With little more than a dozen years as a Port shipper, Quinta do Portal has quickly developed a sterling reputation for producing a distinctive range of high quality and cellar-worthy Ports.
I will never forget my first sip of 1999 Quinta do Portal Vintage Port. Not only was it my first taste of Portal’s Port, but it was my very first sip of any '99 Vintage Port. It’s still one of my favorite VPs vinified by this producer and definitely at the apex of that under-appreciated vintage. My early impressions of Quinta do Portal were informally formed at the Port Wine Institute’s tasting in Seattle back in February 2002. I became far more familiar with the across-the-board quality of the Ports produced by this Quinta during a subsequent tasting in May, at London’s International Wine & Spirits Fair and then during a full-throttle visit to the Quinta during the summer of 2003, along with a cadre of wine journalists.
Comprising a total of four Quintas with over 100 hectares of vineyards, and lots of prime vineyard acreage suited for future growth, this family-owned and independent “Single Quinta” Port shipper is aggressive and ambitious. Their first release of Port was in 1994, although Portal had been producing DOC Douro wines since 1986. But this is not just another upstart wine company; it is a well-financed operation with impressive aspirations and a strong sense of direction and keen vision.
Under the supervision of Pedro Mansilha Branco, whose family has owned Quinta dos Muros since the late 1800s, Quinta do Portal has seen the quality of its Ports improve rapidly in the last decade. Tradition is firmly in place as Muros is still held by the family and they continue to use the old stone lagares there. But Quinta do Portal is Branco’s primary property, with state-of-the-art production, tasting and a beautiful newly redesigned visitor’s center. It is here that tastings take place and the large main building is situated on a serene and breathtaking piece of land, surrounded by vines as far as the eye can see.
The Quinta of Quinta do Portal began in 1994, but in its past life it was called Quinta Casal de Celeirós. An amazing and little known story that I have researched is that this property was the only one in the entire Douro region that was not affected by Phylloxera. How that particular root louse missed this particular parcel of vineyards is a matter of lore and only the owner at that time, Sr. Arnaldo Alves de Sousa knows the truth. But it is said, that he contacted a French chemist (M.H. Joulie) circa 1880, and followed the steps of the "chemical analysis" he received. Whether or not that was what worked or if it was actually just divine intervention, we'll never really know. However, the fact remains the same.
Another fun factoid is that Celeirós was one of the very earliest Quintas to employ women to tread grapes in the lagares. Record of this goes back to the author Henry Vizetelly (1840-1902) whom during the latter part of the 19th century penned: "The young women skillfully gathered their garments up around them. When all was duly adjusted they sprang into the lagar, and, delighted with their task, danced for a time among the grapes with the frenzy if not the grace of a troop of wild Bacchanals. The sight was certainly amusing, although the proceeding was, perhaps, not exactly a decorous one."
Before the Branco family came to rescue this property, the grapes were used by Sandeman throughout the 1960s - 1980s, who disposed of the buildings in 1985 and land in 1991. The Quinta had fallen on bad times and into disrepair and was used for a time as a school and local parish meeting hall. The vineyards however, never stopped producing. When Pedro Mansilha Branco and his family took over, there was a lot of hard work to be done and significant investment required. Today, Quinta do Portal is one of the growing numbers of family-owned, Single Quinta wine businesses which are flourishing across the Douro. New markets are penetrated as their Ports continue to receive worldwide acclaim and Portal’s Douro wines are steadily improving.
QUINTA DO PORTAL AT-A-GLANCE
Website: Quinta do Portal
Address: E.N. 323 Celeirós do Douro, P.O. Box 2, 5060 Sabrosa, Portugal
Phone: +351 259 937 100
Owners: Pedro Mansilha Branco & Family
Winemaker: Paulo Coutinho
QUINTA DO PORTAL TASTING NOTES
In a long line of very fine LBV’s comes Portal’s 2003
2003 Quinta do Portal Late Bottled Vintage Port
Plum and cinnamon spice show prominently on the nose of this youngster which was released last year. The dark cherry and boysenberry flavors burst onto the palate and take no prisoners. Most producers would be proud to call this Vintage Port. Yummy stuff, delivering monster tannins that will soften considerably over the next half decade. This is the best LBV I have tasted from this producer and I have had every one of them, tasted over the past seven years. If I can find a case in the USA, this is the LBV I’d stock up on to carry me through the winter. Portal’s LBV is unfiltered and will improve from here; enjoy today or through 2015. 93+ points
Always a solid bet, Portal makes fine Tawny too
Quinta do Portal 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Tea color with a light tawny edge. One of the finest 10 year old Tawnies I have had during the trip. It’s delicate and light weight, with almond and sweet hazelnut flavors, elegant and ponderous. Solid acidity and generous on the finish, this is one 10 year old Tawny to seek out. 92 points
Most recent generally declared Vintage Port
2003 Quinta do Portal Vintage Port
Showing an impenetrable inky tone and a complex core of leather, anise, chocolate, brambly berries and earthy scents, which make this one of those rare treats to keep going back to smell again and again. Chewy, ripe and massively built; this 2003 shows only slight evolution since it was a cask sample. It’s an intense sexy beast with dark cherry and cassis fruit that is smooth in the mouth, but really takes grip when the tannins become aggressive late in the game. As good as this all sounds, the strong suit is the incredible and enduring aftertaste. Drink from 2015-2040 but the longer you can keep ‘em buried in the cellar, the more pleasure you’ll receive when you do drink them. 95+ points
My favorite Quinta do Portal Vintage Port: 1999
1999 Quinta do Portal Vintage Port
Magenta color. It’s such a harmonious Vintage Port and if this were offered in my neck of the woods, I’d own a case of it. I buy a couple of bottles every time I visit Portal. Gentle scents of lavender and anise with dark cherry notes. It offers a medium body weight and is more like a super LBV in style. Who cares? It is delicious, with chocolate covered raisins and cherry fruit that is uber-smooth and with underpinnings of acidity and round tannins to keep it all in synch. I knew that if Portal could deliver this much pleasure in a vintage like 1999, greatness was just around the corner – and so it was! Drink 2010-2022. 92+ points
The FTLOP Forum, in which our collective Port wisdom is put to good use, has a discussion our favorite Vintage Port by Quinta do Portal. Join the discussion!
A tip for travelers: if you are heading to the Douro, Quinta do Portal has a room with a view. Actually their Casa das Pipas offers 10 of them. Set amidst the vineyards, literally a stone’s throw away from your bedroom window, this is not only one of the most hospitable places to stay but one of the very best in the entire Douro region! There’s a fitness room, a big and refreshing swimming pool, well-stocked library, access to wi-fi, a large living room which is chic and comfortable and a fine dining room. While on tour, we take all of our groups to stay at Portal and it is not just the delicious breakfast that keeps us coming back, time after time!