Throughout the summer the Wine Advisers had a chance to win a trip to Portugal. The eventual winner, Rob Stephenson, headed off the other week with Managing Director Deborah Guest and Buyer Gerald Duff to discover more about DFJ Vinhos based in Lisbon.
This Portuguese wine producer supplies much of our Portuguese range. The wines have racked up a phenomenal number of awards over the years, and they’ve received some great press too. DFJ (the name comes from the initials of the three founders) have their own vineyards, just outside Lisbon, so they can control every step of the winemaking journey from vine to the bottle.
Winemaker José Neiva Correia is one of the three founders and the ‘J’ of DFJ. Gerald’s known José for many years, so regularly gets the inside track on their best value wines, like the Paxis Pinot Noir we brought in earlier in the year.
If you’re lucky, September can mark the beginning of the grape harvest in Portugal, and this year it did.
Lisbon was all blue skies and 29°C. The trio’s hotel overlooked Parque Eduardo VII and the statue of Marquis de Pombal, a notable 18th Century Portuguese statesman. Felipe, the guide from DFJ, took them out to a fantastic restaurant called A Gina where they got to have their first taste of salt cod, a local speciality.
In the morning they were taken to see some of DFJ’s vineyards where they grow a wide range of grapes: Shiraz, Touriga Nacional, Castelao, Tinta Roriz, Arinto and Caladoc (a hybrid of Grenache and Malbec) among them.
Whilst at Casa Madeira, the home of José Neiva, Vasco (José’s son) showed them around. They saw Pinot Noir and Dornfelder being harvested – the first of the season – and loaded on to the tractor to take the grapes to the winery. This was particularly interesting as the same vines had made our Paxis Pinot Noir. All of this, of course, was done with the help of Julia (a little Jack Russell who loves Pinot Noir grapes).
The trio followed the tractor, with Vasco, to head towards Quinta do Porto Franco, where José was born. Almost every vineyard they passed had a story to go with it, sometimes about the grape variety, or the family history of the land. It was very apparent that, despite its size, it’s still very much a family-run winery.
On route to Quinta do Porto Franco the group took a short break to taste Tinta Roriz grapes straight from the vine and some freshly picked figs. It was a real treat to taste, first-hand, what would be going into the wines we’ll ultimately be selling here at Rude Wines.
The vineyard tour finished at DFJ’s biggest winery, Quinta Fonte Bela named after the ‘beautiful fountain’ in the courtyard. Rob commented that “the grandeur was reminiscent of a Bordeaux Château. It was very impressive wandering through the winery strewn with huge barrels of a bygone era, some upwards of 50,000 litres.”
Bright sunshine and temperatures in the high 20’s meant it was time for a well-earned wine tasting. They tasted about 15 wines, some familiar, some completely new blends.
On the final day Gerald, Debs and Rob took a drive with Felipe to a restaurant called Boca do Inferno. It is located where the Lisbon estuary and the Atlantic Ocean meet and is named after a cave behind the restaurant that the locals refer to as Hell’s mouth. Turbot, Calamari and seafood platters were plentiful, as was the wine. A brilliant end to the trip.
If you want to take a closer look at DFJ Vinho’s wines that Rude Wines stock head to https://www.rudewines.co.uk/producer/dfj-vinhos/
Here’s a video of grapes heading to the press
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