It is a privilege to taste wine with the people who are creating it. That is why the annual Winemakers Dinner in The Vintage Port Club is so exciting. A huge tasting of port presented by a winemaker and followed by a very delicious dinner with wines from the Douro.
Recently it was head winemaker Manuel Lobo de Vasconcellos from Quinta do Crasto who came to Denmark and visited us. Crasto are making both table wines and port, and because of that the tasting started with two red wines, Touriga Nacional 1996 and 2010. The 1996 was aged well with brown rim. Nice fruits and acid, tannins still present but not strong. A fine and well balanced wine. The younger had a bit more minerals and harder tannins, but I am sure that it will develop well too. Later during the dinner we tried another single grape wine from Crasto, the Tinta Roriz 2009, which performed well to the serving.
As the first port, we were served Crastos Finest Reserve – a fresh and straight ruby with three years in cask. It is a new product from the company which only used to make LBV and vintage. One of the better rubies for the broad marked.
The next flight was an interesting comparison of LBV and Vintage from 1994. Both were nice, but the Vintage had more fresh fruit and a broader pallet. It sure will develop further.
Another uneven flight followed. Vintage 1987, Vintage 1963 and Colheita 1910 – what a span! The two last were from grapes from the same vineyards, but bottled under the label Constantino. The brand was founded back in 1877 by Constantino de Almeida, who bought the Quinta in 1910. In 1981 the Roquettes overtook the Quinta and they still run it today.
1987 was clear red with red berries in the nose. It had a lot of acid, but a jammy taste. 1963 was the peak of the evening. The colour was now mahogany and it had a hint of raspberry and other red berries, good acid to balance the impressive fruit. It ended with a long, elegant tail. A wine in perfect balance, which can compete with wines from the big companies.
The contrast to the next wine was huge. It was dark brown and very cloudy. An expressive nose with caramel, figs and balsamic. Still very powerful and concentrated with some brown sugar, tree and figs. The 1910 was the only cask aged port in the tasting, but it represented them well.
Now the tasting turned upside down. It was time for vintage from 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009 – a short span with some very young wines.
1997 was a disappointment. It was not corked, but must have been a bad bottle. A scary nose, too much alcohol and very bitter. .
The years to follow were both broadly declared years like 2000, 2003 and 2007 and minor years like 2001 and 2004. Surprisingly the minor years performed better. As Manuel Lobo told us, it is sometimes like that for Single Quintas. They don’t have a lot of vineyards form different locations in the Douro to choose from when they are blending. That means that they are more dependent on the weather and the harvest. A year that is generally a good vintage with many declarations is not automatically a good vintage for a Single Quinta like Crasto. Perhaps the next year is better.
That was exactly my opinion when I compared 2001 with the millennium year 2000. 2001 was not that expressive in the nose, but it had more fruit and tannins - and a bigger potential. The same was the case with 2003 compared to 2004. The former was drinkable now if you like young, fresh vintages. The latter was more closed but again with a better structure and a bigger potential in the long term.
At last I will mention the 2009 – a very nice and tempting nose even if it was so young. I am looking forward to taste it again in some years.
Quinta do Crasto and Manuel Lobo succeeded in convincing us that Crasto are making long lasting vintages of good quality. It is said that they have more passion for winemaking than port. If that is true, it is more a question of quantity than quality. They have a lot of declarations but besides the 1997 none of them failed. As Manuel Lobo explained the future sure will bring better quality due to the development in the vineyard and in the winemaking process. Generally we will have better port, but there differences between the vintages will remain.
After this huge tasting follow a wonderful dinner created by Chef Klavs Styrbæk at Restaurant Kvægtorvet (The Cattle Marked) in Odense and his staff. The menu and the wines are listed below. Let me just remark the Colheita 1997 which Manuel Lobo brought in his suitcase. It was just bottled before he departed and it was the first time it was served outside Quinta do Crasto. Colheita is new marked for Crasto. They intend to release the 1997 later this year and more will follow. How was it? Still young, fresh in the nose and with a lot of fruit. Promising, but in my opinion worth further storing in casks. But I am thankful that Crasto in the future will add another product to their pallet.
Norway Lobster, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lemon, Ginger
Codfish, Mustard-Caper Sauce, Beetroot, Chips
Grilled Leek, Oyster, Parsley, Onion, Vinaigrette, Brioche
Portbraised Wild Boar, Parsnip, Bacon, Horseradish
Grilled Wild Boar, Hazelnuts, Salsify, Thyme, Shallots
Cheese Selection - Sheep, Goat, Cow and Olives, Figs
Chocolate, Crumble, Sauce
Fennel Sorbet, Liquorice Cake, Pear, Tarragon
Oatmeal Ice-cream, Malt Whisky, Caramel, Guinness Foam
Orange Jelly, Jasmine Tea, Orange Oil, Mint
Quinta do Crasto White
Quinta do Crasto Superior
Quinta do Crasto Reserva 2010
Quinta do Crasto Tinta Roriz 2009
Quinta do Crasto LBV 2007
Quinta do Crasto Finest Reserve
Quinta do Crasto Colheita 1997