There are certain wines that are completely transportive from even the first sniff. It almost feels like you are inhaling not the scent of the wine, but a memory — of a particular place, a particular meal, or a particular moment. A wave of nostalgia jumps out of the glass and washes over you so suddenly sometimes that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the wine is evoking. For me, this happens most often with Douro reds, almost certainly due to one unforgettable week I spent working harvest in the region that unveiled to me a whole new world of wine possibilities. It’s not every Douro wine that sends my senses to a steep plot of vines, overlooking the quietly flowing river swathed in the jeweled tones of sunset as a slight chill sets in. Only the ones that truly have a sense of place have that power, and the Quinta de la Rosa Tinto 2013 is one of them.
The Douro, located about 90 minutes inland from the city of Porto, Portugal, is located along the river of the same name, where terraced vineyards cut into slopes that rise above the water. This region is the home of the famed fortified Port wine, but with the decreasing demand for sweet, dessert wine in recent years, winemakers have been producing more dry table wine instead. While all colors of wine are made in the Douro, red wine is the most predominant, made from the same grape varieties that historically went into Port: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, and more.
Quinta de la Rosa was one of the first wineries to put serious effort into their table wines, and it shows; the Quinta de la Rosa Tinto is the perfect example of excellent yet approachable Douro tinto (language lesson of the day: “tinto” is simply Portuguese for “red”). It’s fuller-bodied but smooth and concentrated but fresh, with dark blackberry, bitter chocolate, violet, and bitter herbal notes. Somehow it manages to be rich, seductive, and structured, but with clean acidity to keep the palate from being too cloying. Best of all, it’s a crowd-pleaser with a sub-$20 price tag; it’s big enough to satisfy Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot lovers, round enough to satisfy Malbec lovers, and fresh enough to satisfy Pinot Noir lovers. And for me, it has that extra little je ne sais quoi that can only be tied to an individual experience, but you never know — maybe it’ll be there for you, too.