Hugo de Oliveira e Silva has a family background in wine that stretches back for generations, his grandfather was a winemaker for Borges and his father was involved in the wine trade throughout his life. After first studying chemistry, Hugo went on to gain a degree in oenology, followed by a PhD in viticulture, keenly researching wine with a very scientific eye.
But alongside his studies and research Hugo had put the theory into practice, gaining experience making wine in Argentina and South Africa, and in different regions of his Portuguese homeland. In 2011 he took up the position of winemaker at Pinalta in the Douro Valley, as well as consulting for other wine producers. But in recent years has begun to produce small quantities of wine under his Adega Artesanal, or ‘Artisan Winery’, label. These are “modern wines produced in a traditional way,” focused on local Douro grape varieties, old vines, and working with growers sympathetic to his ambitions to respect terroir and tradition.
The Boango label takes its name from the village in which the majority of vineyards are located – Boango, a word which appears to have its origins in equatorial African, though locals have no explanation for why this corner of the Douro is so called. The super-premium wine in the selection tasted below is Oficios, meaning ‘craft’, and made only in exceptional years, the most recent being 2013.
Hugo’s wines are imported into the UK by Portugeuse specialist The Wineline, and those visiting my Festivals of Wine in Edinburgh and London in 2019 can taste for themselves on The Wineline’s stand. Even better, Hugo himself will join us in Edinburgh to present a masterclass that will explore the diverse terroirs and wines of the Douro Valley.
(2019) A blend of traditional local grapes, Viosinho, Codega de Larinho, Malvasia and Rabigato, this surprises as Douro whites so often do with its particular freshness and mineral intensity. Unoaked, it does go through malolactic, which only rounds-out the texture and perhaps softens the acidity a little, but it stays dry, flecked with a salty mineral character, yet there is a lemon rind fruit and light waxiness there, almost like a dry Clare Valley Riesling perhaps, into a long and substantial finish of texture and flavour. Delicious and understated. Watch the video
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(2019) Comparing to the 2016 vintage side-by-side was fascinating, with a such a clear family resemblance, but slightly different personalities. I found this 2017 just a little more luscious than the cool and elegant 2016, the mid-palate fruit just a little more peachy and sweet, and yet that towering, zesty acidity pushes through, with a similar grip and texture, and firm, dry clarity in the finish. Another absolutely lovely Douro white, perception-changing and experessing the minerality of the terroir.
(2019) A blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca, the grapes foot-trodden in lagares, before the wines is aged in for 24 months in French oak. Deep, chocolaty and plummy aromas, this is all about black fruit and a ripe, creamy and dark set of aromatics. In the mouth it's a substantial wine, the oak ageing adding a warming, spicy, coffee and cocoa under-pinning, but the sweetness of the fruit and a nicely tart, plum skin edge of roughening tannin and acidity gives this a bit of cut and thrust, lengthening the finish nicely.
(2019) The 2013 vintage of this Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca blend, again aged in French oak for 24 months. Broadly similar on the nose to the 2012 with that same marriage of chocolate, spices and dark plum and vine fruits, but a suggestion of a slightly juicier character. That carries through on the palate, where the tannins and charriness of the barrel gives a bit of rustic bite to this, a bit of chewiness, but the fruit is that little bit fresher, edgier, with juicy black fruit and tangy acidity into the finish.
(2019) Produced only in exceptional vintages, this foot-trodden blend of whole-bunch Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and other Douro varieties was fermented in lagares and open barrels and aged for 24 months in French oak. This has a lovely nose, vinous and dark, with cherry and ripe plum, again a cocoa and liquorice twist of darkness, and a plush underpinning of quality oak. The palate is flooded with sweet fruit, but it's an elegant wine, the tannins finer than in the Boango bottlings, a real sense of refinement and harmony into a long finish. This should also cellar well for five years or more.