Winemakers combine strengths produce perfection

November 6, 2013 

Can you imagine what the leading quality Port producers -- Cockburn's, Dow's and Graham's -- have in common with Bordeaux's iconic Chateau Cos d'Estournel? The Symington family that owns these three Port houses and Bruno Prats, whose family owned Chateau Cos d'Estournel from 1917 until Bruno sold it in 1998, made a joint venture in 1999 to produce a non-fortified table wine from the same vineyards where outstanding Port wines are made -- those that are grown in the Douro Valley, in the northern region of Portugal.

In contrast, Port is a fortified wine -- meaning that a distilled spirit (usually Brandy) is added to the grape must (the newly pressed grape juice along with skin and seeds) during the fermentation process and this additional alcohol stops the fermentation of the must, thereby killing the yeast and leaving residual sugar in the wine, which is why Port is so sweet. On the other hand, the red table wines made from these same grapes are quite the opposite.

The concept behind this unusual partnership was to combine the Symington family's insightful knowledge of the Douro's terroir with the exactness of Prat's modern Bordeaux winemaking. Their goal was to perfect a top-quality wine from this famous region.

Based upon what I tasted recently, this partnership must have been blessed by Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.

Prats brings his knowledge of stainless steel tanks and temperature control along with his experience in determining exactly what type of French oak bar

rels to use along with ageing techniques specifically used in Bordeaux. Then add to the equation, the Symington families innate ability to easily identify the best plots of each vineyard and suitable grape varieties for this project.

The 2010 Prazo de Roriz -- Douro DOC and the 2011 Post Scriptum -- Douro DOC that were both produced during very dry years, but both vintages benefitted from wet winters that replenished the water table deep in the sub-soil stimulating the growth of the vines. Better yet, it also helped to produce some very good grapes that were translated into some tasty and flavorful wines that are a very deep garnet in color.

The 2011 Post Scriptum has a nice mouth-feel and as one would expect from its' Bordeaux influences, this wine does not have overpowering fruit flavors -- but instead the blackberry and blackcurrant overtones are more on the elegant side, with minerality on the finish.

On the other hand, the 2010 Prazo de Roriz has some very nice red, fruit flavors with a peppery finish. It is worthy of noting that this wine really opened up after about 20 minutes in the glass and showed much more depth than when it was initially tasted right after being poured from the bottle.

It was really nice to taste these wines that were produced in a manner that is unique to that region of the world and to be able to discern the influences that Bruno Prats brought to this partnership. Interestingly enough, in addition to Portugal, Bruno Prats has also formed winemaking partnerships in Chile, South Africa and Spain.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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