The Douro Valley extends across northern Portugal and into Spain, a deep cleft along the Douro River that creates precipitous vineyards where terraces have been used for hundreds of years to create level strips of ground where vines can grow. The primarily schist soils are barren and low in nutrients. The climate is hot, but much depends on elevation and aspect in the vineyards—higher elevation fruit ripens later, while lower, south-facing fruit ripens sooner. The Serra do Marão creates a barrier at the Atlantic coast that blocks rains from the ocean, causing progressively drier conditions as the Douro Valley proceeds east toward the Spanish border.
Port producers typically work with suppliers carefully selected from among the hundreds that grow grapes in the Douro Valley. Wines from the Taylor Fladgate quintas of Vargellas and Terra Feita supply about 14% of the company’s total requirements each harvest and are destined almost exclusively for the declared vintage, single-quinta and aged tawny Portos. The balance is supplied by vineyards in the superior growing areas of the Douro under long-term agreement to Taylor Fladgate. These wines are used principally in Taylor’s young wood and vintage character ports.
Quinta de Vargellas is the backbone of Taylor Fladgate’s declared vintage Portos, lending them consistency and defining their style. In the best undeclared years, Quinta de Vargellas stands on its own as a single-quinta vintage Porto.
Vargellas was originally, in the early 1800s, three separate properties: The upper portion, Quinta do Vale; the middle portion, Quinta de Vargellas-do-Meio; and the lower portion, known by the several names of Quinta de Vargellas-de-Baixo, Quinta de Galega and Quinta do Brito. Documents substantiate that an 1808 vintage wine, possibly among those that surfaced in London in the 1820s, mentioned above, was produced from Quinta de Vargellas-do-Meio. Sometime between 1850 and 1890, the vineyards were consolidated into a single property. In 1893, on the heels of the arrival of the phylloxera epidemic, Taylor Fladgate purchased Vargellas in a state of near ruin; its yield in that year was barely 5% of current production. Today it is an A-rated vineyard, with 103 acres of vines planted on its steep, northeast-facing terraced slopes descending precipitously to the banks of the Douro.
Taylor Fladgate’s other vineyard is the A-rated, 217-acre Quinta de Terra Feita, a spectacular south-facing amphitheater on the west bank of the Pinhão River; this quinta contributes to the vintage port in declared years. Purchased in 1974, it has long been an important source of vintage-quality wines for Taylor Fladgate. It now has 126 acres planted to vines.
Purchased in 1998, Quinta do Junco is 82 acres (48 planted to vines) located near Quinta de Terra Feita in the Pinhão River Valley. The property is being developed to include vertical planting of the classic Porto grapes, a technique that Taylor Fladgate helped pioneer in the Douro.