Casa de Santa Eufémia
Located upstream from the river Corgo, in the subzone known as Cima (Higher) Corgo, sits Casa de Santa Eufémia a grower Port estate. An anomaly in a region where most producers source their grapes, Casa de Santa Eufémia was founded in 1894 by Bemardo Rodrigues de Carvalho, on the left bank of the Douro, in one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world. Growing grapes and producing port since then, it wasn’t until 1986 when Portugal joined the EU, that Casa de Santa Eufémia could legally vinify, bottle and sell or export the wine that it had been making for years.
No longer forced to sell its wine to local co-ops, Casa de Santa Eufémia was established as such in 1991. Originally with 100ha under vine, when the patriarch passed, the land was split between his two sons, who had 13 children each, including Pedro Carvalho and his sister Lucia who have farmed and vinified at Santa Eufémia’s 40ha estate since 1997.
Within the 30ha of field blends (of 20+ varietals) that are designated to the production of port wines, Pedro and Lucia have identified sub-plots, each known by the duo to produce specific colors, aromatics and structure, so that each sub-plot can be designated to a particular Tawny port. And though the foundations of the 20 and 30 year-old tawny ports were established long before Pedro and Lucia started making wine, according to Pedro, they have “preserved the style that the house has been making all along.”
In addition to preserving the family’s land and traditions, Pedro and Lucia also cultivate varietals that are nearing extinction in Portugal, including Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Carvalha.
Producing 60,000 bottles of port a year, Casa de Santa Eufémia is well known for its 1973 Reserve Especial Blanco Port, of which there is only 8,000 liters left. Named not for the year in which it was produced, the 1973 Reserve is named for the Carnation Revolution. On April 25, 1974, Pedro’s father José attempted to go to Vila de Nord Gaia to commercialize the 1973 vintage, so that it could be bottled and shipped to England. Instead, he found a military coup ready to overthrow the authoritarian dictatorship, to make way for the democracy that followed. Needless to say, there was no commercialization that year, but it did pave the way for the Blanco Port for which Santa Eufémia is regionally famous.
In preparation for the day when the 1973 Reserve is gone, Pedro and Lucia are creating a new white port program, which will have been developed for ten years by then. Just as with the transitions that have occurred over generations, they will strive for consistency here too. Coined “Vinos de familia”, Pedro says, “The wines of Case de Santa Eufémia show our work, who we are, the history of our generations and the terrior of our vineyard sites. It pays homage to our family.”