"There´s no such thing as a terroir !"| Questions & Answers w/ Miguel Braga, Quinta de Mourão
Can a 1812 Port Wine bottle - opened almost 200 years later - be the inspiration for Quinta do Mourão choices about winemaking when so much has happened in the Douro Wine Region during two centuries and when table wines are now taking the lead on the oldest demarcated wine region of the world?
Maybe the exquisite 1812 Port Wine notes that Miguel Braga was fortunate to drink is at the root of his approach regarding vineyards: he thinks that there is no such thing as a terroir!
Q | Being the 2nd generation to own Quinta do Mourão (and with a 3rd on the way), how important is it for the Douro wine region to maintain the tradition of family owned estates?
A | I would say that what matters most is how passionate you are about winemaking, regardless what your family background is. I have been raised with vineyards around me, and, as a little boy, I already knew the man who was responsible for the winemaking process, the barrels and the wine ageing at the estate, so understood that winemaking is mostly about blood, sweat and tears. It is a daily activity that is far from the kind of glamour that we often see. And if you are not willing to strap your boots and work hard, you will not go far on this business. So what the Douro wine region needs is people that are passionate and willing to work hard to succeed,l no matter what your family background is.
Q | How did winemaking start for you?
A | Although I was raised here, I started professionally in a very different area: I was an economist and worked for a multinational company for 20 years. It was when my father died that things started to change for me. Initially the estate and winemaking was a part-time job, but I soon found out that a choice needed to be made. So winemaking became my choice and here I am!
Q | Being the oldest demarcated wine region in the world (as Port Wine), and having many cultural landmarks associated with Port Wine and the UNESCO Heritage Douro Region, how do you perceive the current competition between Douro table-wines and the renown product of Port Wine? Do you think that a balance can be found between the two, or is Port Wine on its downfall?
A | That is an interesting question and I can provide you , I hope, with an interesting answer: what should be crucial to the Douro wine region is grape quality. That is what we should value and continuously focus on: grape quality, regardless of whether they are for Port Wine or table wines.
I do not perceive the ambivalence you spoke about, as a war. In fact, we owe it to table wines and their recent success, the fact that people come in greater numbers to this renowned winemaking region. But they will only continue to come if we provide them with excellent wine...and quality grapes are the cornerstone for that.
Q | What makes you passionate about winemaking?
A | I was born right at the core of winemaking so it would always be difficult to choose otherwise… I tried something else professionaly and achieved success in it, but it was not meant to be. Anyway, what other passion can blossom from a winemaking estate that is not wine related?
Q | Can you tell us about the specifics for your terroir?
A | I may have another interesting answer for you: I do not believe that there is a terroir as we usually understand it. Every vineyard is a terroir! That is because every vine strain is submitted to very different soil, light, temperature and humidity conditions. That is especially true in the Douro wine region because of its slopes and very steep geography, notwithstanding a river flowing through its base, which adds a lot of variables. Under those kinds of conditions, vineyards have to respond and adapt almost as if they were individuals making the most of the specific place they find themselves planted. That is why I do not believe in terroirs as a general category.
Q | How many grape varieties do you work with?
A | I am quite conservative regarding the grape varieties I work with. So, at Quinta do Mourão you will find the most common grape varieties of the Douro wine region: Touriga Franca e Nacional, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz e Francisca for reds and Codega, Cerceal, Viozinho, Malvazia for whites...
Q | Is climate change having any impact?
A | It makes all the winemaking process more and more unpredictable, that is the experience I have.
Q | What is the most difficult thing about the wine business?
A | Sales. To convince others that the amount of work and time put on each bottle is worth the price we ask for it.
Q | Being a Port Wine producer, what was the oldest Port Wine you have tasted and what can you share with us about that experience?
A | It was an 1812 Port Wine. I do not find the words to describe how it tasted, what the notes were...
For me, it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had regarding wine…
I am thankful that this particular bottle was saved from all the sacking and looting the napoleonic armies did in this part of the country in the early 19th century. I was honored to be the fortunate recipient of french negligence regarding Port Wine bottles. Maybe it was because they also had good wine (laughs).
Q | With what sort of food would you recommend your wines to be paired with?
A | Because our wine production goes mainly for Port Wines I would like to make suggestions for those. Up to 10 Year Old Port Wine, they are an aperitif: they must be served at around 44.6 º F and usually go very well with dried fruits or any sort of finger food.
The 20 to 30 years Old Port Wines are for desserts… I can only speak about Portuguese ones which are eggy and sugary, but I can always suggest the “créme brulê” with Quinta de Mourão Tawny...
Finally, regarding suggestions, the 40 to 50 Years Old Port Wines ask to be savored by themselves, or in the company of a good cigar or book.
The ones above 50 Years are an experience of their own, so no pairing suggestions for that range, just sip & savor.
Q | What is your favorite restaurant in the Douro region?
A | Cacho d´Oiro restaurant. It is the restaurant I went to with my father as a little kid. It is the same chef and owner from those times. It is my cantine because it is a restaurant with typical Portuguese food which naturally I am a fan of! For more elaborate menus I also enjoy going to Castas & Pratos.
Q | What do you do for fun and where do you expect to go on your next vacation?
A | I am a man of simple tastes regarding free time and fun…It may sound surprising but I spent much of it watching television…For instance, American Football (just love it!). As for vacations, I have also been someone that always traveled a lot. Working for multinational companies going around the world was a part of the job. And, although I am now dedicated to a very different professional activity, I still enjoy travelling very much to get to know different places and people.
Quinta do Mourao White | 20 Year, Douro | Portugal
Grape Varieties: Codega, Cerceal, Viosinho.
Golden white color. Intense aromas of dried fruits and spices, result of the ageing in casks. In the palate both sweetness and acidity are wellintegrated with a long and persistent finis. Serve at a moderate temperature from 10 to 12ºC. Serve as apéritive or after diner or with fruit desserts, dried fruits or cheese.
Quinta do Mourao Tawny 10 Year, Douro | Portugal
Tawny color. Complex aromas like raisins and dried fruits. Full-bodied in the palate with a long finish. Serve at a moderate temperature from 10 to 12ºCC. Serve after dinner or with desserts, roasted almonds, nuts or long matured cheeses. Grape varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão.