mandag den 16. december 2013

Eusébios 70th

Benfica and Port. I like both of them, and recently I had the opportunity to experience the combination. No, I was not drinking port at Estádio da Luz… I tasted a Port wine released as a tribute to the legend of football, Eusébio, when he turned 70 last year.
The Black Panther, as Eusébio was nicknamed, was born in 1942 in Lourenço Marques (Maputo), Mozambique. At first he played football in a local club called Os Brasileiros. Here he was scouted by the Italian club Juventos, but he declined. Instead he chose his favourite team Benfica and moved to Lisbon when he was 18 years old. He played for Benfica until 1975 and managed to win 11 national championships, 5 Cup finals and one Europe Cup final. All in all he scored 638 goals in 614 matches for As Águias – The Eagles.   
During Estado Nova, Salazar decided that the colonies were overseas provinces, and because of that Eusébio could join the Portuguese national team in 1961. During the following years he scored 41 goals in 64 matches for the team. Most legendary was the 1966 World Cup in England, where Portugal ended as 3rd. Eusébio was the top scorer of the tournament with 9 goals, and 4 of them in the match against North Korea. Portugal was behind 0-3, but the final result was 5-3 to Portugal (link below). 
The legend still visits Estádio da Luz, when Benfica is playing, and there is a statue of him in front of the entrance.
At a tasting in The Vintage Port Club his profile and his signature was on the label of one of the bottles of Port on the menu.  
”Eusébio 70th” is a 30 years Tawny from Quinta das Gregocas, near Sambrosa in the Douro. They released exactly 638 Magnums – one for each goal he made for Benfica!
The Port wine was light red brown, some spirit in the nose, dry fruits, floral notes and notes from the oak as well. It was not that powerful and did not have a broad palette compared with others 30 years Tawnies. Drinkable, but I must admit that the history behind and the nice design was more exciting that the port itself.
The tasting was the clubs Christmas tasting, where we usual have Tawny and Colheitas. Here is the full list as they were served:

Maynard Colheita 1982
Feist Colheita 1983
Vista Alegre 30 years Tawny
Kopke Colheita 1984
Kopke 40 years Tawny
Pocas 40 years Tawny
Grahams 40 years Tawny
Andresen 40 years Tawny
Burmester Colheita 1957
Quinta das Gregocas Eusébio 70th
Cristiano van Zellers Millennium Port, Colheita 1880
Feuerheerd Colheita 1990

The best wines in my opinion were Maynard 1982, Kopke 1984, Kopke 40 years, Burmester 1957 and the Millennium Port. Both Kopke and Maynard (Barão de Vilar) are making very good Tawnies with age and Colheitas. It is told, that The Millennium Port was made of wine from a pipe, Cristiano van Zeller found, when he was out visiting Quintas in search for old lagares. He bough it and added some Niepoort Vintage 1945 – and it was approved by the Port and Douro Wines Institute. It was bit unclear, but full of brown sugar, dried plums, cinnamon and burned figs. Powerful but with a short finish.

tirsdag den 3. december 2013

Dry White and Golden White Colheita

Among the different types of port, White Port seems to have less attention. The common opinion is that they are useful as aperitifs either with or without tonic water. Or when it comes to the sweet ones, typically named Lagrima, they can go well with sweet desserts. But without debts and quality and perhaps even the new type, Rosé Port, is trendier with all its youthfulness.
But White Port can be good quality as well. In a matter of fact when it is aged it can be splendid. In connection with the port festival at Børsen in Copenhagen in November, Henrik Oldenburg invited Jim Reader from C. da Silva who owns Dalva Port to comment a tasting of 10 different ports among which eight were white. Dalva is not a name that we hear a lot about when it comes to ruby and Vintage Port. Its specialities are Tawny with age and recently White Port. C da Silva was founded in 1862, when Clemente da Silva moved to Portugal from Brazil. Jim Reader started in the company as a consultant when he left Cockburn’s after the Symington’s bought the company. 
Dalva is selling standard ruby and tawny to countries like Germany, Belgium, Holland and France. And then they have huge stockings of both red and white Colheita – and that was the reason why Jim Reader moved to the company, he told us.
Here is what we tasted:

Dry White: Dry but not among the driest White Port (sugar contest 45 g/l). Light and a bit golden in colour. A nose with lots of lemon, elderflower and a bit peach. Elegant and fresh.
Dry White Reserva: 6-7 years on oak. Yellow and with a darker impression in the nose. Slightly toasted and typically notes from the oak. Sweeter (60 g/l) and without the same freshness.
10 years Dry White: Golden. More complexity and less toasted. A fine balance between sweetness, fruit and acid. Nice, long tail.
20 years Dry White: A bit brown in the golden colour. Close to a tawny character. Some orange, figs and raisins in the nose. Orange, almonds and honey in the taste. Nice acidity.
40 years Dry White: New on the marked. Light red and brown. A bit shy in the nose in the beginning, but with power and full-bodied. Still fruity and then of course notes from the oak. A very nice glass, but lighter in the style than a red 40 years tawny.
Golden White Colheita 1971: More sweetness and a different bouquet. A bit toasted, almonds and vanilla from the oak. Still with acid.
Golden White Colheita 1963: A great wine from a great vintage. Darker and more brown. More heavy in the nose, but still fresh in the mouth. Dry fruit and honey. Sweet, but with acidity as well. Good balance.
Golden White Colheita 1952: Very powerful and with more acidity, which makes it crisp and fresh. Caramel, honey and vanilla and a long, beautiful aftertaste.
Colheita 1966: Brown with brown sugar and almonds. More spirit and acidity.
Colheita 1975: Cherries in the nose, fruit, brown sugar, nuts and almonds and with quite some sweetness.

