FIRST PORT OF CALL
“Heritage is doubly important for us,” says Sergio Marly, CEO of Sogevinus, the parent company of Kopke. “We’re based in the Douro region in northern Portugal, the world’s first demarcated wine region, established in 1756.” But Kopke predates even that – established in 1638, it is the oldest Port wine house.
Kopke wines have been made in the same way for centuries, marrying a number of wines that have been cask-aged for an average of 10 years. These are rich, silky smooth wines with flavours that have been compared to raisined fruit, Christmas cakes and honey.
“Kopke was the world’s first specialist in tawny Port, and it remains unique,” says Sergio. “We see the palate as lush and smooth, with hints of white chocolate, caramel, almond and hazelnuts.” Kopke’s portfolio also includes other varieties of Port and Douro DOC still wines. It is a leader in Old Colheitas and is known for its unique collection of Old White Ports, all packaged in an iconic black bottle with a hand-painted label.
The story of Kopke dates back to the 1630s, when the German businessman Nicolau Kopke was stationed in Lisbon as a Consul General of the Hanseatic League, and started to import Port back to his native Hamburg, eventually establishing the Kopke brand with his father Cristian. In the 1780s, Kopke purchased a vineyard in the Douro region and started making its own wine.
Quinta São Luiz, on the left bank of the River Douro, is where Kopke’s wines are produced. It features 125 hectares of carefully nurtured and often very old vines. This geography offers advantages. “The plunging valleys allow vines to be grown from an altitude of 70 metres, by the river, right up to 600 metres on the ridges,” says Sergio. “It’s an immensely diverse terroir.” Douro’s mineral profiles and microclimates have resulted in 115 indigenous grape varieties, with a wine-growing region divided into three: Baixo Corgo (with a fresher climate), Cima Corgo (the heart of Douro region, where most Port grapes are grown) and Douro Superior (warmer, near the Spanish border). Blending these grapes, says Sergio, is like an orchestral performance.
“We honour values like know-how, quality and refinement,” he says. “The Portuguese wine industry has made huge advances recently. Now we have the technology and the tradition.”