A fresh spring morning and we are up early for our drive to the Douro. It’s a long climb up from the coast to Vila Real but the wide sweeping curves of the motorway reward us with fabulous views across the Serra do Alvão and the blue ridges of Tras-os-montes beyond.
Before long we have driven through Favaios and pull into the neat cobbled yard at Quinta da Faísca with its signature blue Bedford truck parked outside an impressive schist and glass building. We are met by Rui da Cunha, a well-known oenologist for a number of wineries in Portugal as well as part of the three-man team making Secret Spot wines.
Faísca means spark or lightning and the Quinta is perched on a plateau high above Pinhão on the Douro river. Like many of the quintas around Favaios they grow Moscatel Gallego Branco (Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains) which thrives on the weathered schist which hangs onto moisture. This moisture along with the elevation helps to maintain the intense ripe and floral aromas of Moscatel, a terroir that Rui describes as the Grand cru for Moscatel !
A tour of the pristine winery reveals a layout based on gravity with the shallow granite and schist lagars on the entrance level where the grapes are brought from the sorting tables to be foot trodden, and the stainless steel tanks and oak barrels on the level below. It is chilly in the adega, but this temperature difference is vital for maintaining freshness of the Moscatels during those searing Douro summers.
We are led into a warm tasting room with full height windows across the vineyards and Rui and his associate Hugo Linton point out the various parcels of vines on the surrounding slopes. First up we sampled wines from the Vale da Poupa range (Poupa means Hoopoe, a tiny crested north African bird) and then the Lacrau range which means scorpion !
The wines were all elegant and well-crafted; my take-home wines were cases of the delightful Vale da Poupa Moscatel Gallego 2015 with its ripe floral and tropical fruit character and the Lacrau Old vines red 2013 which had wonderful strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavours, more elegant and restrained than the Douro wines from the valley below because of the cooler conditions.
I also treated myself to some 10 year old Moscatel do Douro. Favaios is famous for its fortified Moscatels which are made like port wines; the fermentation is stopped with a slug of grape brandy giving a sweeter and more alcoholic wine. The Secret Spot version is a deep amber colour with orange peel, caramel and grippy acidity. An exciting addition to my growing wine cellar !
So… Secret Spot – what is that all about ?? Rui explained this intriguing concept, each year Rui, Hugo and Gonçalo Lopes make wines from different parcels of vines in the Douro (and sometimes as far afield as Rioja). The top of the wine bottle is marked with a different coloured dot to signify the secret location. We tried the Secret Spot 2013 and I hazarded a guess that it was made from vines grown close to the river in the valley below, but Rui only responded with an enigmatic smile, he was giving nothing away !