As written above, we had a couple of red Colheitas to compare with after the white ones. And the latter did very well. Lighter with more freshness and elegance. And we could see how the colour of the wine was closer as we went back in time, even though the two red Colheitas were a bit more red brown.
Jim Reader told us, that Dalva wants to send a Golden White on the marked each decade. When it comes to the 80s, they still have not decided which year to choose. I don’t know, what they have in their lodge, but 83 or 84 could be possibilities. In general white grape varieties are showing their best in a bit cooler years. High temperature can result in over ripeness. But when it comes to a year like 1963 it was splendid for both red and white grapes, Jim Reader told us.
After the tasting of Dalva, we went through 27 different examples of vintage 2011. I did not taste all and didn’t take notes, but among them I will shortly recommend Ferreira 2011, Niepoort and Niepoort Bioma, Taylor and Ramos Pinto.  
At the Port Festival afterwards I noticed more white ports than usual. Ferreira brought a fine 10 years white, Andresen had some nice examples as usual and so did Niepoort and Santa Eufemia. I am pretty sure, that more companies will produce White Port with age in the future. It will never gain a big market share, but I think that there is a growing interest for Colden Colheitas. Especially if the quality is high like those from Dalva.

Read more about Dalva here:

And about the Port Festival at Børsen here:

torsdag den 14. november 2013

Trains and Wines

Old steam locomotives, the Royal Family’s carriages, omnibuses and model railways. And then Riesling, Pinot Noir, Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese and Gewürztraminer. Trains and Wines. I love both – for travelling and for pleasure.
The Danish wine retailer, Holte Vinlager, recently invited to a Wine Festival at an extraordinary place, The Danish Railway Museum in Odense. Thereby they made is possible to drink lovely wine from all over the world while looking at old locomotives and carriages.
The Wine Festival was part of a caravan with many producers touring around Denmark. Tasting wine is always nice, but even better when it is served by the people who have made it and know all the details about grape varieties, soil, harvest, fermentation and storage of their wine. Not to mention people who are enthusiastic and have passion.
”It is always something special to taste wine with the people, who are making it. Therefore it is a unique chance for our customers”, explained Boy Levin from Holte Vinlager.
All together is was possible to taste more than 140 different wines from sparkling Champagne over white and red to late harvest wine and sherry from countries like France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, United States, New Zealand and Australia. With so many different possibilities, you have to make some decisions. My decision was to concentrate on a few regions and taste both the entry level and the more expensive bottles. Here are some of the notes from the choices I made.
After dry Champagne from Charles Ellner, I started in Alsace, first Joseph Cattin and then Chateau d´Orschwihr.
The Cattin family has produced wine through three centuries on a broad range of grape varieties from all over Alsace. I tried some of their basic wines, Riesling 2012, Pinot Gris 2013 and finally Pinot Noir 2011. The first was dry and fresh with citrus, minerals and floral notes. The second had more fruit flavours and apricot and was a bit spicier. And then I must admit that I have always found Pinot Noir from Alsace to light. It has some of the typical fruit flavours, but is lacking body and power.
The Hartmann family, who owns Chateau d´Orschwihr, has vineyards both around Enchenberg and Bollenberg, the latter a terroir famous for its Gewürztraminer. I tried the fresh, dry and fruity Riesling Bollenberg 2011 with lemon and pineapple on the pallet, and then Pinot Gris Bollenberg 2012 which had more acid. They were followed by to very delicious vines, Gewürztraminer Bollenberg 2011 and Cuvée Madame 2002. The first with exotic fruits like apricot and elderberry, the latter sweat with peach and honey and some floral notes in the nose. 
From Burgundy Georges Lignier & Fils brought a white, straight and clean Chardonnay, Montagny 1. cru 2011 and then three red: A very young Morey St. Denis 2011, Morey St. Denis des Ormes 1. cru 2009 and Chambille-Musigny 2008. Typically tasty Pinot Noir with a good structure, raspberry, fruit and some spices.
From the Douro in Portugal came Rafael Molezun from Real Companhia Velha, whom I met some days before at the Port Festival in Copenhagen. This time he brought the companies table wine from non expensive Porca de Murca and from Evel. The white Porca de Murca Bianco 2011 was very fresh with lemon, a bit pineapple and nice acidity. It is a blend of Viosinho, Gouveio, Moscatel, Arinto and Fernão – and a very good buy when it comes to cheap white wine. The Porca de Murca Tinto 2012 and Tinto Reserva 2009 is made of typically port varieties like Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, both fruity and well bodied. The Evel Reserva Douro 2008 was very dark and had cherries and plums on the palette and a lot of power. More structure and the typically Douro-taste.  
Finally I visited two Italian tables. In my opinion the most impressive one, when it comes to value for money, was Produttori di Govone – an association of 250 members, who produce more than 3 million bottles a year. From Piedmont I tried their Anniversario 2011, Barbera d´Alba 2007, Barbaresco 2010 and Barolo Reserva 2005 and then they also had a Tuscan wine, Ca´ del Toscanello 2009. The Barbera was very fruity and creamy. Ca´del Toscanello based on Sangiovese was a nice surprise. Cherries and darker notes, mature and smooth, but with good tannins as well and a long tail.
From Valpolicella Cantine Benedetti presented their Ripasso and Amarone wine from the entry level to the top. The entry level, Antico Borgoceo, honestly disappointed me. Benedetti Ripasso and Amarone Croce del Gal 2006 (Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina) were both very concentrated with a lot of red berries, black currant and some almonds as well.
All in all the Wine Festival was a very inspiring event with producers showing both their entry levels and some products of high quality. I sure will be back next year.

