30 years of great wines
It seems that it was yesterday but it has been three decades since Domingos Alves de Sousa decided to devote himself to the production of wines, a family tradition to which he devoted himself in style and who continues to give letters, already with the children involved in the project. To commemorate the date, he revived his story with some of the witnesses of this journey. In addition, she organized an emblematic tasting with some of the best wines from her farms in the Douro.
Domingos Alves de Sousa represents the fourth generation of a family of Duriense producers, and his father was a winemaker and supplier of some of the most prestigious houses exporting Port Wine. Civil engineer of training, he felt at one point the call of the land, and eventually abandoned engineering in 1987 to dedicate himself exclusively to the exploration of farms that fit him in inheritance, and others that he later acquired and in which he has been performing a modeling work of parceling and restructuring of the vineyards. For a few years, he sold his grapes to well-known wine companies, but in mid-1992, he ended up investing in the production and bottling of his own wines, a bet that proved to be the right one, as today he is one of the reference producers in the Douro. The vineyards occupy, as a whole, an approximate area of 123 hectares, but it is in Quinta da Gaivosa that the production of wine is focused.
The first experience he did, still in 1991, which considered the year zero to see how the market reacted, was a white from Quinta do Vale da Raposa who immediately received very special references. However, it will be the following year that takes the most acertive steps in the production of wines from two of its farms, two reds of different styles, the Gaivosa 92 and the Raposa Valley 92, which provoked positive reactions from connoisseurs and national and international critics, opening markets almost unthinkable a year earlier. Using new approaches to winemaking at the time, with prolonged macerations, control of fermentation temperatures and stage in barrels, together with the unique terroir of its vineyards, the birth of two great wines was designed, immediately taking the Gaivosa to the front, since the decision was made that would only be launched in years of superior quality. In 1994 there was also the first 'Branco da Gaivosa', fruit of the selection of the best plots and white varieties aged in French oak barrels. That same year also begin to be vinified the vineyards of Quinta da Estação. 1995 will be the year of affirmation with Quinta da Gaivosa red to win numerous national and international distinctions. From there, new brands and new wines were born. Today, Alves de Sousa works only the grapes of the family vineyards (Quinta da Gaivosa, Vale da Raposa, Caldas, Estação, Aveleira and Oliveirinha), developing a complete range of Douro wines of great character and quality.
The best grapes for the best wines
All vinified grapes come from the family farms, that is, nothing comes from outside. The grapes are watched from their birth to their harvest, intervening whenever necessary. The important role of the vineyard in the design of the various wines has resulted in a constant investment over the last 30 years. Restructuring, installment, investigation, acquisition of new parcels. Today the vineyards occupy, as a whole, an approximate area of 145 hectares, spread over 6 Farms.
The ecological diversity (micro-climates, soils, altitudes, exhibitions), the terroir, the specificities of each farm thus allow to obtain wines of great identity. In parallel with the important wine-growing legacy, tomorrow's vineyards are being prepared today. Using a series of judicious and innovative means, without neglecting the knowledge of the past - polyclonal selection and sustainable viticulture; invests in the recovery of autoctose castes.
For Domingos Alves de Sousa, the extraordinary genetic heritage existing in the Douro vineyards must be estimated and preserved. And this work goes far beyond the famous five varieties of the region (Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz and TintaBarroca), or even the equally recognized Sousão or Tinta Amarela, since the recovery of many other minority indigenous varieties, of very little expression, is being made. Like, for example, Malvasia Preta, Tinta da Barca, Tinta Carvalha, Donzelinho Red and many others. In addition to this work, there is also a lot of care in the preservation of very special old vineyards, with a unique character, replicated today in new plantations, thus ensuring the Future. Wines such as Quinta da Gaivosa, Abandonado or Vinha de Lordelo are a living example of the quality of these old vineyards.
From father to children
Is there better pride for a father to see his children continue their work? (See photo entry and below). In one way or another the whole family is involved in the business, highlighting the role of Patricia Alves de Sousa, his daughter, who takes over the financial direction of the family business and is an essential back office support in the business, but also that of Tiago Alves de Sousa, another of Domingos' sons and today the responsible of the house oenology, after years of working alongside one of the great Portuguese winemakers, Anselmo Mendes. Graduated in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, he also now gives letters in the production of family wines.
Of exemplary simplicity, he specializes in escaping the spotlight, but his curriculum inevitably pushes him forward. In 2003 he was awarded the Engº António de Almeida Foundation award and the Merit Scholarship from the Student Support Fund, awarded to the best student of the Degree. After several stages of harvest, he collaborated with renowned winemakers, one of them Anselmo Mendes (with whom he would later work) and Manuel Vieira. He also took some training courses in the field of Oenology and Viticulture and also went through the Institute of Viticulture of the Catholic University of Piacenza (Italy), where he collaborated with the reputed Professors Mario Fregoni and Luigi Bavaresco. Finally, he received his PhD in Viticulture from the Department of Phytotechnics and Rural Engineering of the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, which he would conclude in 2011, with a maximum classification. It has several publications in the field of viticulture in international journals and minutes of scientific meetings, being frequently invited to lectures, master's classes and to be part of juries of scientific works in Portugal and beyond. In the production of Douro and Port wines of the family, in addition to the technical direction, is also responsible for several export markets and since he started his professional career has been awarded several times, for his career and for his wines.
