João Nicolau de Almeida is at it again. The man who modernized the Douro, studied its native varietals, pioneered vertical planting in its slopes, and created some of the region’s most famous wines (Duas Quintas, for instance) retired from Ramos Pinto in 2015, but has not stopped striving for greatness. (It is not surprising considering his family history: his mother’s family owned much of Ramos Pinto and his father created the iconic Barca Velha). He is now making one of Portugal’s most elegant wines, the Quinta do Monte Xisto.
Beginning in the early 90’s, through 15 years and 20 land deals, João slowly acquired 40 hectares in an eastern part of the Douro Superior near the mouth of the Côa River. In 2005 he started planting grapes on a schistous outcrop overlooking the river at 200-300m elevation, with north and south-facing slopes; there are now 10 hectares under vine with the native grapes he historically helped to identify and study. The work on the land has been a mix of biodynamic and organic practices since the beginning.
The family built a winery into the schist near the vineyard, and there he makes the wine with his sons João and Mateus (of our newly arrived Trans Douro Express and Eremitas wines). The fruit is foot-trodden in stone lagars and ferments spontaneously before 18 months’ aging in 600L barrels, mostly French, with some barrels from Austria.