tirsdag den 5. november 2013

Umbria – close but not Tuscany

Last week I went to a kind of Giro d´Italia of wine. It was the independent Danish importer, Vinotek A Fynnis, who invited to a tasting through the Italian wine regions: Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto, Abruzzi etc. and a region that is less known, Umbria.
When we talk about Umbria we normally refer to white wine from Orvieto. But the region produces a growing amount of red wine as well with better and better result.   
Umbria was represented by export manager Gian-Andrea Dutler from Castello Monte Vibiano, who served five different wines and one of them in different years. The castle is placed on a hill close to Perugia in the district called Colli Perugini.
Gian-Andrea Dutler told me, that there has been a change in the region during the last 10 years. Before most of the wine was produced by bigger cooperatives and they mostly made white wine. But today small and independent producers are having focus on red grape varieties as well – both local grapes like Sangiovese and Sagrantino and international ones like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The area gets less rain and has a hotter summer than Tuscany. The result is wine a bit like those from Tuscany, and Gian-Andrea compares his best wine, L`Andrea with a Super Tuscan.
All in all Castello Monte Vibiano produce around 220.000 bottles a year of which 180.000 is red. More than 90 % of the production is for export.
I tasted these wines from Castello Monte Vibiano:
Maria Camilla, Umbria Bianco: White wine based on a blend of Trebbiano (52 %), Grechetto and Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and crisp with lemon and a bit pineapple. Nice acidity but perhaps a bit one-dimensional.
Villa Monte Vibiano, Rosso dell`Ubria: Made mostly of Sangiovese. Some red berries in the nose, a bit light in the colour and the style and a bit sharp too. Typically Sangiovese-taste, but will do better with food.
Mon Vì, Colli Perugini Rosso: Made of 70 % Sangiovese, 15 % Merlot and 15 % Cabernet Sauvignon. Darker in colour and fuller bodied. Fruity with soft tannins and very drinkable, but not that deep and broad on the palette. A more international style and a bit of a pleaser due to the blend.
L´Andrea, Colli Perugini Rosso: Made of a selection of the best grapes, 50 % Sangiovese, 15 % Sagrantino and then some Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Stored in barriques for 15 months. I tried 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and notices how the style has change to the better. In general it was a great wine, with red berries and typically notes of vanilla from the barriques. Less smooth than the second wine, darker and more powerful and with stronger tannins. 2003 had softer tannins now, but it seems like the cask was a bit too much burned. From 2006 that changed and gave room for elegance and fresh cherries. A great wine with beautiful tannins. 2007 had more fruit and more power. It still has a long life. 2008 was still young but promising too, but not as good as the two previous years. 
After Castello Monte Vibiano I tried wine from other regions too. Among others I tasted a fresh white wine from Piedmont, Roero Arneis Camestri 2012 from Marco Porello, a Soave 2012 and Soave Classico 2011 from Monte Tondo in Veneto. Among the reds I had Chianti Classico 2010, Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 and Poggiassai 2010, all from Poggio Bonelli. In my opinion the Riversa was much better structured than the Super Tuscan, Poggiassai, which truly disappointed me a bit. And finally I will mention a nice red from Sardinia, Cerasio Cannonau di Sardegna 2009 from Cantina Pedres. Sorry, just for namedropping and not adding notes…

fredag den 25. oktober 2013

1963 - A great vintage for port

A mighty row of bottles were waiting, when The Vintage Port Club recently invited to another tasting. We were celebrating the 50th year’s anniversary of the Vintage 1963, which is among the best vintages ever. It was born a classical year, as the Danish port lover Henrik Oldenburg writes in his brilliant book about port.
In most of the vertical tasting’s I have attended, 1963 has performed very well and it normally gets the highest score. This was a horizontal tasting, and I was looking forward to see, which port houses took the lead. We had 10 different bottles out of the more than 40 declared: Fonseca, Grahams, Taylor, Dow, Sandeman, Warre, Cockburn, Croft, Quinta do Noval and Constantino. The last label is today part of Ferreira, but as far as I know they only use it for their brandy. The port was made from the vineyards that today belong to Quinta do Crasto.
All in all the 30 participants drank 1000 years of port! And to be honest, there was less in the spittoons that normally, when we gather together in the club…
Here are my impressions of the evening:

