Luis Pato is one of Portugal’s great winemakers and undoubtedly most interesting characters. The ‘King of Bairrada’ is a tireless advocate for his region and the Baga grape variety, but is also relentless inventive, releasing a seemingly endless string of new wines and new labels, some of them unexpected indeed, from icewines to sparkling Baga. But recently Luis has had an unexpected new challenge: to try his hand not in Bairrada, but in Portugal’s best-known wine area, the Douro Valley. Luis has teamed up with Zeca do Pôpa, a Duriense farmer who dreamed of creating his own wine estate. He started to acquire and piece together a collection of smallholdings, the common agricultural structure of the north of Portugal, to form a new vineyard estate which he christened Quinta do Pôpa. The Quinta sits alongside the Douro River, and is planted mostly with Tinta Roriz as well as Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Sousão and Touriga Nacional.
I received samples from the Quinta, including the brand new ‘Papo 2008’, a cross-regional blend of Tinta Roriz and Baga, designated officially simply as a ‘Vinho Tinto’. The wines do not have UK distribution at the moment, though see European stockists on wine-searcher.
Quinta do Pôpa, Papo 2008, Portugal
With Tinta Roriz from the warm Mediterranean climate of the Douro and Baga from the Atlantic influenced Bairrada, this unusual blend his an elegant, ripe and high-toned blue-black fruitiness, with juicy cherry and blackcurrant aromas to the fore that are clean and fresh. On the palate it stays in that same focused and precise spectrum, the fruit dark and sweet, but always crisp and well delineated, with a real sense of freshness and agility to the tannins and acidity. A delightful, well-balanced and light- to medium-bodied drinking wine. 87/100.
Quinta do Pôpa, ‘TN’ Tinta Roriz 2008, Portugal
This Douro DOC Tinta Roriz spent six months in second year in large (650 litre) French oak barrels. It adds a layer of sumptuous depth to the fresh ‘Papo’ cuvée, with darker, plummy and black berry fruits and a smoothing layer of dark chocolate. On the palate the greater density, ripeness and fruit sweetness is apparent, but even as this fills the mouth there is an excellent sense of freshness and agility, with an almost chicory-like bitter plum-skin bite that is grown-up, food-friendly and delicious, the tannins big but smooth and refined and the whole wine (14% ABV) treading a nice line between power and harmony. 91/100.
Quinta do Pôpa, ‘VV’ Vinhas Velhas 2008, Portugal
The Grand Vin of the estate is this Douro DOC blend of 60-year-old Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, Sousão and other varieties, aged in French oak barriques for four months. The nose is beguiling, a swirling compote of glossy black berries, Sandalwood and cedar, violet and kirsch nuances and rum and raisin dark chocolate. On the palate this has beautiful fruit and structure, the character very similar to the straight Tinta Roriz, but with an added refinement to the tannins and just notching up the very natural, free-flowing concentration into a deliciously long, sappy finish. Superb stuff. 93/100. On this evidence, the estate of Quinta do Pôpa is surely destined to become one of the Douro’s great names. Unfortunately it appears that no one is bringing the wines into the UK at present, but surely some switched-on importer will jump at the chance to distribute these terrific wines.
Quinta do Pôpa
E.N. 222 – Adorigo