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New points system to grade Douro table wines

Published:  23 July, 2008

Three years after the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP) took control of Douro table wines for the first time, it has changed its labelling regulations, with every wine now being marked out of 20.

The new regulations will involve a tasting chamber trying wines blind, and the score each one receives will determine how it can be described on the bottle. A wine that scores

10 points can be classified as Regional Wine; 11 points can bear the term Douro DOC; those scoring 12-13 are eligible for Reserva; and 14 and over for Grandes Reservas. A Grande Reserva wine may also bear the terms Colheita Seleccionada, Grande Escolha or Reserva Especial. A wine that receives fewer than 10 points is rejected.

Paulo Pinto, IVDP marketing director, told Harpers that at the moment, Reserva' on the label only means that the wine has one degree of alcohol more than a lesser wine from the same company, but the perception is that it has been aged in oak and/or for a long time.

He said: We will start analysing Douro wines as we started analysing Ports. Before, it was a straight yes-or-no decision, and now it is on a 20-point scale. Now, there is a relationship between the criteria of labelling and the quality level of a wine. Before, you could have had a Reserva wine of less quality and less elegance than a regular Colheita wine from another company, and this would not be good.'

It is not mandatory for producers to put the new terms on their bottles, although to qualify for Reserva or Grande Reserva status, all wines must have been aged for at least one year. Companies will also be afforded a one-year grace period to make the changes.

In addition, the IVDP has scrapped terms such as escolha', superior' and velho' (choice', superior' and old', respectively).

Gauging reaction to the changes proved difficult, as not one of the producers spoken to seemed to know anything about them. The most enlightening comment came from Rute Monteiro of Quinta do Noval, who described the changes as a bit bizarre'.

The other implication will be on wines that currently have the name Reserva in their title, such as Ramos Pinto's Reserva Especial, which will now need to score at least 14 points to continue to use the term.

But Pinto (of the IVDP) added: I think we've taken a huge step in introducing this evaluation, and in time, people will understand these categories.'