"We had been looking for some years to reinforce Chryseia with a significant property and its own winery," said Rupert Symington, managing director of his family's estates. The Symingtons are no strangers to Roriz. Until late 2007 they helped oversee the development of Roriz table wines with their cousin, João van Zeller.
Roriz includes about 100 acres of vineyards and is located in the heart of the prime Cima Corgo region on the south bank of the Douro. Besides making Port, Roriz has also been in the table-wine business since the mid-1990s, making full-flavored and value-priced reds based on the native grapes of the region. The Symingtons will continue to make those wines under the Quinta de Roriz and Prazo de Roriz labels.
In 1998, the Symingtons formed a partnership with van Zeller, and for much of the past decade they pitched in to renovate the vineyards. They also helped build a new winery at the estate in 2004. At the end of 2007, van Zeller exercised his option to buy out the Symingtons but sold it back to them in the wake of the economic crisis. The purchase price has not been revealed.
The former home of Chryseia, Quinta de Perdiz in the Rio Torto valley, will still be a major fruit source for Chryseia; fruit from Roriz will now be part of the blend. The Symingtons have long wanted to move Chryseia from Perdiz. "Perdiz is a great vineyard but does not have a decent winery or even really the space to build one. So when we understood that Roriz was a possibility, it made complete sense for Chryseia."
In my tastings since it was first released with the 2000 vintage, Chryseia has shown very good to outstanding quality, though in a softer style than is common among many of the Douro's new wave of top red table wines. The latest vintage, 2006, scored an outstanding 90 points. The wine is made adhering to mostly Bordeaux protocols uncommon in the Douro. Fermentation is in small, stainless steel tanks rather than lagares, with minimal pumping over. It then spends nine to 11 months in new French oak 400-liter barrels. "The oak should be the frame, not the picture," Prats said during an interview at Perdiz last year. They also make a second wine, called Post-Scriptum. The addition of the intense fruit that Roriz can deliver is a high-value winemaking opportunity for Prats and the Symingtons; whether it will fundamentally change the style of the wine should soon become evident.
The Symingtons are also planning to soon release new dry red wines from one of their top Port estates, Quinta do Vesuvio. A new Douro DOC will be released from the 2007 vintage, as well as a second wine called Pombal do Vesuvio. "Many of our customers are surprised that we have taken so long to release a Vesuvio dry red. The truth is that after years of experimentation only now do we think we have a wine worthy of the estate's reputation," Rupert Symington said.
Since purchasing the estate in 1989, the Symingtons have quadrupled vineyard plantings, which has made possible the addition of the dry reds without reducing Port production. Most of the vineyard plantings have been to Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. The 2007 Douro will be 70 percent Touriga Nacional, 20 percent Touriga Franca and 10 percent old-vine Tinta Amarela. The Symingtons made 1,000 cases of the top red in 2007 and about 2,200 cases of the Pombal.
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