Ramos Pinto: three centuries of Port – a vertical
This week sees the biggest congregation of Australian winemakers outside the country. All Australian. Watch this space for more on that. For now, sticking with the usual formula, my Portuguese post of the week takes a look at Ramos Pinto’s Ports. But I’m being a bit topical, because Ramos Pinto’s Port winemaker is Ana Rosas (pictured with her latest Vintage Port – the rather excellent 2015, reviewed here). I was sorry to miss her recent London tasting. I was in Belfast. However, Ramos Pinto’s importers, Maisons Marques et Domaines, very kindly sent me some rather distinguished ‘dregs’! I admire their restraint. What a little box of treasures it was!
These aged Ports – from 1884 to 1994 – all came from Ramos Pinto’s cellars. I’m told that they were opened for the morning tasting on Tuesday, 12 September, then promptly sealed in these bottles at around 1pm. I tasted my samples on Thursday, 14 September. Goodness, how well those older wines held up!
The vintage reports and technical details for the younger Ports were supplied by Ramos Pinto. I have included Rosas’ tasting notes followed by my own.
Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1994
The vintage: a hot year but with excellent weather conditions and enough water in the ground to allow the long maturation required to make a Vintage.
Ramos Pinto Late Bottled Vintage Port 1992
The vintage: Exceptional vintage, with great concentration of tannin and fruit. And yet not declared by Ramos Pinto and many others – a so-called split declaration, when 1991 was preferred. Perhaps a bit like 2015, 2016….
My tasting note: This Late Bottled Vintage Port is of the unfined, unfiltered variety, which Ports can go some distance (click here for my notes of a Niepoort LBV vertical which, incidentally, also includes a 1992). It has great colour – surprising colour, brightness and depth given LBV is pretty much the entry level premium Port. It has lovely sweet spice – star anise, gingerbread, cinnamon – to its plum fruit. I think of Peking Duck Pancakes and plum sauce (among many a non-meaters’ regret list). There is compensation here. Really nice energy. Lovely and long in the mouth – sloopy. Round, but persistent, with a tensile mineral backbone, so nice focus. In a great spot now. Yum.
Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1982
The vintage: The winter was cold but very dry, as was the spring, and drought conditions remained throughout the year. The harvest began relatively early, in mid-September, but the grapes already had a raisined appearance.
Winemaking: Tinta Barroca (70%), the balance from old vines. The grapes are trodden by foot in lagares. Fermentation lasts four to five days, producing an excellent extraction. Alcohol 20% vol. Total Acidity 3.45 g/l pH 3.89 Baumé degree 3.7
Ana Rosas’ Tasting Notes: A splendid, deep colour typical of this harvest. Highly concentrated and still rising smoothly, it has well-developed blue tones. Generous, feminine and well characterised by its harmony and advanced maturity, it offers us aromas of violet, plum, chocolate and ripe fruit. Aged and wine-infused wood, a hint of vanilla and plum brandy. A smooth and velvety attack on the palate, the perfect balance between body and acidity. Notes of prune sustained by smooth, mature tannins. Soft and enveloping with a perfect finish.
My tasting note: this vintage was not declared by many shippers. I felt it was lacking in concentration and structure, looking a little developed. Tawnyish even. I guess Tinta Barroca does tend more to flesh/sugar than structure. The 1982 had a fern-like sweet, earthy vegetal character with pine needle forest floor, a gentle but persistent nuttiness and liquorice spice. Not unpleasant at all, but just somewhat faded. In fact I quite enjoyed it with some parmesan shavings.
Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1934
The vintage: A mature, fruity vintage of exceptional quality, despite some irregular weather. A dry winter was followed by a rainy spring, leading to late flowering and fruit set. July was very warm and was followed by some rain in September. Harvest took place in October in perfect conditions.
Winemaking: This wine was produced from Quinta do Bom Retiro grapes and bottled after 2-3 years.
Ana Rosas’ Tasting Notes: Clear red and orange core, with tawny nuances. The aroma is lively and fresh with cherry and banana coming through, followed by deep caramel, vanilla and chocolate notes. An excellent structure, good acidity and notable flavours such as vanilla, dry fruits, chocolate and old port wine casks. Medium-long finish.
My tasting note: Funnily enough, if there was a wine in the line up which looked like an out-lier – too pale to be a Vintage Port – it was the 1934. But it was an out-lier for all the right reasons – this vintage was a stand out at the Cockburn’s Bicentenary Tasting in 2015 (check out my notes of that glorious Port here). Though super pale, clear and bright, it retains a rouge hue. It has a medicinal (pleasantly so) edge to its red cherry fruit – think sucking on the sweetest, gentlest lozenge! The fruit has a silky, round quality (light glycerol), with a touch of roast peach stuffed with amaretti biscuit. Ever so lingering. Lovely, very elegant with pot pourri florals as it opens up. A slip of a Port, which holds really well, never faltering, even some hours later. Fabulous.
Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1931
The vintage: A dry winter was followed by an exceptionally mild and dry summer, including the month of August. During September, the weather warmed up and there was some rainfall. A late harvest took place at the end of September. Noteworthy wines were made despite some irregular weather.
Winemaking: This wine was produced from Quinta do Bom Retiro grapes and bottled after 3 years.
Ana Rosas’ Tasting Notes: Garnet colour with good intensity and green highlights towards the rim. Complex aromas including resin, mint, chocolate and vanilla. Soft and crisp mouth-feel which reveals great volume and delicious chocolate flavours mingling with mint and orange peel. Expressive and consistent, with and extraordinarily long finish dominated by dark chocolate.
My tasting note: my sample had enough sediment to spread on a slice of toast. It seemed a touch musty on nose and palate with iodine, stale drawers/pot pourri, cedar and amaretti biscuit. In the mouth it still pushes along spicily, showing liquorice and orange peel hints. Alcohol adds a touch of warmth and impetus to the palate. Though it has a bit of fight left, his bottle needed drinking up whilst the ’34 struck me as an enticing proposition for a few years yet.
Ramos Pinto White Port 1884
The vintage: Some great vintages. Many Houses declared. A very warm July followed by showers at the end of August. A late harvest. Reduced production due to phylloxera.
Winemaking: When first produced, this sweet white port was used for blending and adjusting the sweetness of other wines. Produced in 1884, aged in oak and bottled after 10 years, this wine was selected by Adriano Ramos Pinto for his own consumption due to its exceptional quality.
Ana Rosas’ Tasting Notes: Dark mahogany in colour, with green highlights around the rim and extremely concentrated. An intense and complex aroma with balsamic and resinous notes of cedar and pine against a background of dry fruits, mixed spices and touches of black pepper, cloves and iodine. On the palate the wine has a very sweet and velvety attack with old muscat, brioche and vermouth like flavours. The finish is immensely long and balanced.
My tasting note: Ramos Pinto was founded in 1880, so this Port came from early acquired stock. -It had a cloudy mahogany core with a saffron penumbra and olive green rim. The nose shows its age, lively, spicy and fruit chutney with an incendiary touch of volatile acidity to pep along the aromas and flavours raher deliciously. Though the flavours are, like the core, a little occluded, fuggy, to start once it hits its stride there is not stopping it. It holds together beautifully – a hum of amaretto-ness, with pot pourri florals, peach tea and, building on the finish assertive (in a good way) liquorice spice. The finish has a terrific salty, sweet and sour tamarind-like dimension. Terrific length, lift and layer. Lots of detail, teased out, seemingly atomised and left hanging in the air, in my mouth, in my breath. Wow. Deeply impressive!