Quinta do Poeira – Mastering the Art of Wine: Bold Experimentations and Passionate Precision

Wine Producers

Quinta do Poeira – Mastering the Art of Wine: Bold Experimentations and Passionate Precision

The Douro is synonymous with Port and potent reds. But the range has widened. Quinta do Poeira delivers energetic elegance from a northern location in the centre of the Port Mecca of Pinhão.

Breaking Free from the Recipe: A Winemaker’s Quest to Explore the Untapped Potential of Douro

Jorge Moreira worked for a large producer with a focus on quantity. When the hired American winemaker wanted to make the same wine year after year, he had enough.

“It was a recipe, like making Coca-Cola. It was utterly outrageous for me, especially in this region where there is so much to explore”, says Jorge Moreira on a bad mobile connection that is abruptly cut off the whole time. Jorge laughs when we get through. “I’m driving, and you know – it’s a bit winding here.”

Anyone who has seen pictures of the Douro will understand. Far down in the valley, a river meanders; on the sides, steeply terraced vineyards surrounded by wild nature. Only 18 per cent of the total demarcated area of the wine region is planted with vineyards.

The Rise of Unfortified Wine: From Fortified Traditions to Vineyard Craftsmanship

In the past, almost all the grapes went into fortified wine; nowadays, more and more unfortified wine is made. The milestone is Barca Velha, which Fernando Nicolau de Almeida created in 1952 with inspiration from Bordeaux. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that unfortified wine from the Douro made its breakthrough.

“With the entry into the EU, the laws changed, and it became possible to plant more. Suddenly, grapes became available to more people”, says Jorge Moreira, recalling that although unfortified wine has always been made here, it was of lower quality and drunk in the fields.

“They were wines based on tannins and structure. I want acidity and freshness. And the wines should be made in the vineyard, not the cellar.”

Turning Fortunes: Embracing Unconventional Styles and Chasing the Northern Slopes in Pinhão Valley

Jorge and his wife, Olga Martins, started looking for their own place. Their good fortune was that they appreciated a different style from the usual.

“We found a farm that nobody wanted because it sloped to the north. Here in the Pinhão Valley, most people make Port – we are neighbours with Taylors, Symington and Niepoort – and then you look for south-facing slopes. If the location is right and it’s really hot, it can reach 50°C (122 °F) in the afternoon. At Quinta do Poeira, the sun disappears then.”

Quinta do Poeira with main building, winery and vineyards on steep north-facing slopes.
Quinta do Poeira with main building, winery and vineyards on steep north-facing slopes. (Photo: Quinta do Poeira)

Creating a Dream: From Ruins to Renowned Wines

But it was a Port wine producer who made the purchase possible. Dirk Niepoort must be considered a business angel here in the Douro. He is behind “the Douro Boys” (a group of winemakers dedicated to top-quality unfortified wines) and helped Jorge Moreira realise his dream.

“Actually, we couldn’t afford it. Quinta do Poeira was 15 hectares (37 acres), and the houses were ruins. But Dirk said,’ Make it happen. Go to the bank, make wine, sell it and pay back’. The only problem was that I am not good at marketing – but Dirk helped me with that too.”

The year was 2001, and after just a few harvests, they had enough money to renovate buildings and plant new vineyards. But wasn’t the wine a tough sell? Fresh and elegant at a time when concentration and new barrels were the order of the day.

“No, many people appreciated the wine precisely because it was different. And I have always kept the price down. I want our wines to follow families for generations and for people to be able to afford to open the bottle. It shouldn’t just be for special occasions.”

Discover Quinta do Poeira: An Exceptional Terroir Defying Expectations in the Douro Valley

Quinta do Poeira has nine hectares (22 acres) of vineyard. They recently purchased an additional two hectares (5 acres) on north-facing slopes, with vines planted in 1950. As is traditional in Portugal, they have a bouquet of different grape varieties, “around 40”. Mostly local varieties, but also 600 plants of Cabernet Sauvignon. Jorge explains:

“The idea was not to make wine from it but to get to know the terroir. I tried Cabernet from around the world and compared it to our grapes, and quickly realised that the Douro is far too hot for Cabernet. It becomes like pepper.”

