Feature Story

30 Under 30: Rita Ferreira | Winemaker, Douro

The daughter of a château owner. A sommelier. A golfer. The son of a photographer…There’s a lot of young talent in the wine business, coming from different directions. These 30 are rising to the top.

We canvassed our colleagues in the world of wine to find the most creative and accomplished young talent in wine today. All of them are 30 years old or younger; some of them make wine, while others sell it. All of them are names to know: This is the next generation in wine.


“I don’t really understand bastardo,” says Rita Ferreira Marques, a fourth-generation vine grower in the Douro Superior and the first to make wine. “We just put the grapes with the stems in the lagar and crush them. It just happens. It’s not a big deal.” Part of an old mixed planting with touriga franca, the bastardo vines interested Ferreira Marques because they were always the first to ripen—even before the whites. So she decided to pick them separately and produce a single-varietal wine under her Conceito label. “It’s not a great wine,” she says in Douro self-deprecation, “but I think it is important to keep the varieties of the Douro, to protect a variety that is so different from the others.”

Ferreira Marques studied enology at the University of Bordeaux with Denis Dubourdieu, and has worked harvest at Niepoort in the Douro; at Flagstone with Bruce Jack in Stellenbosch, South Africa; and at Villa Maria in Marlborough, New Zealand. Meanwhile, she began making wine from her family’s vineyards in the Teja Valley, at 1,300 feet in altitude and relatively flat. She says the climate is different than in the vineyards lower down by the Douro River—“During the day, it’s eight degrees [Celsius] less here than at Vale Meão, about twenty kilometers away.” She started in 2006 with 1,200 cases and has built to 10,000 with the 2009 vintage, catching the attention of Jamie Goode at wineanorak.com for the wildness of her Bastardo, and of Luis Lopes of Revista de Vinhos for her projects abroad. She’s returned to New Zealand to make her Conceito Sauvignon Blanc, which she says she’s trying to make in “a more mineral style, a more classic European style” than people typically associate with Marlborough. And she’s also returned to Stellenbosch, where she’s making a blend of Bordeaux varieties. “I don’t think it makes any sense to plant cabernet sauvignon or merlot in the Douro,” Ferreira Marques says. “In South Africa, I have an opportunity to work with those varieties. In the Douro, there are so many varieties and it’s hard to understand them.” At 29, she has her whole career in front of her to figure them out.


This feature appears in the print edition of Fall 2011.
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