In 1991, when Margarida Serodio-Borges started wine-making in her family vineyard of Quinta do Fojo, she had one grand ambition. “It wasn’t just to produce the best Portuguese wine, it was to be compared alongside the very finest wines in the world,” she says. “It’s what I’ve worked for ever since the beginning.”
The vineyard, situated in the valley of the Pinhão River in the Douro’s Cima Corgo sub-region, supplied grapes for Port wine for many years. In 1996, when her grandfather died and Margarida took over the property, she started thinking that she might have the right terroir to produce a top-quality, high-end red wine. “I was used to the vineyard, because I was producing Port wine from the grapes,” she says. “I knew the fruit very well.”
Three factors elevate Quinta do Fojo wine above others in the Douro, receiving the highest level of points (95 to 97) on the Robert Parker international wine-quality scale. The altitude is ideal, between 250 and 350 metres above sea level, meaning that it is neither too high nor too low, which affects the concentration and balance of the wine. Also, explains Margarida, the 100-year-old vineyard does not face south, which would mean too much heat. And lastly, the grape variety blend has a high percentage of one of the finest grapes, Tinta Roriz.
“It’s an excellent grape but it doesn’t give the same results in all places,” says Margarida. “It needs the right place to get the best out of it. Fortunately, the Fojo terroir is perfect for the grape to thrive. Wehave delicate, elegant aromas but we have depth and power in the wine. It has balance and complexity.” Margarida’s intimate, long-standing relationship with the vines and the land has led to an extraordinary product. She lives at the property during harvest time, tastes three times a day, and spends time at all points of the fermentation process, altering the evolution of the wine as she goes. It is a small company and she is the owner, winemaker and chief strategist, entwined in the journey of the wine every step of the way.
Unlike many wine producers who buy in grapes or wine, Quinta do Fojo relies simply on the fruits from the vineyard, sticking to traditional methods of wine-making. This ensures that the provenance is utterly assured. “It’s another kind of thinking and philosophy and work,” says Margarida. “The quality of your work is going to define the result of that vineyard.”
Margarida makes one wine a year, either Fojo or Vinha do Fojo, from the old vineyards of the property. “When it’s a year when I couldn’t ask more from the vintage I classify it as Fojo,” she says. The 2013, which will be released in 2019, is a Fojo year.
The vineyard has produced grapes for many generations of Margarida’s family, dating back to the 17th century and perhaps even further. “I’m one generation of so many. This property knew members of my family that I could never have hoped to meet. It knows much more than I possibly could.”
With this comes a deep respect for the land and the vines, and a philosophy that focuses on producing one stunning bespoke wine a year, using purely the grapes from the vineyard. “My work is to follow the fermentation, to lead without creating, transforming the grapes into world-beating wine from this vineyard,” she says. “I think I understand this vineyard very well.”