Cristiano van Zeller is one of the Douro Boys. Given his physical presence it's a bit hard to call him a boy, but I think the five of them are having lots of fun in this era of Renaissance for Portougal dry red wine.
As reported on their website, "The Douro Boys have set themselves a clear goal: enabling the dry wines of the Douro to achieve a level of recognition appropriate to their inherent quality, and to position them on an equal footing with port. And thus, embarked upon this path of putting the Douro Valley where it belongs on the world wine-map, they've not ruled out the positive effect that they will have on the image of Portuguese wines in general."

What's special about van Zeller (apart from belonging to one of the oldest families involved in Port production since 1780)? 
He is a strong supporter of the Field Blend philosophy. In simple words, a Field blend is when you grow all together (and quite randomly) many varieties in your vineyard without separating the different grapes by distinctive blocks. 

This way of farming represents, for many, the best way to express a Terroir.  Why? 

"We don’t think about the varieties; we think about the vineyard as a whole. The pattern of ripeness is part of the character of the vineyard. If I pick everything at perfect ripeness, I don’t have the character of the vineyard any more." (Jorge Serodio Borges in A. Jefford's interview)

“if you plant by block, grapes have very different ripening dates but, when grapes are all mixed in one single field reasonably randomly, you find that differences in maturity between earliest and latest ripening are much reduced – maybe just three or four days.” (C. van Zeller in S. Ahmed column in Blend Magazine)

In reality, this random planting is not completely chaotic like it may appear. There is some thought method behind it. For example the 'Field Blend' composition is adapted case by case accordingly to each terroir.

So let's go to see how this philosophy find expression in the Quinta Vale D. Maria wines. Let's see how the Terroir (including the impact of the vintage) comes through in the glass. In order to test this, we have purchased the last 3 vintages (2010, 2011, 2012) from the Wine Society.

Grapes for the Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro Red come from 60 years old vines, a Field Blend of more than 40 different Douro traditional varieties including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sous√£o, Tinta Amarela, Rufete, Tinta Francisca etc. For what I can gather, all variety are co-fermented (quite coherent consequence of Field Blend philosophy) after being foot trodden in lagares for 1 to 3 days. Fermentations last around 10 days (@ 22° - 27° C) with daily manual punch-down. The wines undergo malolactic fermentation in oak barrels and then they are matured in French barriques (75% new) for 21 months.  

Tasting notes

(2010) [score 4.1/5]
It appears Deep red/purple with very good legs. On the nose it's clean offering,  with med+intensity, notes of black cherries and currants, cedar-wood, chocolate, creamy malolactic hints, hints of garrigue. 
On the palate is dry, with med+ acidity, med+ tannins, med+ alcohol, med+ body, and med+ finish. Speaks definitely of its Terroir, with some 'French' polishing. It's concentrated, yet fresh and vibrant with still few edges to be resolved. 
Very good quality, It can be drunk now but will improve for a decade or more, Premium Price, Field Blend of old vines of Touriga Nacional & Co,  Douro, Portugal.

(2011) [score 4.6/5]
Similar character as 2010, but denser and with greater balance of all components. It is also slightly more complex with added notes of flint and more evident minerality on the palate. Also longer on the finish.
Outstanding quality, It can be drunk now but will improve for more than a decade, Premium Price, Field Blend of old vines of Touriga Nacional & Co,  Douro, Portugal.

(2012) [score 4.0/5]
It's much more similar to 2010, but still an adolescent. Alcohol and green notes are just slightly more evident than 2010. Don't get me wrong, this is still a beauty, just need time some patient to reach its full maturity with some bottle ageing.  
Very good quality, better to wait few years and then keep enjoying for another 10+y, Premium Price, Field Blend of old vines of Touriga Nacional & Co,  Douro, Portugal.


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