Tawny port and orange slices

Apr 13, 12 Tawny port and orange slices
Tiago, his tawny and the oranges

Tiago, his tawny and the oranges

I never know what interesting food and wine combinations I’m going to come across but one of the more unlikely pairings, to me anyway, was 10 yr old tawny port and fresh orange slices.  They was presented as dessert at lunch while we were visiting Quinta da Gaviosa in the Douro Valley.

I was in the Douro with Discover the Origin to well, discover the wines of the Douro (ok, I guess I was discovering the origins, didn’t want to be too obvious there – #fail). Anyway, we had wound our way through the rather steep hills of the Douro to visit the father/son wine making team of Domingo and Tiago Alves de Sousa of Quinta da Gaivosa. Unfortunately, as so often happens on press trips, we were running late and so Domingo had to rush off to Porto for a wine maker’s dinner. Tiago however, was able to stay and give us a grand tour of their vineyards and explain a bit about the land.

the "abandoned" vineyard

the “abandoned” vineyard

Quinta da Gaivosa’s vines are perched high on the steep  hillsides and many of the vines are over 80 years old. It’s this longevity that gives their wines such concentration. I shot a short video of Tiago explaining the soil and climate of the region. Some of you may have seen it already as I inadvertently posted it as a stand alone video here last week:

Many of the vines at Quinta da Gaivosa are as I mentioned over 80 years old and there is one vineyard in particular that Tiago is not even sure how old it is,  he thinks it’s over 100 years old but no one is sure as it was an abandonded vineyard. Tiago discovered it one day and decided to see what the vines would supply. We took a drive up to the top of the hill where the abandoned vines were and he has left it much as he found it. There are big gaps between the gnarled, stubby vine trunks and honestly, they did look rather pathetic under the bright sunlight.

Abandonado 2009

Abandonado 2009

Tiago has tidied up the vineyard a bit but hasn’t done much else. He just lets the vines produce what they can.The wine he makes is called a “field blend” because they don’t know exactly all of the grape varieties that are in the vineyard. It’s actually quite common in these old vineyards to have field blends because back in the day, they just planted what they could and hoped for the best. I was speaking to another Douro winemaker and he told me that often vines that were planted haphazardly actually fared better when times were tough because the vines helped each other out.  Tiago thinks there were about 20 different varieties in the small Abandonado vineyard.  He says they average about 1 bunch per vine. He calls his wine Abandonado, after the vineyard. We tried the 2009 Abandonado in the friendly winery tasting room. Tiago hadn’t tasted it in awhile but he found it developing well, minty, smoky notes on the  nose and tasting it, it’s still a very young wine, tight on the palate with herbal and fruity flavours. Tiago thinks it  has a long way to go but it will mature into a wonderful wine.

It was a fun afternoon, driving up and down the steep roads of the vineyard dirt roads, visiting abandoned vines and tasting the fruits of their labours. There is so much more to the Douro Valley then vintage port and I look forward to discovering more. Despite it being the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, there always seems to be something new and exciting.

Domingo Alves de Sousa

Domingo Alves de Sousa


  1. Thanks for taking us along on this vineyard visit. I was particularly intrigued by the pairing you enjoyed with Tiago of fresh oranges and tawny port. I’ve found that fresh fruits and are very difficult to pair with most wines, but that fortified wines often do the trick, because the intensity of the alcohol (and often, their sweetness) is a great foil for the acidity and sweetness of the fruit. I’ll have to try this one!

    • Honestly, that was the first time I’ve had fresh fruit with a wine that enhanced both the fruit and wine. I often find either the fruit gets washed away or the wine does, but this combo worked really well. I think it also helped that the oranges had just been plucked off the tree!

  2. Nice article. Big fan of Portuguese. I can’t quite imagine fresh oranges and tawny port going well together but I do have some candied orange peel covered in chocolate that I am now going to try with some tawny port. But I will try it with some fresh oranges too.

    • Honestly, I didn’t think it would work either but if you try it with very sweet, very ripe Portuguese oranges, it is fantastic!

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