For over two centuries, DOW is producing the finest Port from the vineyards of the Upper Douro Valley. Between 20th and 21st Century, the Symington family built on the legacy of the preceding Silva and Dow families. Generations of Symington winemakers have worked at the Dow’s vineyards. Dow’s superbly concentrated wines that are intense and tannic when young. In addition, maturing towards a superlative racy elegance with age and scented with violet and mint aromas. Dow’s attractive and distinctive drier finish is the recognisable hallmark of the wines from this great Port house.
In fact, majority of Port is using modern methods by state-of-the-art vinification technology. However, a small proportion is still using the time-honoured method of treading. In either system, fermentations are relatively short (two to three days) because Port is a fortified wine. Fortification involves the addition of natural grape spirit to the fermenting juice. They intentionally interrupts the fermentation process at a point. They interrupt when approximately half of the grapes’ natural sugar converted into alcohol. This accounts for Port’s characteristic rich, luscious style and also contributes to the wine’s considerable ageing potential. Given the short fermentation cycle it is crucial to extract as much flavour, colour and tannins as possible from the grape skins.
Dow’s continues to make some of its Port by treading in stone ‘lagares’ (shallow treading tanks). The Upper Douro is one of the last places in the world where maintaining the traditional treading. This is not done to entertain visitors but quite simply because it continues to produce some of the best Ports. However, the old lagares require manpower, an increasingly scarce resource in the Upper Douro and temperature control is difficult. In order to address these problems, Dow’s winemaking team developed the world’s first purpose built automated treading machine.
This ‘robotic lagar’ is a low and square stainless steel tank fitted with mechanical treading pistons whose gentle movements replicate the action of the human foot by actually treading the grapes against the floor of the tank, unlike other methods recently introduced to the Douro which simply push the ‘cap’ down into the juice beneath. Trials with the prototype started at Dow’s Sol winery during the 1998 vintage. They continued with further development during the 1999 vintage. By the 2001 harvest, they fitted three robotic lagares in the newly refurbished winery at Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira. Moreover, they were to immediately prove their worth, making simply outstanding wines.
They have produced Ports that surpass the quality of traditional foot treading lagares, while at the same time eliminating the latter’s shortcomings. The introduction of Dow’s robotic lagares has proven to be a landmark in winemaking in the Douro Valley.