Quinta dos Murças – Douro, Portugal.
The Douro Valley has long been known as vineyards for Port wines for more than a couple of centuries. Still, it has yet to have a long history as a source of quality dry wine, which historically has been overlooked because of the popularity of Port wine. However, the D.O. Douro was demarcated in 1982 Portugal joined the EU in 1984, which led to more investment and more producers focused on dry wine, and hence the quality has improved dramatically.
In this article, we want to introduce Quinta dos Murças, part of the Esporão Group in Alentejo. Special thanks go out to Lourenço Charters, winegrowing and winemaking manager at Quinta dos Murças, who hosted us during our visit to the winery.
Douro Valley, located inland from Porto to the Spanish border, is hot and dry in summer, easily exceeding 40 degrees as the Mountain, Serra do Marão, at the western limit of the region, shielding the Douro region from the cooler, damper Atlantic weather. However, as the river Douro and its tributaries provide the valley with various aspects and altitudes, it has a huge range of microclimates. You can see the diversity from the spectacular breathtaking view in Douro Valley. Planting on the steep slopes alongside the river Douro, the vineyards are terraced with stone walls to protect them, which is registered by UNESCO due to their uniqueness. The stone wall is further warming up the vineyards and contributing ripeness of the grapes. Mechanization is impossible here, and picking by hand on the steep slopes is not easy work.
Portugal is known for its incredible number of indigenous varieties, and Douro Valley allows 64 kinds of black and 46 white grapes, and producers sometimes don’t know how wide varieties are used. Generally, they are field blends picked by one-time harvesting; hence, Douro wines, made with blending, tend to have cooked flavors and greenish herbaceous notes, contributing to their complexity. The most common grapes are similar to those used in Port production; Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca (both can retain acidity and ripe yet not jammy flavors of black fruits), Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão for red, while Viosinho (full-bodied with floral notes and stone fruit), Rabigato (high acidity), Gouveio (citrus and stone fruit aromas) for white.
Esporão is a family-owned business that began in the Alentejo from a desire to make the finest wines and has had wineries in Vinho Verde (Quinta D.O. Ameal), Douro (Quinta dos Murças) and Alentejo (Herdade DO Esporão). Additionally, the Esporão Group makes craft beer and offers a wide range of wine tourism experiences. In three regions, Alentejo, Douro, and Vinho Verde, Esporão welcomes guests at its own restaurant, awarded both a Michelin Star and a Michelin Green Star or beautiful accommodations.
Quinta dos Murças
In 2008, Esporão Group purchased Quinta dos Murças, with a history as a Port winemaker that goes back to the early 18th century. Like other wineries, the group started the terroir study of the region for the best grape growing and started to produce two dry red wines with its experiences from the Alentejo.
In the hot and dry Douro, cooling effect, for instance, by north-facing aspects or altitudes of more than 400m, is essential to keep the grapes fresh and retain their acidity. Quinta dos Murças has looked for freshness in their wine away from powerful jammy wines. Currently, all production is in the process of being certified as organic.
During our visit we tasted a selection of the Quinta dos Murças wines. Below a summary for each wine and our rating per wine.
Assobio White | 2021 | Verdelho, Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato, Códega do Larinho | DWA Score: 88/100
Grapes source from north-facing vineyards with high altitudes of contract farmers.
Pure fresh wines with ripe citrus and stone fruits aromas. Vibrant acidity is balanced with the body.
Assobio Rose | 2021 | Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão etc. | DWA Score: 87/100
Grapes source from north-facing vineyards with high altitudes. Ripe (not over-ripe) red fruit flavor is balanced with the structure (lively acidity and some tannins). Persistent finish.
Assobio Red | 2020 | Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz | DWA Score: 87/100
2020 is a hot year, but north-facing vineyards with high altitudes keep the wine fresh.
20% is fermented in Barrels not to cover the freshness. Intense, lively red fruit aromas. Pure and fresh, expressing the grapes of Douro. Gastronomic wines.
Quinta dos Murças Minas | 2018 | Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz | DWA Score: 90/100
3-4 hours of extraction by traditional food treading. More intense than Assobio red. Fresh and lively with ripe tannins and lively acidity. Smooth texture.
Quinta dos Murças Margem | 2016 | Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca | DWA Score: 91/100
Touriga Franca is the main variety with Touriga Nacional, sourcing from their own vineyard at lower altitudes closer to the river Douro. Black fruit aromas (cassis, blackberry) with spicy notes by oak aging. Structured by ripe tannins and acidity. Long aging potential, with minerality.
Quinta dos Murças Reserva | 2016 | Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz | DWA Score: 92/100
Grapes source from their own vineyards in amphitheater at higher altitudes, producing riper fruits with higher acidity. Field blend. Concentration with more complexity. More dark berry characters than Margam, with spicy flavor and balsamic notes on the palate. Ripe, polished tannins.
Quinta dos Murças Vintage Port 2015 | DWA Score: 96/100
Produced with top-quality grapes (category A.) Complex with great intensity, dark berry fruits (blackberry and cassis), and balsamic notes.
Quinta dos Murças Port Tawny 10-Year-Old | DWA Score: 92/100
Selected quality grapes. Dry fruit (figs), nuts, and spices. Complex and integrated.
The Quinta dos Murças wines showcase the grape aromas of the traditional varieties, but at the same time, in modern style, which is more fresh and pure style. This is in line with the world trend. We are impressed with the vibrant refreshing taste, even if in the hot and dry Douro region. After the tasting, we were warmly welcomed with traditional Portuguese lunch, with their beautiful wines in their guest house. This is one of the perfect plans to enjoy wine tourism in Portugal.
We would like to thank Lourenço and the team for their hospitality. Quinta dos Murças wines (both Port and still wines) are imported and distributed in the Netherlands by Delta Wines – Pallas Wines. This article and the visit to Quinta dos Murças are covered by our own Kazumi Uejo.