Delectable Douro: top flight new rare Port and wine releases

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I promised to follow up last week’s report (here) on my first impressions of New Douro releases (mostly 2010 reds and 2009 whites) with details of some rare and delectable Douro discoveries. Some venerable works of time just seeing the light of day; others positively new fangled. Here goes:

Douro wines

Casa Ferreinha Barca Velha 2004

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I’m a huge fan of this warm, dry vintage, which produced powerful wines, as rugged as their region of origin.  This blend of 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Roriz and 10% Tinta Cão was sourced mostly from Quinta da Leda in the Douro Superior with, as usual, a percentage of fruit from higher, cooler vineyards. Luis Sottomayor told me that, from the beginning, there was not a shadow of doubt about this wine making the cut for Barca Velha.  It is only the 17th Barca Velha since this pioneering Douro icon was first produced in 1952; only 26,068 numbered bottles were produced.  It was aged for around 16 months in French oak barriques (75% new).  Sure enough, despite its exemplary, fine, silky tannins, the 2004 has a rugged, wild quality about it – with woodsmoke, gamy notes, tar, and even a hint of mushroom and incipient oyster shell to its red and black berry spice-shot, mocha-edged fruits (which puts me in mind of really top notch mature Hunter Valley Shiraz). In this respect, it’s a little more evolved than I’d expected, though from my limited experience of Barca Velha, while it tastes mature on release, it ages phenomenally well (my notes on the 2000 and 1982 here.)  With lifted dried spice, whisps of sweet woodsmoke and persistent acidity, the finish is long and lingering.  Unique.  13.5%

Sogrape Legado 2008

This single vineyard wine from the Cima Corgo is a marked stylistic departure from Barca Velha, which partly explains why it’s not part of Sogrape’s Douro Casa Ferreinha portfolio but instead bottled under the Sogrape brand.  A clue to the other reason lies in its name.  Legado means legacy and this super-premium Douro red is a tribute to Fernando Guedes, Sogrape’s Chair and his team at Sogrape, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year.  It’s made from a 7ha parcel of old vine fruit from Quinta do Caedo’s 22ha upstream from Pinhão, in Ervedosa which Sogrape’s Italian consultant, Alberto Antonini, reckoned “deserved to be seen with different eyes.” Aged for two years in new French oak, it’s an exceptionally silky wine, with svelte, juicy black and reds fruits, layered with minerals and dried spice notes, which are deliciously teased out by the finest thread of tannins.  A hint of balsamic too.  Lovely freshness, poise and balance.  A thoroughly modern Douro red.

Sogrape Legado 2009

Reflecting the (hotter, lower yielding) vintage, with its deep reserves of sweet, very pure, ripe raspberry fruit and melt in the mouth tannins, as yet, one just glides its satiny surface.  Very primary, but its juiciness, length and persistence bode well for ageing.

Quinta da Gaivosa Alves de Sousa 20th Anniversary NV Red

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This unusual non-vintage wine literally represents “the story of 20 harvests at the Alves de Sousa family’s vineyards,” says Tiago Alves de Sousa (pictured).  Embodying the evolution of this estate’s shift from growing Port grapes to making Douro wine, it is a blend of best vintages (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) and best vineyards (including Gaivosa, Lordelho, Abandanado).  As Tiago observes, ironically, it “gets back to the Port idea” which, sure enough, comes through on the palate of the yet to be bottled (1,500 magnums only) sample I tasted.  Though the nose has a mature, savoury quality, there is plenty of vibrancy on the palate, those mature, gamier, truffle notes too.  Its dark chocolate-edged rich, velvety black fruits flesh out a backbone of powerful, ripe tannins.  Plenty of sucrosity here, together with a cooler undertow of minerals and eucalypt overtones. A journey indeed and, as Tiago points out, much more interesting than an anniversary book!

Quinta do Vallado Adelaide 2009

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Only made in top years (previously 2005 and 2007) from a select old vine parcel, the 2009 vintage of Adelaide was aged for 20 months in new French oak. It’s deep and inky in hue, with barely any difference between rim and core. In the mouth, a powerful, fleshy palate is nuanced by a piquant schistous, salty minerality, lending lovely freshness to its bright red and black berry fruits. Really long and layered with a fine mineral saturated finish. Wears its 15% lightly. Very good; my favourite release yet.


Niepoort VV Tawny Very Old Tawny Port

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A slew of fine, rare wood-aged Ports have been released lately, generating much needed noise about a category which can struggle to be heard over the drum roll of Vintage Port declarations.  I love them and the Niepoort, 999 bottles of which were made to celebrate the Port House’s 170th Anniversary, is no exception.  Though Dirk Niepoort tells me it’s not Niepoort’s style to dress it up in terms of packaging, I believe that the final look is a little more polished than my picture suggests!  VV revives Dirk’s grandfather’s concept of making an aged tawny (VV stands for Vinho Velho, which means old wine).  Dirk’s VV is a blend of different years, the base of which is a pre-phylloxera Port from 1863, which was aged (by Niepoort) in casks until 1972 and then “bottled” in demijohns.  It’s a beautifully orchestrated melange of near angel’s share calvados and singed tatin reduction with fleshier and fresher, more corpulent plum and frangipan notes, dates, dried spices, coffee macaroons and cafe crème.  A long, resonating, warm yet pacy finish has a rich, deep, nutty, woody timbre and a lifting touch of sweet but racy balsamic “vinagrinho.”  Lingering and lingerful!

