We arrived at Restaurant DOC (between Pinhao and Regua) right after the sun had dipped below the hills but with still enough light to be outside for aperitif.
Our friends knew the chef and we asked him to recommend a dry Douro white. He recommended the Crasto Branco 2007 which none of us could finish one glass of. It had so much CO2 (and a touch of excessive SO2 !) that there was nothing left to taste.
So for the wine to accompany our meal, we took matters into our own hands. First we passed around 3 different wines ordered by the glass for us all to have a taste. The selection by the glass is very good (a great place to taste a variety of different wines to get a feel what is going on in the region)
We ordered the 2005 Niepoort Charme Douro Dry Red. It was served at 18°C and we requested that it be uncorked at the last minute. It smelled like a Village wine from the Cote de Nuits coming from a vintage of sunshine with lots of ripe cherry notes. The tannins and ripeness of fruit suggest southern heat (like Cote du Rhone).
Niepoort Charme 2005
We asked for the wine to be chilled a little, and it was re-served at 15°. The aromas became even more Burgundian and more explosive. Less cherries and more raspberries like from Vosne Romanée tasted from barrel at its most delicious moment.
It certainly tastes like a wine with ample amounts of new wood, rendering sweet vanilla aromas that combine well with pink fruits and flowers and soften the tannins magnificently.
Alarmingly delicious but quite expensive. I was very inspired by this wine to think of the promise that the Douro region has for dry reds.
One note: The bottle weighs a ton from expensive glassware. Not bulbously vulgar, but with a thick deep punt.
The English menu for food is very different from the Portuguese menu. But both offer an ample selection of fish carpaccio dishes as well as meats.
The cuisine was nothing revolutionary on global terms, but certainly some of the most fresh and innovative of any I had in restaurants on our 4 day visit.
It is exciting to see that this kind of restaurant can be found and be successful in the Douro Valley; an area with great beautiful hillsides and vistas, great wines, and an enormous tourist potential. It is a region that remains unknown and not particularly equipped for tourism.