First taste: Quinta do Crasto 2014 Douro reds & Vintage Port
A cool August and September’s unsettled weather are evident in the freshness of Quinta do Crasto’s 2014 Douro reds and Vintage Port (click here for a 2014 vintage report). It’s an interesting year given Crasto produce among the region’s bigger hitting styles. Big hitting with great structure mind – Crasto’s top wines have always performed really well in the decade on Douro tastings I’ve experienced.
In the last 10 years or so, owners the Roquette family have become one of the region’s biggest landowners by putting their eggs in the Douro Superior (Quinta da Cabriera) as well as the Cima Corgo (Quinta do Crasto) basket. Being generally warmer and drier, owning vineyards in the Douro Superior is handy in vintages like 2014, though my pick of the bunch (with the Vintage Port) comes from a single 1.96ha southeast-facing parcel in the Cima Corgo.
With whites and warmer years in mind, the Roquettes have planted 10 hectares of new vineyard to white grape varieties at the highest part of Quinta do Crasto at 550 m altitude and, at Quinta da Cabreira, an experimental field of 26 different grapes varieties/clones. It has allowed Manuel Lobo to trial Syrah ( of which 2.9 ha is planted) and work with varieties such as Souzão (3.25 ha), Alicante Bouchet (2.35 ha) & Tinta Francisca (1.3 ha) on a bigger (production) scale.
Quinta do Crasto Tinta Roriz 2014 (Douro)
A very deep, inky hue and, true to the colour, I found this wine rather impenetrable on account of its book-ending oak. It was hard to determine if it had enough ‘stuffing.’ At the moment, its juicy currant and berry fruit – the jam in the sandwich – gets short shrift, though there was some undeniably enjoyable anise and cinnamon sweet toasted oak spices along the way. Even a little blood plum – a flash of flesh – on day three. Fine graphite tannins assert themselves on the finish. One to review. Aged for 16 months in new French oak barrels (225 litres). 14.5% £36.99 at Adnams
Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinhas Velhas 2014 (Douro)
A very deep hue, with this wine’s typical marked gum cistus. The vintage is more readily reflected in the mouth. This is a relatively dry, restrained expression of Vinhas Velhas (it can be a powerhouse), with textured (sooty) tannins, savoury sasperilla and milk chocolatey oak to its lingering earthy black raspberry and liquorice-edged sweet, juicy plum. Nice old vine complexity on show here. It was aged for about 16 months in 85% in French oak barrels and 15% in American oak barrels. 14.5% £19.80, down from £22.50 at Great Western Wines, £21.99 at Adnams
Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte 2014 (Douro)
Vinha da Ponte is source exclusively from said 1.96ha plot of southeast-facing old vines. The 2014 vintage is deep crimson and, surprisingly (being the top wine), it is the most expressive of the three Douro wines. Initially, it shows sweet, perfumed, fresh picked raspberry with graphite and, with air and time, blossoms to reveal gum cistus, bergamot, fleshier, juicier blackberry, cherry and plum. Oak – seamless – is mopped up, allowing fruit, flowers and minerals to shine. A fine sheathe of sooty tannins brings a minerality and elegant shape to the whole. Long and juicily persistent, with a touch of salt lick. My pick of the bunch for its depth and intensity of flavour, combined with a levity to its step. Encapsulates beautifully the fluidity and freshness of a cooler year. Perfectly lovely. It was aged for 20 months in new French oak barriques. 14.5% £96.99 at Adnams
Quinta do Crasto LBV Port 2012
Made from foot trodden old vine fruit, aged in large oak vats (9,000 litres) for about 4 years then bottled without fining or filtration, this LBV can really punch above its weight. Its predecessor (the 2011), which flexed its muscles rather impressively at last year’s dinner at Launceston Place, is a case in point. The 2012 is the earlier drinker – less concentrated, less structured. Altogether more easy-going. It features the bitter chocolate edge and polished blackcurrant fruit which I well recall from my first encounters with this Port when I worked at Oddbins. As it opens up, fragrant violets give plenty of lift going through, contrasting with an earthier, resinous gum cistus undertow. Fine but mouth-coating ripe tannins, fresh acidity and a touch of warmth (spirit) extend the finish. Good. 20% £13.99 at Adnams, reduced from £15.95 to £14.04 at Great Western Wines
Quinta do Crasto Vintage Port 2014
Crasto’s Vintage Port is also made from foot trodden old vine fruit, here aged for just two years in large Portuguese oak vats. It is a very deep, inky hue with a bright pink rim. An un-reconstructed nose and attack with plenty of vim and vigour features lashings of peppery, phenolic grunt, earth, spice and resin/gum cistus. In fact I didn’t even make a note about the fruit – it was tight-knit, but it was there! Firmly clasped and corralled by an impressive charge – a veritable plume – of fine but firm, mouth-coating tannins, which sustain a long, grippy, mineral and black pepper studded finish. Terrific energy, freshness and structure. Kapow! A keeper. 20% £179.70/case of 6 (£29.95/bottle) at Just in Cases £43.74/bottle at GP Brands