Constantino: Nice and inviting from the beginning, but it did not improve that much further. Dark, a bit slow in the nose, with red berries and brown sugar. Some spirit and a long tail with pepper. Perhaps lacking some debts, but it did well among the big houses.
Quinta do Noval: Dark brown with a light rim. Growing in intensity with raspberry and strawberry in the nose. Needed some time in the glass, but still light compared to later vintages from Noval. I have heard that Noval 1963 is passed its best days. Even that it did not kick that much, this bottle was still alive.
Croft: Light mahogni. The first impression was bad with chlorine in the nose. After a while it changed into the more typically Roêda-style with pine and some strawberries and cherries. Sweetness and fruit. It had its own style, but did not impress me like it did, when we had a Croft-tasting this spring.
Cockburn: Dark red brown and very closed in the beginning. A nice bouquet with red cherries and some vanilla. Improved very well and made its way to my top 3. Nice acid, sweetness and fruit in good balance. Some smoky notes and a good aftertaste. One of the biggest surprises of the evening.
Warre: Very unclear and light colour, due to a bad bottle. But the bouquet and taste was not that badly ruined. Cherries and some fruit, but weak and disappointing this evening.
Sandeman: An impressive red colour. A god smell of Cherrie flowers and a bit blackberry. A taste of sweet cherries and still with power to last. Another good surprise. With a bit more depths and perhaps a broader pallet it could have made it to the top.  
Dow: Brown and very close in the beginning. Cherries and other red berries in the nose and the taste, but some pine and mint as well. Dry and elegant in the style and with good freshness and acid, but perhaps a bit to less fruit. Nice tail.
Taylor: Very impressive and delicious from start to the last drop. Dark red brown with cherries and some coffee notes beneath. Elegant, but with some pepper and spirit as well, which slowly disappeared. Very nice balance and a long, great aftertaste. The best glass of the evening in my opinion.
Grahams: Dark red brown. A heavy smell of fruit and plums. Potent and a good structure with nice sweetness and fruit and some chocolate. Powerful tail. A very nice glass too, which ended as number 2.
Fonseca: Very closed and disappointing after the first sip. Needed time and air. Dark with red notes. Cherries and raspberry, a bit spicy with some tobacco notes. Improved a lot during the evening.

After the tasting we voted for the winners of the evening. With 30 people we were divided into to teams with different bottles, and there were some significant differences in the votes. Taylor had a lot of point in the first team, and less in the second. Croft had no votes at all in the first team, but quit some in the second. And the same goes for Dow. Considering my notes I guess it is not surprise that I was part of the first team.

All together the result was:
  1. Taylor with 46 points
  2. Grahams with 39 points
  3. Fonseca with 35 points
  4. Croft with 14 points
  5. Noval with 12 points
  6. Constantino with 10 points (a bit of a surprise)

The bottles were opened about 2½ hour before the tasting and had about 1 hour in the glass. The wines were not served blind.

My overall conclusion is that Vintage 1963 still is one of the best years ever in port history, and with a good variation in the style and still with the houses characteristic. Mature and ready to drink. Some of them can last longer too, but not all. And I am pretty sure, that those bottles that did not perform well that evening, would have been splendid wines if they were tasted alone or in a vertical tasting. 

tirsdag den 24. september 2013

Taskoy from Turkey

When I am on holiday with my family, we are always giving the local produced wine a chance. It has been like that in Tuscany, in Côtes du Roussillon, around Valencia and in the Douro Valley among other places. Either we are visiting the local wineries or we are just picking bottles from local producers in the supermarket. Sometimes it is a bad experience, sometimes it is fine for the time and the place and now and then we discover wines that are surprisingly good.
This summer we went to Turkey - a country with a reputation saying that they mostly produce old fashioned, heavy and sweet wines. They are growing a lot of grapes but most of them are not used for making wine. But times they are a-changin in Turkey as well…
We spent 1½ week in Foca, North of Izmir – a small town at the sea, where the wind is cooling down the heat. In the old days they made a lot of wine in that region. But in 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne established new boundaries and the area changed from belonging to Greece to being part of the new Republic of Turkey. The vineyards and the tradition of viticulture disappeared.
But in the new millennium things began to change again. In 2001 vineyards were re-established in the hinterland, and in 2011 the first winery in Foca opened. The name of the company is Taskoy and they are producing both olive oil and wine – those two things often go well together. The same year they opened a small shop in the town selling their own products and other things like soap and art craft from the area.
We passed by and of course we entered and bought a couple of bottles to try in our rented house. We were very pleased so we came back for more a few days later.
Taskoy are making both white and red wine from local and international grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, syrah and merlot. They are growing their own grapes, using cold fermentation and storing the wine in oak casks before bottling it.
I did not make a lot of notes, but among other wines we tried were these:
Misket 2012: A very fresh white wine with lemon and peach melba in the nose. Crisp and aromatic with nice acid and short tail. Served cold it was light and very delightful in the summer heat.
Öküzgözö 2012: An interesting Turkish red grape variety, which Jancis Robinson in an article once called “super juicy”. And indeed it was. A fresh wine with herbs and eucalyptus in the nose, easy going with flowers, cherries and other red fruits in the palate. Great acidity and nice tannins too.       
These two wines were worth the visit in the small shop. The wines based on international grapes were surely drinkable too, but not remarkable. Getting the chance to discover a grape variety like Öküzgözö is exactly why I want to try the local wine and prefer when it is based on local grape varieties. Hopefully I will soon have the chance to explore Öküzgözö and other Turkish wines further. I think it is a county on its way up when it comes to wine. And hopefully merlot and chardonnay won’t force out the local varieties.

