portugal, Port’s
source for wine grapes, began mak-
ing dry wines in the 1990s. “We were
one of the first,” says Miguel Roquette,
marketing director at Quinta do Crasto.
“Our first production, in 1994, was
9,000 bottles. Things moved very fast.”
Today 85% of their production is dry,
the rest being vintage and LBV Port;
plantings have gone from 50 hectares
to 210. The past two decades have been
good for their dry wines, and Roquette
thinks the region will only get further
attention: “I think in five to ten years
we’ll be one of the major regions for dry
red wines. We’re where Spanish wines
were 12 years ago.”
Dry wine production has called
for changes in the vineyards and the
wineries. “A lot of winemakers have
been studying in Bordeaux,” says Heidi
Young, GM and wine director at Aldea,
a Portuguese restaurant in New York
City. “It’s changing how long they mac-
erate the grapes, how long they age in
oak. It’s a more elegant, more restrained
approach. Whereas with Port it was about
extracting as much as possible.”
Many of the Douro Valley wines are
blends, almost always of native Portu-
guese varieties, which can be a market-
ing challenge in the U.S. Young says,
“I talk about balance [when explaining
the wines to guests]. One grape brings
rich color, one grape brings acidity, one
grape brings fruit-forward flavors.” And
varietal wines aren’t out of the ques-
tion. “I think Touriga Nacional is the
candidate for single-varietal wines,”
she says. It shows dark fruit: black pep-
per, black cherry, black olive…black
everything, and it takes well to oak.”
Roquette agrees, calling Touriga
Nacional their “flagship,” though he
notes that Tinta Roriz is also a good
prospect, since many already know it as
Tempranillo in Spanish wines.
Back to the Table
Producers In Some of Europe's Traditional
Sweet Regions Find Fresh Success In Dry Wines
weet wines are making a comeback at certain price points, but some of
the classics remain a specialized taste, for one reason or another. For
example, at 20% alcohol, how much Port can one drink? Tokaj’s nectar-like
wines may flatter foie gras, but who eats foie gras every day? While not giving
up on tradition, many so-called sweet wine regions are going over to the dry
side, making wines which suit a wider range of occasions for today’s drinkers.
In France’s Roussillon region, Grenache Noir and
Muscat are two grapes that can be made either into
sweet VDN (Vin Doux Naturel) wine or dry table wine.
Miguel Roquette
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