Portuguese statesman Sebastião José de Carvalho (1699-1782), the first marquis of Pombal, must be credited for regulating the trade and production of port wine in Portugal's Douro wine region, a legacy that lives on more than 250 years later.
In 1703, England and Portugal had signed the Treaty of Methuen, which led to booming trade between the two countries. The demand for Portuguese wines soared as duty was slashed, making them substantially cheaper compared with their French counterparts. To meet the insatiable demand, there was widespread planting of vines in unsuitable sites, wines were adulterated with those from Spain and elderberry juice was added to enhance colour.
Under the mandate of King Joseph I, de Carvalho established specific vineyards for port production and ordered the uprooting of elderberry trees. Vineyards were registered. The best vineyards planted on schist soils were demarcated and their growers were awarded higher prices for their grapes.
Under royal charter, the Real Companhia Velha winery was established in 1756, to control port shipments. Fast forward 260 years and the company is now owned by the Silva Reis family. By the 1970s, Manuel da Silva Reis, who started his career as an office boy, was the owner of 12 wineries, including Real Companhia Velha. Portugal's carnation revolution, in 1974, led to the winery being nationalised. It was returned to the Silva Reis family in 1978.
In 1990, 40 per cent of the company was acquired by state-owned Casa do Douro. By the 1990s, Silva Reis' second son, Pedro, had successfully steered a shift from a volume-based model to one that focused on quality. Today, Real Companhia Velha is the second-largest vineyard owner in the Douro region, with about 550 hectares. The company has multiple brands in its portfolio including Quinta das Carvalhas, Quinta de Cidrô, Quinta dos Aciprestes, Evel, Porca de Murca and Royal Oporto.
Quinta de Cidrô Rufete 2011
Rufete, also known as tinta pinheira, is typically used as a blending grape. Recognising the quality potential of the grape - few producers make rufete wine - the owners turned it into a single varietal. The wine style is reminiscent of gamay from Beaujolais, in France.
Vibrant redcurrant, raspberry flavours. Lighter in structure with crisp acidity, an abundance of red fruits and soft tannins. Easy drinking and refreshing. HK$150
Quinta de Cidrô Touriga Nacional 2010
Touriga nacional is the backbone of port and also makes high-quality dry red wine. It is a thick-skinned grape and adds buckets of colour and tannin to the wine, giving it acidity and potential to age.
Dense black fruit, with notes of violet on the nose. Rich and concentrated with high fruit intensity, framed by elegant oak tannins and finishing fairly long. HK$224
Royal Oporto Rosé
Rich perfumed red fruits of confectionery strawberry, raspberry flavours. Rich, sweet and grapy.
The winery suggests making a cocktail by blending the port with tonic water and topping it up with ice and fresh mint leaves. HK$165
The wines are available from Ponti Wine Cellars pontiwinecellars.com.hk.