The Big Fortified Tasting 2021: seven samples

BFT 2021 Sample box

Living up to its name, The Big Fortified Tasting (BFT) is an important annual date in the diary.   A rare opportunity to focus on the genre, tasting from top producers and making new discoveries.  This year, the organisers arranged deliveries of a selection of sample bottles.  As usual, the catalogue featured eye-popping wines.  I focused on the esoteric and new names.  And was not disappointed.   

My stand outs?  Barbeito Bastardo Três Pipas Old Reserve Medium Dry and Niepoort Bioma Vintage Port 2017.   Here are my notes.

Barbeito Bastardo Três Pipas Old Reserve Medium Dry (Madeira)

It seems a VERY long time ago since Ricardo Diogo V Freitas presented a masterclass showing two Bastardos at the BFT in 2018 – a baby and a very old example (my post here).  Sourced from Teófilo Cunha’s vineyards on the São Jorge (north coast), planted in 2004, Cunha saved Bastardo from extinction.  Harvesting from them annually since 2007, Freitas has experimented.  And experimented.  This wine is a blend of three wines.  One component, from 2010, underwent skin maceration.  The other two from 2009 and 2011 were pressed directly.   A light tawny hue – bright, translucent.  Lifted, it is spicy, tobacco-edged, with dried apricot and juicier, tangier apricot chutney with pops of mustard seed and nutty, fresh blanched almond.  Mouth-watering acidity and a touch of tannin (less evident on day 2) enhances structure and complexity.  Lovely energy.  So very Barbeito in its lively freshness and precision.   19.1%  64g/l Residual Sugar, Total Acidity 6.92g/l, production 2,139 bottles.  Imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

Henriques & Henriques 20 Years Old Terrantez (Madeira)

Amber, with a rich but penetrating nose – a sense of intensity, but also dryness.  Keen acidity on the palate emphasises this impression.  In the mouth, it is medium dry, with notes of poire tapée – dried, textural pear – with dried apricots and fig, complexing notes of nutmeg, vanilla, tobacco, passionfruit seeds (tartness and nuttiness) and caramel splinters, wed to a backbone of smoky, mineral acidity.  Lingering nutty wood and salty, seaweed notes to the finish.  Satisfying.  20% Residual sugar 1.9º Baume  £82.50 at Oxford Wine Company.

Pereira d’Oliveira Terrantez 1971 (Madeira)

A rich mahogany/conker hue, with an olive rim and band of saffron between.  The immediate impression is of antique furniture – opening an old mahogany wardrobe or set of drawers containing sachets of lavender pot pourri.  A real patina of age.  These notes follow through on the smoky palate.  Dried fig and apricot notes emerge, with hints of singed tarte tatin caramel, seaweed and salty iodine nuances.   With a firm backbone of acidity, the finish is quite austere, with woody, pickled walnut notes.  Pereira d’Oliveira Madiera is imported by Bovey Wines.

Noble & Murat 2015 LBV Port (Port)

I first encountered Noble & Murat – the revived brand – in 2017 when I tasted the 2015 Vintage Port and 2012 LBV, reviewed here.  The LBV (unfiltered) is very consistent – spicy and characterful.  It hails from a blend from four plots of very old field blend vines growing in the Vale de Mendiz, Tedo Valley and close to Chanceleiros and Gouvinhas.  It was foot-trodden in lagares and bottled in the fifth year after ageing in large old chestnut vats. It is soft, plummy and yielding – squelchy plums – with lashings of esteva and liquorice, a lick of dried herbs, dusty schist and graphite.  It’s got oomph – good structure – with spicy liquorice tannins to the finish.

Quinta da Devesa Vintage Port 2018 (Port)

I haven’t come across this producer before.  This Vintage Port is a deep purple hue, with dried roses and, with air, bergamot to the nose and palate  A touch of iodine too.  Soft, plush blackberry and plum, flavours of sloe gin, with liquorice.  The tannins are tactile, a little four square, making for a grippy  finish.  Quite solid.  113g/l residual sugar, 20%

Niepoort Bioma Viha Velha Vintage Port 2017 (Port)

I tasted this with Daniel Niepoort in February last year at Simplesmente Vinho (report here).  I was impressed. A year on, I’m still impressed.  This singular Port is still a baby.   But there’s no baby fat here.  It is inky in hue, with a very narrow pink rim.  The nose is tight, with suggestions of violets and iodine.  Tannins arc from the off, fine but powder coating the mouth and locking down the fruit; the scent of violets remains pronounced.  Hints of cocoa nibs to the finish.  Lovely freshness.  On day two, the abundance and quality of tannin (iron filing) and acidity (tensile) is evident.  The fruit less so – still in lock down, biding its time.  Know the feeling?  It makes for an inscrutability, yet I’m confident that the fruit intensity is there, as is the balance.  Bioma 2017 certainly has precision .  Super-promising, with retro-nasal bitter chocolate, black pepper and violets on day two.  Imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

Niepoort Garrafeira 1987 (Porto)

One of the Douro’s more idiosyncratic Ports, Niepoort Garrafeira is made from red grapes from a single year and aged for five years or so in cask, then for decades in 19th century 8-11 litre green glass demi-johns.  It tastes like a cross between a mature Vintage Port and a Colheita Tawny. In 2017, I wrote up the first magnificent vintage here – the 1931.  It just kept building in the glass, such was its vigour; it had a beguiling, subtly insinuating sweetness, which I didn’t find in the younger wines in the vertical flight (the 1977, 1967, 1974, 1952, 1950, 1948, 1940, 1938. 1933).   This younger still example tends to spiciness – more Vintage Port, but not.  It is a pale bricky hue, with copper glints.  On day one, it is boozy – spiritous – with pronounced liquorice and dried herb notes and a subtle smokiness.  Fernet Branca bitters spring to mind.  There’s a touch of  cough sweet too. On day two,  the herbal Fernet-Branca notes are still pronounced, but the spirit seems calmer, mellower and the texture is licorous.  Fruitier sloe notes emerge too, with vegetal, coffee undertones.  Sweet, nutty, tawny port-esque notes are just developing.  Intriguing and in transition.  107g/l residual sugar, 20% 252 demijohns were decanted in 2018 to 3200 bottles.  Imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds£700 at The Whiskey Exchange (75cl)


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