Dear Friend of Port Wines:
Let’s start this day with a little quiz…:
1) Please give me the name of an outstanding Port Wine producer that is based in the small town Santa Marta de Penaguião.
2) Which Port Wine producer might be better known in China than in England, after winning the gold medal of “China Wines & Spirits Award” in 2013 for the 20 year old Tawny and two bronze medals at the same competition for their White Port and 10 Year old Tawny, while being named the 7th place in “Wine in China” Top 100 Wines competition in 2012 for their Tawny?
3) Which Port Wine producer is providing the official Port Wines for the football clubs of FC Porto and Benfica?
4) Which Port Wine producer sells a 30 and a 40 year old Tawny, but no LBV or Vintage Port?
5) Which company sells annually 300,000 liter of wine (and most of it is Port Wine) but wasn’t even mentioned in Richard Mayson’s “Port & Douro”?
Well, most likely you don’t know the answers to all 5 questions. And maybe not even to 4 or 3 or 2 questions…
I must admit that I was dozens of times in the Douro Valley, without ever visiting Santa Marta de Penaguião. For me, the Port Wine country started in Regua… However, I was wrong. There is a very interesting producer, just north of Regua.
“MARTHA’S WINES” is a company owned by the Portuguese Marta family; a family with amazing long lasting ties to the Douro. Their oldest vineyard belongs since 1727 to the family (this is by the way the year that Sir Isaac Newton died – even if these two events might not be related, it kind of shows that the vineyards are a really incredible long time in the hands of the Marta family). Originally the grapes were sold to other wine producers – but since six generations the Marta’s make their own wines. By the way: “Martha’s Wines” is the answer to all the five questions above. They are a very traditional company – but also a company with an impressive international flair.
They are traditional in that regard that they focus on the production of Tawny Ports. They don’t have any Vintage Ports or even LBV’s in their product offering – yes, there is a “normal” Ruby for sale, which is quite pleasant and very well to drink – but they decided to let the “English” shippers produce the high-end Rubies, while Martha’s takes care of the high end Tawny Ports. It might be that a Late Bottled Vintage will be launched at some point of time – but this is not really due to a shift in the business model, but rather due to the curiosity and creativity at “Martha’s Wines” and should be considered as an experiment. While many other producers in the Douro hurry up to get a few still wines into their offering, Martha’s Wines decided not to jump on that train… well, not quite true, they do produce still wines (white and also red), with the beautiful name “Fogo no Chão” and a very distinct label – however, this is another “experiment” and while it’s quite solid, the family would never consider to use their best grapes for still wine rather than for Tawnies.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit this small winery and to taste many of their wines. Equally as nice as the wines was to see is how well the change from one generation to the next happens in this family. We have seen a few years ago how difficult it can be for a family company to survive if the children don’t want to be involved with the business – which was the reason why Wiese & Krohn didn’t see any other possibility than to sell its business to Taylor’s. Manuel Pedro Marta is still very much involved with the company and is for example still the winemaker; however, his children Rita and Pedro having taken over most other responsibilities. The son Pedro is now managing the company and its day-to-day activities; he is also in charge for the distribution into the Portuguese market. His sister Rita focuses on the export-markets. Both have studied business and that experience plus a passion for the wine and the Douro Valley makes a vibrant and dynamic mix, combining traditional values with modern thoughts. It’s good to see that the new generation can roam and put their creativity to good use. The bottles of Martha’s Wines are really something special – they have many very uniquely shaped bottles that look to me like collector’s items; they have many interesting labels – and especially the Italian Decanter-style bottles are absolutely stunning and great gift-ideas.
Rita lived for nearly a decade in China and speaks Mandarin; she returned only a few months ago to Portugal to run the international side of the company. She did a fantastic job promoting their wines to Asia – and while many other Port producers evaluate their options how to get into the Chinese market, I have the feeling that Martha’s Wines has already arrived over there.
It’s nice to see that even a small family company can become successful in the massive Chinese market, by having a passionate person on the ground. The above mentioned Chinese awards show that the brand “Martha’s Wines” is well known in Asia.
However, Europe is still the main market for Martha’s, especially Portugal and the Benelux countries. Currently Martha’s Wines is trying to get its foot also into the US-market.
Which are the most interesting wines from MARTHA? Well, my absolute favourite in the 30 year old Port. With most other Port producers, I love their 40 year old Tawnies but because they are expensive, I normally buy the 20 year old Tawnies… However, with Martha’s, I really do like the 30 year old wine and this is also the wine that I would buy for myself. The nose of this wine is just marvellous, and the nutty taste is exactly what I’m looking for in an old Tawny. A well rounded, complex wine that lingers for a long time in your mouth.
However, don’t overlook the 10 year old Tawny. Already a very nice, complex aroma for a 10 year old wine – and of course quite reasonably priced.
My third favourite wine is the Colheita 2006 – a very “smoky” nose, for such a young Colheita already a surprisingly well defined Tawny-aroma. Quite sweet. Only 1,000 bottles were released this year – so better hurry up to find one of them…
So far, most of my preferred Moscatels came of course from the region around Favaios – however, Martha’s Wines is producing a Moscatel that doesn’t need to hide behind any other Moscatel… It’s just a really well-made wine that gets it all right: The nose, the sweetness, the acidity – everything comes nicely together. When I saw the price of it, I couldn’t believe it – it’s another proof that Portuguese wines are often sold way to cheap. For a few Euros you get such a nice bottle – if you find one, just get it – you will not regret it.
Discovering this producer after being interested in Port Wine for so many years shows me what a great region the Douro-Valley is and how fantastic Port Wine is. There is always more to be discovered… I will visit Santa Marta de Penaguião more often in the future – and the 30 year old Tawny from Martha will be for sure one of the wines that I will open this year on Christmas Day. It is so good…
Web-Page: Martha’s Wines
Contact: Travessa S. Gonçalo nº 2, S. João de Lobrigos, 5030 – 428 – Santa Marta de Penaguião, Portugal
Phone: +351 254 828 095