It might seem strange to go to the Douro and drink white wine – but, in fact, it’s an increasingly good idea. This ravishingly beautiful valley, famous for its ports and full-bodied reds, is producing more and more delicious white wines – and for me they are just as good, if not better, at allowing you to taste the terroir.
Winemakers up and down the Douro are riding high on a new energy: six Portuguese wines appeared in the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2014; three of these, from the Douro, were in the top 10, and while the number-one spot was taken by Dow’s Vintage Port 2011, the other two were dry red table wines – something that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. And now, hard on the heels of these increasingly successful reds, come excellent whites.
The Guru 2013 (Wine & Soul) is well worth tasting, as is the Mirabilis Grande Reserva White (Quinta Nova), which is almost Burgundian in flavour yet has that very Douro note of minerals and granite, but my heart was lost to the Van Zeller Douro White (pictured). During my spring visit to Duoro I tried it over a dinner of tapas with the winemaker himself, Cristiano van Zeller, and it became the benchmark of my travels. It has a vibrancy that lingers and a wonderful concentration of fruity aromas.
I loved the Van Zeller White so much that I checked a suitcase into the hold to bring a bottle home (and, in an especially generous frame of mind, I took it to a friend’s house to share over dinner). It’s now available online at £11.99 from Delicias – but then the new Six Senses Douro Valley is definitely worth a visit too.