First taste: 2014 (Vintage?) Port
All eyes have been on the must-buy 2011 Port/Douro vintage since Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List, hence this week’s topical feature for Wine-Searcher on premium Ports. But what about this year? Last month I published a post on Portugal’s 2014 vintage with an extensive round up of producer reports. But there’s nothing like seeing the harvest for yourself or, indeed, tasting the wines.
In September, I spent a few days shadowing Sogrape’s Luis Sottomayor during the sunshine and showers Douro vintage (here’s my route). Then, earlier this month, I completed the circle by tasting samples of 2014 Ports – some made from fruit picked before the rains, others picked after the rains. Fascinating!
If you’ve ever wondered what a winemaker gets up to at vintage, you can read all about it in this “me and my shadow” account of my vintage travels with Sottomayor in Blend, All About Wine. Let’s just say I take my hat off to anyone who clocks up between 10,000 and 15,000km in two months between vineyards and wineries assessing grapes and making wine. Especially in the Douro, with its snaking roads and blind corners!
Here are my notes on the 2014 Port samples, which will the form the basis of future blends (NB ultimate destination – Vintage Port, LBV etc – still to be determined).
Sogrape Vinho do Porto 2014 Sample A
Sample A is a blend of 49% Touriga Nacional and 51% Sousão from Quinta do Seixo (pictured), which I’m told performed “brilliantly” for Port in 2014. This sample was picked before the rain. It is glass-stainingly inky with a very fresh, tight, grippy nose of concentrated, still compressed florals, especially violets – very attractive. In the mouth it’s very fresh too (Sousão is treasured for its high acidity), with sappy acidity, very nice persistence and lovely purity and concentration of black fruits. Though the tannins are powerful, they are fine and ripe, which gives length and fluidity when combined with the freshness. Very good; elegant.
Sogrape Vinho do Porto 2014 Sample B
Sample B is a blend of 53% Touriga Nacional, 47% Sousão from Quinta do Seixo. This fruit was picked after the rain. Again it is very dark – inky and perhaps even more glass-staining. The tannins are very powdery but firm. Again nice fruit purity if not the concentration of Sample A which allows a little more detail to show – layers of Green & Blacks dark chocolate, a subtle pepperiness to the finish. Good.
Sogrape Vinho do Porto 2014 Sample C
Sample C is a blend of Vinhas Velhas (old field blend vines so multiple grape varieties) and Sousão from Quinta do Seixo. It was picked before the rain. More old vine oomph and complexity to this. The nose is bright and grippy – a grip of tannins and aguardente. In the mouth tight-knit fruit – baked and sour cherry and plums – has a very slippery, skinsy, animation/texture – very attractive. Powdery tannins build going through bringing firmness and focus, a savouriness too, to a very long finish. I like its more savoury expression/old vine complexity which, together with the more evident tannin presence, gives greater depth. Very good.
Sogrape Vinho do Porto 2014 Sample D
Sample D is a blend of Vinhas Velhas (old field blend vines so multiple grape varieties) and Sousão from Quinta do Seixo. It was picked after the rain. Like the block-planted after the rain sample (B) from younger vines, Sample D is more expressive with a lifted nose and looser knit to its fleshy upfront palate of cinnamon-kissed fresh blackberry and plum. Nice fruit intensity if not the concentration of Sample C. Still, those savoury, old vine tannins bring backbone and length. Though ripe (no greeness), the tannins are a touch more drying on the finish.
Sogrape Vinho do Porto 2014 Sample E
Sample E is a blend of Touriga Franca & Touriga Nacional from Casais, a vineyard not owned by Sogrape. I can see why Sottomayor was keen to show it to me (no information provided about whether it was picked before or after the rain). It’s wonderfully concentrated and structured. Like the others, it has a very inky, palate-staining hue (that’s foot-treading for you!). The tannins are grippy, quite savoury, the acidity firm and bright, its black concentrated fruits peppery, all of which gives great energy and drive to this sample. Very long, very persistent and firm. Oh yeah! Excellent.