"We combine traditional methods with modern techniques to produce a range of high quality Ports"
La Rosa makes all of its Port in the traditional way by treading the grapes by foot in stone granite treading tanks known as lagares. We firmly believe that this age old technique still produces the best Port despite advances in Port vinification technology. La Rosa's four granite lagares date back to when the property was first bought and have been modernised to include both temperature control and an automated cap pusher.
On arrival at the winery the grapes are inspected, sorted and de-stemmed. The amount of de-stemming varies each year depending on the ripeness of the stalk. The grapes are then gravity-fed, to prevent any unnecessary maceration of the berries, into one of the four granite lagares.
The first stage of treading, called the corte or cut, starts in the evening of the day that the grapes are picked. The treaders link up shoulder to shoulder and march in a steady rhythm across the lagar as the foreman calls time "um, dois". It is a methodical process of pacing back and forth to ensure the grapes are thoroughly crushed to release the juice and pulp from their skins. After two hours there is a short break and then "liberdade", freedom, is declared. The atmosphere immediately changes, the music starts up and the treaders either dance, chat or sing while slowly treading or dancing on the grapes.
The treading continues every evening for three to four nights with on average two people per pipe (equivalent to 550 litres) of must. Depending on the ambient temperature, the fermentation, the process where yeast consumes sugar to produce alcohol, starts within a few days. We rely on the natural yeasts on the grapes to start the fermentation and only inoculate our table wines with cultured yeasts.
Given the short fermentation time when making Port, we find that the human foot is the perfect tool to extract all the flavours and colour into the must. Treading is a gentle, maceration which many of the automated systems have failed to replicate. It is also important not to crack or crush the grape pips as they can release bitter flavours into the must - once more the human foot is well designed for this task!
Once the fermentation starts a cap of grape skins and seeds rises to the top of the lagares. We continue treading and also use mechanical inox paddles which push down the cap extracting further flavours, tannins and colour into the must.
Our winemaking team carefully regulates the temperature of the fermenting must maintaining an approximate temperature of 28º C. Higher temperatures will cause the fermentation to shut down and can encourage the growth of unwanted bacteria. If temperatures become elevated cold water is pumped through radiators on the sides of the lagares thereby cooling the must.
Throughout the vintage, Jorge, our winemaker, continually assesses the progress of the fermenting lagares. He smells, feels and tastes the must as well as taking sugar measurements to establish the time when fortification will occur. When a reading of approximately 7º Beaume is reached the must is drained off and the grape spirit or aguardente is added. This colourless neutral spirit kills the yeast arresting the fermentation which leaves some of the natural sweetness of the grape in the finished wine.
Great care is taken at La Rosa to choose the highest quality aguardente for the fortification of our Ports. We aim to use a neutral, flavourless grape spirit, approximately 70 % proof, which will not impart any intruding flavours to the Port. The IVDP approves the spirit to be used every year which we normally source from France or Spain.
The fortified must is then gravity fed into oak tonels (casks) holding between
10 to 30 pipes (5,500 - 16,500 litres) where it is matured until ready for bottling or blending. Quinta de La Rosa has one of the largest lodges for storing Port in the Douro with a capacity of 800 pipes. Albert Feuerhuerd, Sophia's great grandfather, saw the potential and future of making Single Quinta Ports and built the "armazem" or lodge in
the mid-1900's. Unlike the larger firms, where the Port is transported to lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, we are able to perform all our operations in situ from growing the grapes to the making, maturing and bottling of the wine. Full traceability from grapes to the bottled wines is therefore ensured.
Every lot of young wine made is evaluated to determine the final style of Port to be made.
Depending on its characteristics and overall quality, the young Port will be aged in wood
in tonels of varying sizes for different periods. This can be from 18 months for our Vintage Ports to ten years or more for our Tonel 12, ten year old tawny Port. Port, unlike wine, has a remarkable capacity for ageing and longevity which makes Port making a fascinating process with a myriad of different styles being produced.
For more information on the wider subject of viticulture follow this link.
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