TAKE A SPRITED TRIP TO THE LAND OF THIS BEGUILING LIBATION
Time. In modern life, it has become the greatest luxury. Yet no Port exists without it. It is woven into the wine as fundamentally as sun and rain.
A Year in Port is the climax of a trilogy of films beginning with A Year in Burgundy (2013) and A Year in Champagne (2015). With renowned wine importer Martine Saunier as our guide once more, we journey into the magical world of Port with four award-winning winemakers: Symington Family Estates, Taylor Fladgate, Ramos Pinto and Niepoort. And we discover a new family of table wines bursting out from the home of Port, Portugal’s spectacular Douro Valley.
The Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stone engravings bear testament to Paleolithic men and women making their home in these hills 50,000 years ago. The Romans planted vines here and called it the Golden Valley. It’s the oldest official wine appellation in the world. The Port trade is a “modern” development, which got started nearly 400 years ago, and, strangely enough, the British have had a hand in shaping it ever since.
While many think of Port as a drink for old men in the halls of power, it’s not all cricket and a rousing chorus of Rule Britannia — although there’s certainly plenty of that. In Oporto and up in the Douro, we discover Port’s earthier roots in the grim granite, and its more sensual side, from traditional folk dancing to Saint’s Day festivals that keep people carousing in the streets all night long – for three days.
We explore the mysteries of vineyards planted on near-vertical hills through which the Douro River winds its way. There are more than 400 native grape varieties, sometimes 30 or more varietals mixed together in the same vineyard. These grapes may hold the key to the region’s future, as a host of young wine-makers are starting to produce new Douro table wines, that are winning international acclaim. But the most precious nectar created here is still Port. You may need to find village farmers who own less than an acre of very special grapes. You need local vineyard workers who know the old ways, who pick the grapes and stomp them with their bare feet in great stone tanks to the same rhythm that their ancestors knew. You need ancient barrels and apothecary’s jars filled with wines made throughout the last century to enrich your stock. And then you need a Master Blender, who reaches back through the years, selecting from more than 100 years of wine, to find just the right palette of flavors to create a world-beating blend. Finally, you wait until that blend matures, and is ready for the market. Time – and patience– is what makes Port.
A Year in Port is written and directed by David Kennard, created by InCA Productions and Executive Produced by Todd Ruppert. It will be distributed worldwide by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Symington Family Estates
The Symington family, with Scottish, English and Portuguese ancestry, has been present in the Douro for ve generations — since 1882 — and through the current generation’s great grandmother, the family’s links to the wines of the Douro span 14 generations, to the mid-17th century and to the very beginnings of the history of Port.
Built over generations, the family now has more than 5,000 acres of land in the Douro Valley across 27 individual estates. These properties, or quintas, have just over 2,500 acres of vines, the vast majority of which are planted on terraces, and amount to the most signi cant vineyard holding in the region.
Still entirely family-owned and managed, ve of the family — Paul, Johnny, Rupert, Dominic and Charles — work together maintaining the vineyards and making the wines of their four historic Port houses: Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s. In addition to their history making Port, the Symington family has been amongst the pioneers in the development of Douro DOC table wines.
Adriano Ramos Pinto, a young artist of Oporto, founded Casa Ramos in 1880, when he was only 21 years old. Since the beginning, their wines have enjoyed a loyal following in Brazil and the former Portuguese colonies of Africa, as well as traditional European markets.
Casa Ramos Pinto operates on a strict self-production policy, producing wines exclusively with grapes from their own estates. Their lands now comprise a total of nearly 900 acres in the Douro Region. When Casa Ramos Pinto became part of the Roederer Group in 1990, it was able to realize their goal of producing red and white table wines, in addition to Port.
Their star is the veteran wine-maker João Nicolau de Almeida, who has intimate knowledge of every vine on their spectacularly beautiful estates. His skill in blending superb Ports is legendary.
Established over three centuries ago in 1692, Taylor’s is one of the oldest of the founding Port houses. It is dedicated almost entirely to the production of Port wine.
Since its foundation, the company has remained independent and family-run. The rm’s long and unbroken tradition has provided continuity and clarity of purpose. It has also allowed the skills and knowledge required to produce the nest Ports to be constantly re ned and added to in the light of experience as they are passed down from one generation to the next.
Taylor’s Vintage Ports are blended from wines of the rm’s own quintas, or estates — three iconic properties, each with a distinct geographic location and their own unique character. Single-minded in their dedication to Port wines, the company is closely involved in all stages of the production, from the planting of the vineyard and the cultivation of the grapes to the making, ageing, blending and bottling of the wines.
Niepoort has been producing wine in the Douro since 1842. Five generations ago, Franciscus Marius van der Niepoort, moved from Holland to Portugal to join the Port wine trade, starting as a seller, with no land or vineyards.
The business passed successfully from one generation to the next. And so has the art of Master Blender. The members of the Nogueira family have been Master Blenders and good companions of the Niepoort family since the Company’s founding, and now the fth generation of each family works side by side.
Their wines, both Port and a selection of table wines, are made from grapes supplied not only by their
vineyards, but also from numerous independent farmers who have worked with Niepoort for many years. Today, the company is run by Dirk Niepoort, who has led the revolution from Port to extraordinary blended table wines. The secret is in nding the “hidden treasures” of the Douro, he says, working with dozens of small farmers to discover new varietals.