Wine & Soul 5G Five Generations Very Old Port

Wine & Soul 5GThree casks of this Very Old Port, a tawny, had been ageing for over 120 years at Quinta da Manoella when Jorge and Sandra inherited the estate from Jorge’s family in June 2009. Just a small portion, 300 bottles, have been allocated to this wine. According to Tavares, no adjustments have been made since they removed it from cask. I must say it is spectacularly well balanced, with enviably youthful honey-gilded (and gliding) rich dried fruits and seamless, beautifully integrated acidity. Especially when you consider that this wine has aged in the Douro (as opposed to the cooler lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia 100km downstream). Mahogany in hue with a bright saffron rim, the nose is spicy with notes of rich muscovado sugar, tamarind, dried figs and medjool dates, which follow through on a silky, honeyed palate with a perfectly exquisite torrefaction of caramel and nuts. On day two, it reveals delicious hints of mild tobacco – cafe crème cigar. Ultra-smooth, ultra-long and ultra- persistent. Compared with the hyper-concentrated, more demanding Vallado – which is a wine to be eked out sip by sip – I found 5G dangerously drinkable. Licensed to thrill!

Quinta do Vallado Adelaide Tributa Very Old Tawny Port

The concentration is undeniable – this pre-phylloxera Port is so clearly the work of time, with its very deep varnished mahogany brown hue and glass-gilding saffron penumbra.  On the nose, it’s very rich, with dates, fleshy tamarind spice, black cardamom and palm sugar/molasses notes – lots of complexity, deep-seated fruit too.  In the mouth, the flavour profile (dates, burned toffee, salted caramels, dried figs, cloves and mocha), sheer concentration and viscosity put me in mind of tasting 1910 Seppeltsfield Para 100 year old Vintage at the Landmark Tutorial in Australia a couple of years back (click here for my notes), for my Spanish neighbour, an old PX Sherry.  It’s not as viscous, not least because of its surprisingly fresh acidity and a touch of “vinagrinho”, which most definitely sets it apart.  A wine of contrasts and one which I’d loved to have sat with and contemplated for longer.  But really, I can’t complain!  It’s not often one has the chance to taste a slice of history. Click here for some background on this recent release.

Dalva Golden White Port 1971

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Dalva launched its first Golden White Port, the 1952 in 2005, followed by the 1963 (launched 2009).  This latest, relatively youthful vintage (released in the middle of this year) shares their woody timbre and fine nutty spine without compromising elegance or freshness.  A delicately poised palate shows barley sugar with savoury and sweet hints of smoked almonds, peanut brittle, vanilla pod, crème caramel, chicory and saline. Finishing bell clear, it’s a subtle, refined wine.

Andresen 40 Year Old White Port

Though on the face of it, roughly the same age as the delicate Dalva, as one would expect from a blend of different vintages, this is the more powerful, complete wine – showier.  A rich, warming palate with a woody timbre shows caramelised oranges, caramel, nuts and a touch of “vinagrinho.” The finish is long, lingering and balanced.  Very good.

Andresen Colheita 1980

Bang on form – very intense, with dried apricot, fig and sultanas and creamy, segue-ing into marzipan nuts.  With lovely penetration and persistence, it fair dances over the palate.  Very good indeed.

Calem 40 Year Old Tawny

This wine has striking walnut notes, which sometimes mean that the wine is drying out, but not here.  Smooth, long and persistent, the Calem has lovely freshness for a 40 Year Old.

Burmester 40 Year Old Tawny

Spicier than the Calem, richer too with dried apricots, butterscotch, caramel and more savoury toasted pecan, walnut and nam pla notes for balance.  Long and lingering.

Kopke 40 Year Old White Port

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Lovely fruit here – dried apricots with sweet, fluid barleysugar a hint of aniseed and a long, nutty, elegant finish.   Terrific freshness and balance.

Kopke Colheita 1952

Wow, this is delectably fresh and fine, with caramel, darker toffee apple, caramelised oranges and an underlying minerality – a quality I don’t previously recall picking up in a Colheita or Tawny. Special.

Barros Colheita 1974

From the year of the Revolution, this Colheita looks young and tastes it too, with its russet hue and still present and fresh red and plum fruits.  A lick of liquorice lends a lively and delicious spicy note going through.  Lovely intensity and persistence.

Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port

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Wonderful resonance to this mellow but deep, well-structured tawny, whose layers of dried fruits, liquorice, panforte, mocha, cedar, tobacco/cafe crème notes steal over the palate and envelope you.  Terrific; the full cigar!

Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest Tawny

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Graham’s have also recently released Single Harvest Tawnies from 1952 and 1961 (click here and here for my reports). The 69 is deep mahogany in hue. This and its woody timbre doesn’t prepare you for its energy in the mouth. Terrific nutty drive to this spicy, liquorice-edged tawny, with sweet browned sugar and caramel swathed dried fig fruit. Phenomenal length, with the focus of a colheita. Excellent.

And if you’re looking for a rather more modest bottle-aged (red) Port, click here for my top tips on the latest crop of LBV and Reserve Ruby Ports, including a superb deal on Fonseca 2007 LBV.

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