But no rule without exception. In 2007, Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t just good. It became “incredible” to use Jorge’s own words. “We blended it with other grapes because it’s such a small production, and the wine had the pH of white wine (read high acidity, red. note). Absolutely incredible!”

Jorge admits some were sceptical about his style, but time has proved him right. Today, there is a general demand for fresher wines and more and more unfortified wine producers in the Douro are moving towards a more elegant style.

Unveiling the Hidden Truth: The Challenges of Organic Winemaking and a Pragmatic Approach

Organic is not for Jorge. Quinta do Poeira was certified two years ago. Then Jorge made a discovery that few people talk about.

“I measured the copper content in the soil, and it turned out that the soil was poisoned. Now, I have to use products to try to remove the copper. The same goes for the sulphur. I have preparations to reduce the acidity of the soil.”

You can only rely on copper and sulphur to fight fungus and disease as an organic wine grower. Jorge is pragmatic and against painting himself into a corner.

“I don’t do anything that destroys the soil – it’s not mine; it belongs to the next generation. But I don’t want to be stuck in rules, especially when I see the negative impact on the soil and the grapes.”

The Changing Climate of Winemaking: Adaptation and Experimentation in Cima Corgo

Climate and geography also offer challenges. The steep slopes here in Cima Corgo mean a gap of weeks between the ripening of the grapes. Jorge gives the example of Bastardo and Touriga Nacional. Even when grown at the same altitude, there can be a month difference in the harvest date. The same thing is true with a variety grown at the bottom of the river and at the top. But it’s more of an asset if you’re experimental like Jorge.

“We have our standard blends, but we’re always experimenting – every vintage is different, so you must adapt. I’ve always experimented, and now we have a particular label for these wines.”

According to Jorge, the biggest challenge is getting ripe grapes without excessive alcohol. With climate change, this is becoming increasingly difficult.

“The weather becomes more extreme every year. The harvest starts much earlier now than when I started. In the 90s, we started harvesting at the end of September; now we start at the beginning of August.”

Jorge Moreira decanting a bottle of red wine in the winery at Quinta do Poeira.
Jorge Moreira decanting a bottle of red wine in the winery at Quinta do Poeira. (Photo: Quinta do Poeira)

Crafting Unparalleled White Wines with Passion and Precision

Quinta do Poeira’s total production is about 40,000 bottles per year. The whites are a minority. Quinta do Poeira has 1.6 hectares (4 acres) of Alvarinho at an altitude of 400 metres (1,300 feet). Jorge explains the choice of grape:

“I wanted a white wine that was like my red wine, an easily mouldable wine. But such white wines do not exist here.”

The Alvarinho soils are heavy, and the location requires two separate bottlings for best results. “One part of the slope has more sun exposure, so we make one wine to drink now and one to age. We generally try to set aside around a thousand bottles yearly to always be able to present a better wine than when we bottled it.”

Quinta do Poeira: A Testament to Tradition, Innovation, and Unmatched Wine Craftsmanship

The artistry and precision of Quinta do Poeira’s wine production underscore the delicate balance between tradition and evolution in winemaking. Jorge and his team’s dedication to experimentation and adaptation is a testament to their unwavering commitment to delivering unique, high-quality wines.

Despite the challenges posed by climate change and geographical factors, their passion enables them to create excellent products that are a celebration of both the vineyard’s unique terroir and their innovative spirit. Whether it’s their standard blends or their poignant exploration of Alvarinho grapes, each bottle encapsulates an unmatched dedication to wine craftsmanship. This dedication, combined with an ability to adapt effectively to an ever-changing environment, ensures that Quinta do Poeira will continue to enchant wine lovers globally for many years to come.