A Taste of Portugal’s Sunny Douro

If you can’t pack a suitcase and head off to a sunny location in winter, then pouring a glass of wine that brings the sunshine to you can be a liquid substitute. Today’s cellar note brings you exactly that…not Port wine, as you might expect, but dry red wine made by Prats & Symington in the Douro. We received both wines as tasting samples.

These wines are a collaboration between Symington Family Estates, one of Portugal’s oldest Port producing families, and Bruno Prats, former winemaker and owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux.

The Symington family history in the Port wine business reaches back to 1882 when Andrew James Symington arrived in Portugal to work for Graham’s. The descendants of his sons are the owners of Warre’s, Dow’s and Graham’s Port houses. The family owns 25 estates, or quintas, in the Douro totaling over 6000 acres. Over 2400 acres are planted to vines.

To say the Symington family are Port specialists is an understatement. But Port production (ripe, fortified, high alcohol wines) is very different than making dry red wines in the same region. That’s where their strategic collaboration with a Bordeaux wine specialist comes into the picture.

In 1999 Bruno Prats, former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel, entered into a partnership with the Symington family to produce quality dry red wines in the Douro. The 2000 Prats & Symington Chryseia was the first release by the partnership. 

Prats & Symington own two estates in the Douro Valley, Quinta de Roriz and Quinta da Perdiz, both in the Cima Corgo sub-region. Microclimate and soil types vary in the two locations providing the winemaking effort with wines exhibiting strong minerality and generous aromatics from one location and ripe, velvety wines from the other.

Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz, Douro
Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz, Douro

2015 Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz, Douro dense ruby with violet at the rim. Intense dusty earth, dark cherry aromas with a hint of cedar are followed by generous red fruit flavors of tart cherries, ripe raspberries and very ripe blackberries. Dusty earth and gravelly minerality lend complexity to the rich flavors and all are supported by juicy acidity. Tannins are grippy and linger on the very long finish as the combination of fruit and minerality slowly diminish in this medium-bodied wine. 14.5% abv. SRP $16

The juicy combination of red and dark fruit flavors along with interesting earthiness and minerality make for a memorable glass of wine. It is easy sipping on its own (assuming you enjoy tannic wine, which I do) and will pair with just about any roasted, braised or grilled meat you can think to eat with it.

The 2015 Prazo de Roriz is a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Tinta Amarela (Trincadeira). All grapes are picked by hand (a necessity on the steep slopes of the Douro River) and vinification took place in the small winery at Quinta de Roriz using stainless steel and 400-liter French oak barrels. 

Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia
Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Douro

2016 Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Douro dark ruby in the glass with generous aromas of ripe plums and ripe boysenberries. Lifted red fruit flavors of ripe raspberries, ripe pomegranates, cherries and plums combine with cedar spice, gravelly minerality and juicy acidity. Tannins are substantial and drying in this medium-bodied wine. 13.5% abv. SRP $27

This lively red wine is succulent and complex. It has plenty of weight and body, but at the same time is nimble. In short, it is a pleasure to sip. Pair it with a pork roast, roasted chicken or even lamb.

Prior vintages of Post Scriptum de Chryseia have been blends primarily of Touriga National and Touriga Franca with a splash of Tinta Roriz and Tinta Rocca. I couldn’t find those details for the 2016 vintage. Post Scriptum de Chryseia is, as Prats & Symington put it, a partner wine to Chryseia, their top wine. This means it is made from a second selection of Chryseia lot wines. It was first made in 2002. 

Prazo de Roriz was added to the portfolio after the purchase of Quinta de Roriz in 2009.

Both are lovely wines and a very good value for the dollar. 

Thank you to Calhoun & Company Communications for this sunny distraction from our current rainy weather.

Cheers!

2 Comments

  1. I’m such a fan of wines from this region. I love your description of sunshine in a glass, because for me Spanish wines have become just that.

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