About Me

Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Barros - Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

As I woke in my boutique Hotel in Oporto, Portugal - I had no idea too the depth of knowledge and insight into the history of the country, cuisine and Port that was to be shared, nor the genuine hospitality I was to be shown this day by my hosts from the Sogevinus Group. This was originally to be - as with most of my visits, a full day packed with information and tastings with not much time to digest or ask all the questions I usually have. But the mutual respect and understanding of all things wine related was evident from the start and a one day experience, was soon increased to two - *(one in Vila Nova de Gaia and then another in the heart of the Douro Valley at their vineyards. Ironically after my visit to Quinta de la Rosa, who sold them to Barros back in the 1930’s).  


My hosts Sofia Morais and Fernando Oliveira (Master Blender for the Sogevinus Group) - first took me through the old cellars and production facilities in Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Ports are aged, blended, bottled and hand labelled and where they have their own cooper. Fernando took me through a thorough tasting - showing all the components and most select barrels that make up each of the Ports, before we headed back down the hill to the head office on the edge of the Douro River. 

Fernando Oliveira is a fourth generation ‘master blender’ - he runs the daily blending of new Port vintages and also oversees the care and transfer of cask-aging ‘Colheitas’, some of which have been aging in barrels for a century.

In Port wine history, and until today, Barros has become known as a prestige brand due to the quality of its Port wines. Founded as a company in 1913 by the hands of Manuel de Almeida, with the designation Almeida em Comandita, Barros was at the time mainly dedicated to the Port wine trade, the reason it was located in Vila Nova de Gaia. Barros is presently recognized and appreciated all over the world not only for its ‘Colheitas’ style of special quality Port but its entire range of vintage and non vintage Ports.


Since 2006 - Barros is now under the Sogevinus Group management. Sogevinus Group is the Port and table wine group owned by Spanish Bank Caixanova (based in Galicia). Established in 1998, it began with the purchase of Port house Cálem, and then followed the acquisition of Burmester (2005), Kopke (2006) and Barros (2006). Altogether this is a reasonably sized operation, selling some 12.5 million bottles annually, with a 90% being Port wine and 10% table wine.

After tasting so many outstanding Ports - the taste buds were in need of some local cuisine and what better a place to achieve this than at ‘Dom Tonho II Restaurant’ located across the street on the edge of the Douro River, whom the Sogevinus Group have an interest. After a full day it was time to find my way back to my hotel - then make my way to the heart of the Douro Valley and to meet up with Fernando again in 2 days.

Part 2:
After being collected by Fernando from Quinta de la Rosa - it was only a short drive back down the valley along the left hand side to the Barros vineyards and winery. The winery has recently had a great deal of attention - to retain its traditional techniques alongside very modern-bespoke wine making equipment. We were greeted by a local icon and arguably the most knowledgeable people in the region. Jose Manuel Manso is the manager and viticulturist of the Quinta, but it was clear he is more than this - when he spoke about the Douro and its vineyards. It was like he was passing on the responsibility to share this history, knowledge and to nurturer it for the next generation.


After a short drive up slopes that I’m sure goats would take a second guess at - we walked up a portion of the vineyards and he took time to explain the importance of this dynamic terroir. With numerous microclimates contained in the Douro, he described to me the difference between the north and south facing slopes with respect to the ripening of the grapes. The north facing slopes receive sunshine in the morning but not in the afternoon, while the south facing vineyards receive sunshine all day.
This can lead to more complexity in the north facing vineyards as they ripen at a slower pace. There was also a distinct policy at Barros to move away from using herbicides over their vineyards and identifying organic methods to protect the vines as well as local insects and bird life. Their vineyards are planed with approximately 30% Touriga Nacional with other grape varieties making up the remainder of the 70%. The vineyards are planted along the slopes on horizontal levels and, more recently, they are planted along the lines of the greatest slopes, so called ‘Vinha ao Alto’ (vertically planted vines).
The soil, if you can call is that - is made up of schist greywacke ante-Ordovician, with some inclusions of a geological formation of granite. Even the posts where wires are tied for young or fragile vines are made from this schist. The height of the vines reach up to 600 meters, with the following traditional varieties being planted: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca.


After reaching some breathtaking heights that gave an unprecedented viewpoint of the Douro Valley - it was time to make our way back down (very carefully I might add) - and sample some of the wines and Ports with the team and then share an authentic lunch set on the edge of the hillside overlooking the river and surrounded by spectacular terraced vineyards (some at nearly vertical angles) in all directions.

As we pulled away from Barros at Quinta de S.Luiz, and started the drive back to Oporto - the patchwork terraced vineyards stood proudly in afternoon sun. I could not have asked for better hosts or teachers during my time in the Douro - I could never have learnt or experienced what I have in the past 3 days in 30 years of reading. If you are truly serious about wine - you have to make your way to the Douro Valley; before you leave this mortal coil we live and share.

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