Douro Boys: The best of Portuguese wine in Macau

Douro Boys: The best of Portuguese wine in Macau

The oldest and most traditional Portuguese wines are thriving in the former colony of Macau

You have to hand it to the Douro Boys. In a story that makes you want to jack the job in, plunder the pension and go and buy a vineyard in Europe, they have been credited with putting old-school Portuguese wine on the map, and they've done it all on their own. As one of the oldest and most traditional demarcate wine regions in the world, the Douro in Portugal was not exactly a stand-out applicant to compete with the hyper-marketed new age of modern wine and its wineries. But then in 2002 these five quintas (a quinta is the Portuguese equivalent of a French chateau) decided to get together, gave themselves a funky moniker, and began to travel the world. Now, one of the Douru Boys' most important markets is former Portuguese colony Macau. 

The five wineries are all very high quality producers, though all with their own distinct wine styles: Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Vale Meao, Niepoort and Quinta Vale D. Maria. They feted the media -- including influential wine writer Robert Parker and revered magazine Wine Spectator -- and began to take Portuguese wine to the world's drinkers. 

杜羅男孩、葡萄牙葡萄酒In the April 2010 edition of Wine Spectator magazine, five out of the top 10 wines from Portugal came from the Douro Boys, with points ranging from 94 to 96 (out of 100). “Very rich and balanced”, “finely crafted” and “hard to resist” gushed the reviewer. Although interesting wines can be found all over Portugal, the Douro is recognized as the premier region. Traditionally it was only known for port, but table wines began to emerge in the 1970s, made with the same grapes as port -- and sometimes reminiscent of port aromas -- but finishing very dry. 

Evolution, not revolution

“It is sad to realize that we have no incentives or help from the Portuguese government to promote our wines,” says Miguel Roquette, whose family owns Quinta do Crasto. “I believe that Portuguese wines will truly succeed one day but this might take a bit longer than expected since very little is being done to promote our wines."

One perhaps surprising success story is Macau. According to Joao Ferreira Alvares Ribeiro, owner of Quinta do Vallado, Macau joins Portugal, Brazil and Angola as one of the four most important world markets for Portuguese wine. In spite of the on-going transformation of Macau into an international city, aspects of Portuguese culture still thrive, and one of those is wine. Who would have thought that, 11 years after the handover, Portuguese wine would still account for more than half of wine imports. This is great news for Macau-bound wine consumers, since the quality of Portuguese wine has shot up in the last decade, but still offers tremendous value for money. Most wine distributors are committed to the continued marketing of Portuguese wine, and it is highly visible in shops and on restaurant wine lists.

Miguel believes the potential for the Macau market is great, and the Boys probably have their minds set on seeing their top reserve wines -- perhaps offered on a complimentary basis to VIPs -- in casinos alongside the likes of Chateau Petrus. But “it is taking time” comments Joao. “That is why Robert Parker is so important”. 

Top wines from Douro

Barca Velha
Quinta da Noval
Quinta de la Rosa

Where to buy wine in Macau

Pavilions supermarket (Avenida da Praia Grande 429, Macau. Tel: +853 2833 3633) has an entire basement floor devoted to wine, the vast majority of it Portuguese. These are three very good Douro Boys red wines at different price points.
Vallado Douro 2007 (red) $148
Meandro 2007 (second wine of Quinta da Vale Meao) $265
Redoma 2007 (red, from Niepoort) $420

Top Portuguese wine lists in Macau restaurants

Antonio (Portuguese food): Rua dos Negociantes No 3, Taipa, Macau. Tel: +853 2899 9998
Clube Militar (Portuguese food): Avenida da Praia Grande 975, Macau. Tel: +853 2871 4000
Educational Restaurant (Portuguese, Macanese and international food): Instituto de Formacao Turistica (IFT), Colina de Mong-Ha, Macau. Tel: +853 8598 3077

Convivium leader of Slow Food Hong Kong and a member of Hong Kong Wine Society, Annabel Jackson is a food and wine educator, consultant, journalist, and is the author of nine books.

Read more about Annabel Jackson