Three of Portugal's best-known winemakers, all associated with properties in the Douro, are forming a joint venture in Dão, the higher-altitude region just south of the Douro Valley. Francisco "Xito" Olazabal, winemaker at Quinta do Vale Meão and Quinta do Vallado, Jorge Serôdio Borges of Pintas and Quinta do Passadouro and Jorge Moreira of Poeira, Quinta de La Rosa and Real Companhia Velha have just announced a joint venture to lease Quinta do Corujão and its 24 acres of vineyards in Dão.
The three men, friends and former university classmates, have built their careers in Douro, helping cement the reputation of the region's table wines. Looking to explore a new region and hoping to make wines with elegance, they decided to make a move south by renting Quinta do Corujão for 10 years. The granitic soils are planted with traditional white grape varieties such as Encruzado and reds Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Rufete. They plan to regraft some vines with new varieties and to improve the viticulture.
Borges told Wine Spectator that their objective is to explore the region's potential, learning about Dão and learning from each other. They will keep Corujão's existing brand, but also develop a new brand. The winery currently produces almost 8,500 cases annually but has the capacity to produce twice as much. "This move will allow us to grow together, while not competing with each other in our region of origin," said Borges. "There is great commercial potential in this new venture."
Olazabal says that he embraced this new project because the three winemakers share similar perspectives on wine and maximizing vineyards' potential. "In Douro there are a lot of people making great wines, while in Dão there are few,” he said. Olazabal does have experience in Dão—for five years he has made Munda, a Dão wine from lower-altitude vineyards close to Rio Mondego. He hopes he can capitalize on that experience to speed up the learning curve in this new venture.
"We will make the wines that the vineyard yields," said Olazabal. "This is a late-ripening site, and by modernizing the viticulture we can have riper fruit, but, most importantly, we can respect the vineyard." The first wine harvested and made under the new team will be a white to be released in May 2012.
John Pires — British Columbia, Canada — December 14, 2011 12:54am ET
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