We lucked into this place entirely. Wine tours in Porto’s Gaia wine house district don’t tend to start until 11ish, but we don’t often let silly formalities like operating hours slow us down. With all the big, famous name Port wineries still shuttered we stumbled into this place by chance – and an open door.
Admittedly, the early arrival got us invited to, oddly, “relax” in the restroom while folks pulled themselves together. An older German couple straight out of central casting joined us (i.e. rude, cranky, weird older man in ill-fitting and awkward neo-90’s techno tank top and shorts accompanied by very kind, cordial wife with spiky red hair). Our tour guide, Isabel Santos, took just a few minutes to shake off last night’s partying cob-webs before launching into a well-rehearsed (but not tired) introduction to the history of the family wine house. A beneficiary of one of the world’s oldest zoning charters – 1756 by Portugal’s beloved Marques de Pombal – the property in Sabrosa along the Pinhão river produces an average of 40,000 bottles a year. The Quinta was acquired by the Queiroz Cardoso family in 1989 and has since remained in the family (with a few small enlargements) and is planted in an 80/20 red to white ratio, with the exact makeup of the varietals – like with the wines – something of a secret.
Isabel never missed a chance to needle some of the nearby “multi-national” wine houses for not being Portuguese enough, or abandoning old world artisanal methods for mechanized and sterile (perhaps too) modern methods. A particularly excellent feature of the tour was her willingness to dive down as deeply as their secret recipes would allow into winemaking and grape-growing minutiae, on request. I tried to not make the tour laborious for my companions, but did take the chance to ask a few advanced questions – questions which Isabel was able to answer concisely.
The tasting room at this wine house is stellar. One could make an afternoon of it by ordering food and other goodies. Some light snacks and a generous introductory tasting were included with the tour. Again, Isabel knocked this out of the park, appropriately generous and thorough with both pourings and knowledge. Unlike many other wine houses, Corvos offers up tastings of anything they make, if for a very reasonable price on several of the older, more advanced offerings. My comment on the likely malvasia content of the white ports (airy salinity that balances out the usual cloying sweetness of white port) won a knowing squint from Isabel, before simply commenting that she couldn’t really comment. I opted to go deep into some of the Vintages, as well as the 20 year old white port. Ultimately, I walked with a bottle of 1996 Vintage (the year I first visited Lisbon), a bottle of the 20 year white, and a bottle of their cosecha. If you only have time for one wine house tour while in Porto, make this the one . . . and don’t miss it if you’re piling up visits. Oh, and in case it isn’t already obvious, ask for Isabel.
Quinta dos Corvos, Rua Guilherme Gomes Fernandes nº 63, 4400-175, Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto), Portugal