søndag den 15. september 2013

A tasting with new houses

The first tasting in the new season at The Vintage Port Club was an introduction in more than one way. First of all the club could welcome some new members and guests. Secondly it was a broad tasting with both tawny with age, LBV, Single Quinta Vintage and Vintage. And finally it was a sort of introduction to some new or minor producers, that we don’t see that often in the Club. Some of them are among the many new producers, that saw the light after the law was changed in 1986 and it was allowed to produce and ship port directly from the Douro.

The producers were:

Churchill’s: A young port firm, but with a long history. It was founded in 1991 by Johnny Graham, who came from Cockburn. But more important he is from the Graham Family, who sold their company to The Symington’s in 1970. Of course the new owners did not want any of the family members to produce port under that name anymore. Instead the new company chose the name Churchill’s which was the family name of Johnny’s wife. Churchill’s are gaining reputation for their vintage port. We tried Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha Vintage 2003, Churchill’s Vintage 2000 and 10 years tawny.

Quinta de Ventozelo: A quinta in Cima Corgo that used to sell their grapes to some of the big producers. But in 1999 the new owner was more ambitious and started producing table wine and ports themselves. We tried LBV 2007 and Vintage 2003.

Quinta do Portal: Founded in 1989 by the Branco family. They are producing table wine, ports and muscatel – and that with a growing reputation. The first vintage was declared in 1995, and from 1999 the quality was inclining under winemaker Paulo Coutinho. We tried Vintage 2003, Vintage 2000, 10 years tawny and 20 years tawny.

Quinta de Gaivosa: Founded by the family Alves de Sousa. The quinta used to sell their grapes to Ferreira and Borges, but around 1991 they started to produce their own wine under their own label. Today the company is run by father and son, Domingos and Tiago Alves de Sousa. We tried the Alves de Sousa Vintage 2009, Gaivosa Vintage 2003 and 10 years tawny.

Hutcheson: An old house between all the youngsters. Hutcheson was founded back in 1881 by Thomas Page Hutcheson and Alexander Davidson Taylor. In 1927 it was sold to Barros and followed that company into the big Sogevinus group in 2006. In Denmark Hutcheson is best known for their good colheitas, but they do produce vintage port as well. We included a bottle of older vintage in this tasting, the Vintage 1970.

Here are just a few notes followed by the result of the voting among the participants:
Hutcheson 1970 was light and mature; brown as a tawny but still with life and acid. Not a powerful wine, but tasty and well balanced. Cherry and other red berries and a bit pepper in the end.
Portal did well both among the tawnies and the vintages. 2003 was dark and with a lot of fruit. 2000 with plums and more sweetness. Both were spicy and with a good, long tail. The 10 years tawny was a bit shy in the nose, but with a fine taste of almonds and dates. 20 years a bit more spicy, darker notes and some caramel.
Alves de Sousa Vintage 2009 was very young, inky and with lot of fresh fruit and tannins for a longer life. Some pepper in the tail. The younger one, the Gaivosa 2003 was more drinkable and had some orange and mint in the nose. Good fruit and well bodied. The 10 years tawny from Gaivosa was the odd man of the evening. Unclear, with a nose full of orange peal, citrus and some yoghurt. Different, but surprisingly tasty with all its freshness and sweetness.
Churchill´s was the disappointment of the evening. I have tried their vintages from 1982 until 2007 before and found them very powerful and promising on the long term. But this evening they unfortunately did not perform well due to a couple of bad bottles.
Ventozelo 2003 had plums in the nose and at taste of dark berries with a lot of pepper too. The LBV was fruity and drinkable.
The votes of the evening were:
1. Hutcheson Vintage 1970: 68 points
2. Portal 20 years tawny: 29 points
3. Portal 10 years tawny: 20 points
4. Portal Vintage 2003 and Portal Vintage 2000: both 12 points
6. Gaivosa Vintage 2003: 10 points
7. Gaivosa Vintage 2009: 3 points
8. Ventozelo Vintage 2003 and Gaivosa 10 years tawny: both 2 points

Not that surprising with the 1970 as a clear winner. Obvious Portal was well received as well. And of course the young vintages had a hard night among the older wines. 

torsdag den 8. august 2013

Visit to lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia

During my visit in Porto in June with fellow board members of The Vintage Port Club we visited some port lodges as well. First we went to Graham’s, then Barão de Vilar, Sogevinus (at Cálems lodge), Noval and finally Ramos Pinto.
Among the many port tasted, I will mention some highlights.

