Sandra Tavares da Silva and husband Jorge Serodio Borges already had pretty impressive CVs when, in 2001, they embarked on Wine & Soul, their own project in Portugal's Pinhão Valley. A combination of prodigious talent and enthusiasm has resulted in iconic wines which already have an ardent following. Sandra is winemaker at both Vale Dona Maria with Cristiano Van Zellar and her family home, Quinta de Chocapalha in Estremadura. Jorge, formerly winemaker at Niepoort, works on a number of new projects in the Douro as well as Quinta do Passadouro. It was clearly only a matter of time, and finding the right site, before they would set up on their own. They initially bought a wonderful, old port lodge and rebuilt the lagares (stone troughs). In the beginning they purchased fruit from selected sites in the Pinhão Valley until in 2003 they bought a spectacular vineyard, planted with ancient, 76-year-old vines, across thirty varieties.
Photo: Sandra Tavares da Silva and Jorge Serodio Borges
Set in the Vale de Mendiz, the vineyard is south-facing, a steeply-sloped two hectares of old vines. The vineyard is spectacular and presents a hugely complex yet challenging palette of aromatics. Sorting is essential and has to be absolutely ruthless. With up to thirty different varieties, maturing at different times, skills are required here which are not required in other wine-producing areas. The grapes are de-stemmed, fermented in traditional concrete lagares and foot-trodden, then the wine is transported to barrels for malolactic fermentation, in 70% new oak.
Pintas – the wines
The first vintage, 2001, was produced with bought-in grapes but, by 2003, Sandra and Jorge owned their own vineyard. Pintas is a luscious, opulent, seductive red, modern yet with a classical feel that sees twenty months in oak, 70% of which is new. The oak requires an enormous investment but plays second fiddle to the concentration of fruit, this allied to a vibrant, freshness and highlighted by a flourish of pepper.
2003 also saw the first Pintas vintage port – a lovely wine, rich, heady and beautifully balanced.
In 2004, Pintas Guru arrived on the scene, a white blend. This is from a 46-year-old vineyard planted with indigenous varietals Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato and Códega do Larinho. Seductively rich, Guru is, nonetheless, very precise and pure with a lovely granitic minerality.
In order to match rising demand whilst protecting the integrity of Pintas, Sandra and Jorge now produce a new blend, Pintas Character. This is from old vineyards around Pintas, planted with up to thirty varieties. The grapes are foot-trodden in lagares in the traditional manner and aged for eighteen months in 50% new wood and 50% one year old.
Pintas – the winemakers’s backgrounds
Sandra Tavares da Silva was born in the Azores and brought up in Lisbon, where she studied oenology. Sandra then went on to Italy, where she achieved a masters degree in the same field. In 1999, leaving her former supermodel status well behind her, Sandra joined Cristiano Van Zellar, as winemaker, at Dona Maria in the Rio Torto Valley, in the upper Douro. Along with her parents, she then elected to resurrect the family cellars in the Estremadura, Quinta de Chocapalha, in order to make their own wine there. Jorge, meanwhile, had graduated in oenology from Vila Real University and originally worked for his family’s property Quinta do Fojo before joining Niepoort in 1999. This was a tremendous period to be involved in shaping the iconic, trailblazing wines for which Dirk Niepoort is famous. The birth of Pintas, in a resurrected Niepoort Port Lodge, preceded Jorge’s departure from Niepoort in 2004. He is now working on other projects, including Quinta do Passadouro, formerly made by Niepoort. A wealth of combined experience therefore underpins Jorge and Sandra’s joint project – Pintas – (or Wine & Soul as they named the company).