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Kopke: Wood-aged Ports & Douro DOC at Mere restaurant

Kopke

Kopke Douro DOC winemaker, Ricardo Macedo

I’m looking forward to showing Kopke Colheita Port 1966  – a fabulous example – at Decanter’s Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter on 29 February, at my Rare Museum Release and Portuguese Icons’ tasting at The Landmark Hotel.  This week provided an opportunity to discover some exciting food matches for Kopke’s top tier wood-aged ports  and catch up with its promising new Douro wine developments at Mere, Monica and David Galetti’s fine dining restaurant.

Kopke Winemaker’s Collection Grande Reserva Arinto/Rabigato White 2015 (Douro DOC)

When I visited Macedo, Kopke’s Douro DOC winemaker, at Quinta São Luiz in 2018, he told me that the company was grafting over red grapes to white grapes at the company’s Baixo Corgo vineyards (better to match both terroir and demand) and planned very substantially to increase Douro DOC production (red and white).  A project to evaluate the performance of different native white grapes began in 2015.  This all-new limited edition release suggests that Kopke is heading in the right direction.  In particular, I was impressed that this 80:20 Arinto/Rabigato blend is not overtaken by the Arinto.  It provides, as I would expect, the backbone of acidity – good line and persistence – but without dominating.  Doubtless it explains why this just released 2015 is still so fresh, with primary fruit.  I like Arinto very much, but ripe lemon and tropical citrus can become dominating in warmer regions.  With more Atlantic influence (it is the Douro’s westernmost sub-region), I guess this wine showcases the cooler Baixo Corgo well (as do Quinta do Vallado’s and Alves de Sousa’s whites).  The fruit was sourced from vineyards at 250-300m on schist.  Served chilled, it had a tight nose, with lovely freshness, steely, firm grapefruit/grapefruity acidity and a hint of flintiness.  As it opened/warmed up, spicy oak came into play and, having enjoyed it chilled as an aperitif, it gained in texture, complexity and breadth, making it a good match for wild mushroom tortelli with a marmite emulsion. Not quite the intensity of its peers at an RRP of £35, but I was impressed with this first effort.  Hand harvested and sorted grapes were pressed whole and fermented and matured in 300l French oak barrels until 2019.   UK importer Hayward Bros’ allocation is just 153 bottles of 1,300 bottles; RRP £35. 14%

Kopke Colheita White Port 2003 (Porto DOC)

A deeper tawny hue than I expected, perhaps reflecting the year?  Serving it straight from the fridge (Kopke recommend at 8-10ºC) controlled the sweeteness (I couldn’t believe it has 136g/l residual sugar) and highlighted its tangy, mirin notes – saline and umami – making it a surprisingly good match for Stone Bass in a miso and seawood broth with lovage and sunflower seed puree.  The puree helped carry off the match (in terms of body and lingering, silky mouthfeel).  Very well balanced and persistent.  What a brave but strikingly good match!  This Colheita White Port was fermented in stainless steel vats on skins at 16-18ºC prior to the addition of grape brandy, halting the fermentation. It was matured in oak barrels and, like all Kopke’s Colheitas, bottled and sold on demand, so it spent considerably longer than the statutory seven years in wood.  20%

Kopke 30 Year Old White Port (Porto DOC)

I don’t think our host, João Belo (Sogevinus’ International Business Manager) would have been as surprised by the Stone Bass match.  He told us he is a big fan of scallops and white Port – even the most simple examples.  Chilled obvs…..This sophisticated blend of vintages spent plenty of time in wood and, with its savoury walnut and spicy wood-driven nuances and kelp and saline finish, ran with the mild curry and kaffir lime accompanying the scallop.  Although it had a little less residual sugar than the 2003 Colheita (120g/l), it seemed a little sweeter, but perhaps the sweetness of the scallop and coconut came into play?  For me, not as harmonious a match as the Stone Bass and 2003 Colheita, but enough points in common – wine and food interplay – to pull it off!  And most probably better with the usual accompanying crispy chicken skin garnish to be fair.  Returning to the port, it is a showcase of deft blending, with its complexing woody notes, but not a hint of dryness/dustiness – no white noise.  Finishes with great purity and focus.  20%

Kopke Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2015 (Douro DOC)

Being pescatarian, I parted company with my fellow diners here.  They enjoyed an aged beef dish (short horn as I recall) with this single vineyard old vine Douro red from vines at 200-350m at Quinta São Luiz.  I had a chesnut puff with caramelised root vegetables, spinach custard and parsnip mousse.  The wine was fermented for 15 days, then spent 30 days macerating on skins.  It was matured for 16 months in French oak barrels.  It has an enticing riff of black pepper and bergamot to the nose.  According to Belo, the old vines include a high proportion of Sousão, which perhaps accounts for the marked freshness and deep colour of this wine, with its old vine wild berry flavours, a touch rustic.  Dark fruits here.  The freshness makes it a good food wine.  I didn’t find the tannins as fine as some, but then they had the beef!  It’s often a challenge (where to put the tannins) with vegetarian food.  But the dish had intensity of flavour and substance and was not cowed by this fresh, flavoursome wine.  13.5%

Kopke Colheita 1980 Port (Porto DOC)

How very clever to show a Colheita from a vintage 40 years ago alongside a 40-year-old non-vintage blend.  Both stunning wines.  In general, I prefer the singularity of Colheitas to the non-vintage blends and this was certainly true with the dessert pairing – a sphere of dark chocolate filled with Manjari chocolate mousse, with a salted caramel core and served with & tonka bean Anglaise.  Wow, its salty, praline finish maintained a lively banter with the pud’s salted caramel core, making for a hedonic, super-long, tapering finish.  Tasted prior to dessert, the Colheita had a slightly bitter marmalade/singed tatin edge on the attack, before creaming out with deliciously nutty praline, then gently tapering into a long, salty, elegant (very Kopke) finish.   Fermented in lagares at between 28-30°C until, at the right degree of sweetness, grape brandy is added, leaving this port with 132g/l residual sugar.  Kopke recommended serving both tawny ports at 12-14ºC versus 8-10ºC for the white ports). 20%

Kopke 40 Year Old Tawny Port (Porto DOC)

This 40 Year Old Tawny was a wow, wow and my pick of the two tawnies on its own.  It is a bright ruddy hue with a vigorous, very well structured palate, richly endowed with dried and candied citrus, fig and apricot, salty nuances (but it is not as salty as the 1980), vanilla bean, a whiff of cigar smoke and long nutty spine.  Impressive freshness and persistence on a honeyed, seamless finish – beautiful balance.  Sigh-worthy – a time slows down experience, putting me in mind of an old “relax with a Cadbury’s Caramel” advert! 147g/l residual sugar.  20%

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