Gustavo Devesas served the new range of tawny from Graham’s. They are all very soft, smooth and drinkable. At first I thought that the gap between the 20 and the 30 years was too small, but after a while the 30 years Tawny gained a lot with its fresh orange and almonds and nice acid to balance the sweetness. After that we had two splendid Colheitas: The 1969 and the 1952 – the latter made for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Sweet, but with good acid to balance.
Among the new Vintage 2011 from the Symington’s, we tasted Warre’s, Dows, Cockburn, Graham’s, Graham’s The Stone Terraces, Quinta do Vesuvio and Quinta do Vesuvio Capela. A good flight among the many vintages declared from the already praised year. Warre’s was deep purple, with a lot of cherries and blackberries and ripe tannins. Graham’s more sweet, rich and fruity and very promising. Graham’s The Stone Terraces is made from two schist stone-terraced vineyards at Quinta dos Malvedos. The result is a rich, fruity, concentrated and vinous port, powerful and with some mint. Vesuvio was dark and very powerful too with both acid and strong tannins. You can find some of the same in Capela, but the addition of Sousão and a bit Alicante Bouschet makes it different to. More heavy and tight, but fresh at the same time, spicy and with pepper in a long finish.

At Barão de Vilar Mariana Rocha Ferreira and Álvaro van Zeller served a broad range of their fine Colheitas – from 2005 and back to 1939. The highlights were: 1982, well balance with brown sugar, almonds and chocolate. 1962, powerful with a long tail full of pepper. 1963, dark and powerful with a lot of fruit and a splendid acid to make a great balance. 1934, surprisingly dark, a nice burned taste with some liquorice. The last two were poured directly from the cask. Barão de Vilar sure proved their quality, when it comes to Coheitas in the more Portuguese and rustic style compared to Graham’s.

In Calem’s beautiful lodge Sónia Figueira and winemaker Carlos Alves from Sogevinus welcomed us with two flights from one of their minor brands Hutcheson – minor in quantity but not quality. And this time the vintages were served before the tawnies. Carlos explained that in his opinion it is easier to clean the mouth from the strong tannins with bread and water than to clean the nose after the Tawnies.
We had a LBV from 2003 followed by a young but promising Vintage 2003 and a Vintage 2000. The latter was drinkable already, more dry and with minerals, but with less tannins that the 2003. After that followed Colheita 2004, Colheita 2000, 20 years Tawny and Colheita 1984. The first a bit too young, 2000 very smooth with nuts and orange. The 20 years was sweeter that the Colheitas but very nice. The best glass sure was the 1984 with an impressive amount of acid to balance. 

Noval does not have a lodge in Gaia - just a small store. Here we tried a couple of good and powerful table wines and then some port: Their reserve called Black and LBV 2007, followed by 10, 20 and 40 years Tawny and finally Noval Vintage 2011 and Noval Nacional Vintage 2011. Both the vintages were very rich and powerful. Noval had a lot of fruit, blackberries and pepper in the end. Nacional was nearly ink, a little shy in the nose, but so rich and intense that it nearly felt like an explosion in the mouth, sharp and with good acid.

Finally at Ramos Pinto Ana Rato presented both rubies and tawnies as well: LBV 2008 – one of the best LBV´s with a lot of power and juicy fruit, Single Quinta Vintage 2007 from Ervamoira and the vintage from the same year. The former more dry and spicy and with a lot of mint in the nose. The latter sweater, darker and with a more deep pallet. Then followed their range of aged Tawny, 10 years, 20 years and 30 years. They always impress me with their good balance between sweetness with almonds and freshness with acid, orange and acid. I range them among the best tawnies at all.    

tirsdag den 6. august 2013

The 30th Regatta de Barcos Rabelos

A few days after the Enthronement Ceremony the Confraria de Vinho do Porto had their traditionally regatta in the Douro. The old Barcos Rabelos – the boats that used to sail the port pipes down to Vila Nova de Gaia from the Quintas in the Douro – were sailing from the mouth of the river to the finish line in front of the port lodges.

16 boats were participating this year. I was lucky to get invited by Ramos Pinto to be on board of Confrarias boat that followed the Rabelos during the race. Soon the Rabelos of Cockburn, Cálem, Offley and Taylor were in the lead, but at the goal “Quinta dos Canais” from Cockburn with Mestre Luís Martins as the captain was a clear winner, followed by “Quinta do Foz” from Sogevinus and Infanta D. Isabel from Rozès.

 The winner, “Quinta dos Canais” from Cockburn

But as David Guimaraens from Fladgate explained me the regatta is more fun than a serious race. The same point was made by George Thomas David Sandeman, who after the regatta, where the boat from Sandeman fished last, said with a big smile: “Everyone can win, but it takes more effort to finish last. And remember, that it is told in the Bible that the last will be the first”.
Yes, it is a funny event. And it sure is a beautiful sight when the Rabelos are coming up the Douro with their sail raised. And I must admit that it was lovely to spend the afternoon at Confrarias boat with good serving and port tonics.
Ramos Pinto, who invited me on board, doesn’t have a boat in the race themselves. And as João Machete Pereira explained to me, it is too expensive to buy a new Barco Rabelo just for that event.

