In the late 1940s, a small boy on the banks of Portugal’s Douro River watched his grandfather plant a vine at the family property – an area that would grow to become one of Portugal’s biggest and most successful vineyards. Fast forward 70 years and the son of that little boy – Filipe Barros, part of the fourth generation who runs Dona Matilde – is preparing to release a special wine made from the very vine that was planted by his great-grandfather. “It will be a tribute from my father to his grandfather,” explains Filipe. “He still remembers the vine being planted when he was young. He is 74 now.”
Instead of being aged in oak barrels, much Dona Matilda wine – including its 2015 white – is fermented in stainless steel. “This secures the aromatics and exuberance of the wine,” says Filipe. “We wanted to produce a wine as close to the terroir as possible.”
Family knowledge and traditions have been passed down since 1927 to produce Port and DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada, referring to its origin) red and white wines from Dona Matilde’s vineyards, which have received an “A” rating from the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto. The family uses just Portuguese grape varieties in its wines (Arinto, Viosinho, Gouveio for white, and Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca for red, for example), and a field blend of 25 different varieties, which gives the wine a wonderful complexity.
The vines themselves are between 20 and 80 years old. Altitudes of between 50 and 250 metres give the wine exuberance, while the south-facing position gives heat. Many of the vines face the setting sun each day. “At the same time we’re close to the river and there is humidity, so we get a good balance of humidity and heat,” says Filipe. Gold medals from Decanter magazine and the International Wine Challenge are testament to the elegance, exuberance and quality of the wine. Dona Matilde is now imported into the UK by Peter Graham Wines.
For one of the oldest vineyards in the Douro region, Dona Matilde has decades of experience producing complex and rich wines. “We don’t follow the style of the market,” says Filipe. “We follow the terroir and produce wines that are appropriate to the terroir.”