Tiago's official entry into the company brought new ideas to the company, new ways of looking at the family vineyards. For example, the Gaivosa, which until then resulted from the joint winemaking of the best plots of the Quinta. But in 2003, an additional effort finally enabled the isolated winemaking of the small parts of the whole, unveiling the expression, in its elementary form, of the various nuances and particularities of the Gaivosa. Later, new wines also appeared, such as the Lordelo Vineyard or the Abandoned, today objects of worship for their character and recognition.
In 2013, and after 10 years of joint work with Anselmo Mendes and a gradual and natural passage of testimony, Tiago became responsible for the production of all douro and port wines of the Alves de Sousa family. The rediscovery of the Vineyard of abandonado, the uniqueness of Memórias (with the combination of 6 different harvests in the same wine), the new wines of Quinta da Oliveirinha in Cima Corgo (after 10 years of in-depth study), the extension of the range of Ports and, more recently, the wines Rosa Celeste and Amphitheatrum, are some of the fruits of Tiago's work and creativity.
An emblematic proof
From white to rosé, passing through red and ending in ports, nothing was missing in this tasting that stood out for the great quality of wines.
First launched 10 years ago, Berço branco 2020 is a claw wine prepared in equal proportion with Arinto and Avesso, and only 20% viosinho. In the mouth it is serious, predominantly the fruit and minerality complemented with notes of spice (white pepper) and excellent acidity. "We've been tasting the first harvest for 10 years and there's still a lot to give," said Alves de Sousa, who has always accustomed consumers to launch guard wines, both in red and white. Then followed the Rosa Celeste 2010, a special rosé that is also a tribute to James' grandmother, a woman "always elegant, cheerful, distinguished", describes the winemaker. Prepared with 70% Red Dog and 30% Touriga Nacional, it is a novelty, a wine with personality far from the profile of the simplest rosés to which we are accustomed, very elegant and fresh, bottled in a separate container. During the race, another white who stood out was the White Staff 2016 (2001 was the first harvest, at the time with the name Personal Reserve). "It is a different wine, with macerated films and a super oxidation, hence its charged color. My father jokingly says that this wine should be sold with an instruction manual," says Tiago. A striking white, loaded in aroma and taste, but complemented with a unique elegance and excellent balance.
In the reds, hostilities began with Quinta da Oliveirinha red Vinha Franca 2017. As its name implies, the grapes come from Quinta da Oliveirinha, in Cima Corgo. The farm belonged by sharing to domingos Alves de Sousa's sister, but the producer eventually acquired it and there developed with his son an in-depth investigation for ten years to deepen the terroir. This is how this wine is born for the first time in 2013, and for the second time in 2017, more consistently, elaborated with the Touriga Franca variety (95%) and finished with Sousão and Touriga Nacional. A structured red, endowed with a very solid acidity and with a prolonged finish. "Touriga Franca is the most planted variety in the Douro and one of the most marked the profile of Douro and Porto wine," explains the winemaker.
Another significant red for the family is Quinta da Gaivosa red 2019, as defined by producer Alves de Sousa, "a wine and a place always special for the whole family". And also for oenophiles, say who writes to you and who accompanied all the evolution of this great red profile. The first harvest came out in 1992 and, from the beginning, it is a wine that showed its claw, becoming one of the most emblematic of the Douro. Powerful and endowed with great elegance, minerality and freshness, it is a red that initially revealed a more wooded and striking profile, as it was used at the time, but has been filed over the years for a thinner profile. "It is a wine that is part of the new Douro, one of the first of the 90's and that has evolved with new trends," explains Alves de Sousa.
His 'brother' Quinta da Gaivosa Vinha do Lordelo 2019 also stands out for the quality of his profile. Coming from an old vineyard over 120 years old, "it is a model vineyard that reveals how the Douro can be so unique. More than 30 varieties combined are present in it," says Tiago, also stating that 2003 was the date of the first harvest. "This 2019 is probably Lordelo's best year, which only comes out in special years. There are 2 hectares in plots distributed between 375 meters and 425 meters of altitude", reveals the winemaker, to explain the genuineness, freshness and strong character of the wine.
The last red in the tasting, the 'Abandonado 2019' is another very special wine, coming from an unparalleled and emblematic vineyard, because it is situated in a very steep and difficult place to get there. "It is a heroic job to work in this vineyard, the soils are very rocky, the terrain very steep, and so there is a great difficulty to work it. But then all efforts are worth the wine it gives birth to." Powerful, striking, but always with the elegance existing in all the wines of the producer, it is also one of the most charismatic of the top stouts produced there.
In the end, there was still time to taste the Vintage Ports of Quinta da Oliveirinha, Quinta da Gaivosa, Alves de Sousa, and amphitheatrum, all from 2020, each in his style and different farms, but always with the depth and freshness to which the producer has accustomed us.