On board of Confrarias boat together with the  
Fiel das Usancas of the Chanceleiro
Manuel Maria Matos de Magalhães Ferreira.

Visit in Porto

In late June I visited Porto again. It is always nice to be back in the beautiful city, and it is always a pleasure to visit the port lodges for tastings and for meetings with old and new friends in the port business.
The main events during this visit were the celebration of São João – the main Saint of Porto - and the Enthronement Ceremony at the Confraria de Vinho do Porto. A friend of mine, the president of the board of The Vintage Port Club, was enthroned as Caveleiro and we were a small group that to took part of the event and the following dinner. A wonderful evening that gave me the chance to talk with people like David Guimaraens (Fladgate), João Nicolau de Almeida (Ramos Pinto), Gustavo Devesas (Symington), Miguel Roquette (Quinta do Crasto), Ana Rato (Ramos Pinto), Roy Hersh (For the Love of Port) and many more.
The days in Porto included a few visits and tastings as well. We started at the newly renovated lodge at Graham´s, where we a big tasting followed by a wonderful fresh tuna steak at the new Vinum Restaurant. The tuna, the wines and the view were all beautiful. The Symingtons have done at good job renovating the lodges and transforming it into at first class destination for wine tourist.
In the days to follow we visited Barão de Vilar, Sogevinus (at Cálems lodge), Noval and Ramos Pinto. A report of some of the wine tasted will follow. 

Together with other port lovers: Me, Gustavo Devesas and Roy Hersh from For the Love of Port

tirsdag den 4. juni 2013

Antinori – tradition in Tuscany

As a winelover, you got to have some respect for a wine producer that can trace its history back as long as 1385. Back then Giovanni di Piero Antinori became a member of the winemaker’s guild in Florence, “Arte Fiorentina”, and today, 26 generations later, the firm is run by Marchese Piero Antinori and his three daughters.
Antinori is one of the most important and biggest wine producers in Italy. Besides a palace in Florence the family owns a long row of estates and vineyards, mostly in Tuscany but elsewhere in Italy and in California and Chile as well. Together with families like Frescobaldi they represent tradition, which has managed to survive during the centuries.  
Among the many wines produced by Antinori, I tasted a few recently, when the wine importer and shop, Vinens Verden ( offered a chance to become co importer. In generally Antinori is known for producing fruity wines of good quality that don’t need to age for a long time but are ready to drink. And that goes for the cheaper wines as well as the more expensive.
We started with a white and a rosé. Tuscany doesn’t have a long tradition for producing white wine, due to the fact that the white grapes often were blended into the red Chianti wines. But that has been forbidden since 2005 when the regulation for Chianti Classico was changed. Villa Antinori Bianco 2011 (IGT) is made of 70 % Trebbiano and Malvasia – the traditionally varieties in Tuscany – and then 30 % blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. The result is a light coloured fresh wine, with flowers and some grapefruit in the nose. Well balanced and medium bodied.
The Scalabrone Rosato 2012 from Guado al Tasso in Bolgheri at the coast south of Livorno was very light pink in the colour, fresh with a lot of strawberry notes. It is made of a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
The reds started with Villa Antinori Rosso 2009, which has been produced since 1924 and with inspiration form Bordeaux. The grapes are 55 % Sangiovese, 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 % Merlot and 5 % Syrah. Therefore it is classified as Toscana IGT and not DOC. The later category demands a minimum of 80 % Sangiovese. It has stored 12-14 months on French oak and then about a year in the bottle. The result is a very fruity wine with dark berries and soft tannins. Very pleasant to drink with an international approach, but still with a Tuscan style.
After that followed three Chianti Classicos: Pèppoli 2009 from the estate with the same name, Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 and Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva 2007. The Pèppoli had some raspberry and a bit stable in the nose, a bit tannins but still soft and a short tail. It has performed better before. Marchese Antinori was darker and very powerful and seducing in the nose. Black berries and a bit oak due to the 14 month in small French barriques. A pleasant and powerful wine. The same goes for the Badia a Passignane mads of 100 % Sangiovese. Concentrated with a lot of fruit and a very long and beautiful tail.
After these three Chianti Classicos the next wine had a hard time. Il Brucato from Bolgheri was lighter and more anonymous in the style. It is made of 60 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 % Merlot and 10 % Syrah. Drinkable and easy going.
Finally we tried Tignanello 2009, one of the so called Super Tuscans that appeared in the 70s and 80s, when the winemakers started to experiment with other grape varieties. It is made of 80 % Sangiovese, 15 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 % Cabernet Franc. Powerful, expressive and elegant in the nose, notes of raspberries and a lot of fruit, well balanced with some acid and tannins and a long aftertaste. It is a wine with and understandably good reputation, but of course more expensive too.
All together Antinori was not a disappointment and in generally gives good value for the money.      

lørdag den 11. maj 2013

Wine at a meeting

The board of The Vintage Port Club does not have meetings that often. But when we meet, we are always having a glass or two, and not just port, but table wine as well. Often the meeting include a dinner, and we try to match the wines too the food.
Normally everyone brings a bottle or two and often the wines are served blind. Yesterday’s list of wine was quite impressive – not just in numbers but in quality as well. I did not make notes, but here is the list:

Blancs de Blancs Valdiviesio
Champagne Valois extra dry
Dr. Loosen 2007 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling
Alsace 2006 Riesling gr. Cru
Dr. Nägler Rheingau 1996 Riesling Spätlese
Dr. Heinrich Nägler Rheingau 1976 Riesling Auslese
Select Blocks Sauvignon Blancs 2011 Marlborough New Zealand
Hartley Ostini – Hitching Post Highliner 2008 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara
Dominus, Napa Valley 2002
Sauternes: Ch. Lafaurie Peyraguey 1994
Andresen Vintage 2009
Graham Vintage1983
Taylor Vintage1970
Cockburns Vintage1970
Fonseca Vintage1970
Feist Vintage1977

Among the peaks of the evening were the Rheingau Spätlese 1996, Dominus 2002, Cockburn 1970 and Fonseca 1970.

onsdag den 1. maj 2013

A duel between Single Quinta Vintage and LBV

Single Quinta Vintage (S.Q.V.P.) is a category of port that I find very interesting and challenging. Interesting because it the most pure product. As a principle it is based on grapes from the same harvest and the same quinta which gives more variation due to the differences in soil, locality and microclimate. Just think of the differences of rain and heat in the Baixo Corgo and the Douro Superior… This explains why you can find excellent Single Quinta Vintages in years where the harvest in general was not that good. In other words it is among the S.Q.V.P.´s that you will find the terroir of the Douro expressed more clearly that in “real” Vintage, which is a made of a blend of the best grapes from different quintas and places in the region.  
On the other hand there is some confusion connected to the category. It is not a formal category described in the “Regulamento das categorias especiais do vinho do Porto”, but on the website of Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP) I have found this definition:
These Vintages are unique in that they are not only the product of a single harvest but also of a single quinta, or wine estate, which makes them truly exceptional.
The Portuguese version does not talk about quinta, but “uma única vinha”, where vinha means either wine estate or vineyard.
Traditional S.Q.V.P is produced when a company does not declare “real” vintage and if – of course – the harvest on the specific quinta is good enough for the purpose. But the same goes for other types of blended vintages which also are sorts of Second Wines like Fonseca Guimaraens, Noval Silval and Graham´s Malvedos – the latter a topic that has been discussed many times. Before Malvedos was more a brand, but lately the quinta has given its name to real Single Quinta Vintage.
After the new law from 1986 which allowed independent producers to export port direct from the Douro, more S.Q.V.P.s has been added to the marked. Instead of selling their grapes to the big companies, growers wanted to produce port themselves under their own name and brand – and some of them are declaring S.Q.V.P. nearly every year. That is another reason why the category is a challenge. New brands of different quality are popping up every year. There is always a new player on the marked ready to be tasted and tested.
Another sort of Second Wine to Vintage is of course Late Bottled Vintage – “The Other Vintage Port” as Roy Hersh once called it in an article. Today LBV is produced nearly every year, but opposite vintage it is stored between 4 and 6 years in large barrels. There are different types of LBV, but in general they can be divided into filtered and non filtered – where the former is ready to drink when bottled and the latter will gain from maturing in the cellar.
Both S.Q.V.P. and LBV can be excellent, and often you will find very good value for the money. But what if you compare those two categories? Which one are the best? Can you taste the difference when they are young? Those were the questions, when The Vintage Port Club recently invited to a duel between S.Q.V.P. and LBV both from the year 2005.
The wines were Quinta do Bomfim and Dow´s LBV, Fonseca Guimaraens and Fonseca LBV, Graham´s Malvedos and LBV, Quinta do Passadouro and LBV, Noval Silval and Noval LBV, Quinta de Ervamoira and Ramos Pintos LBV and finally Quinta de Vargellas and Taylor´s LBV.
And before that we had a little warm-up with Delaforce Quinta da Corte 1980 and Graham´s Malvedos 1968, 2008 and 2009.  
Of the first four the Malvedos 1968 was the peak. Red brown with white rim and with a good balance between acid and fruit. Still fresh and nice. The two younger brothers had a lot of fresh fruit, tannins and acid and a very good potential for developing. I don’t remember that I have tried Quinta da Corte before, and unfortunately this bottle was not a pleasure. It was sticky in the nose, unbalanced and lacked fruit and power.
After that followed all the bottles from 2005. Most of them were not mature yet, had strong tannins and resulted in purple tongues. To make it more difficult they were all served blind and in random order. That’s means that besides finding out which ones were single quintas and which ones were LBVs, we should try to figure out the names of the companies as well.
Honestly it was not easy at all! I identified the LBV´s from Dow´s, Graham´s, Fonseca and Ramos Pintos, but the latter I thought was a vintage. The same with the LBV from Noval – and then for other wines it was the opposite: I degraded some of the vintages to LBVs. For educationally reasons it might have been better to taste them two by two, giving us a chance to compare the LBV with the S.Q.V.P. from the same brand. 
After the tasting, but before the names were unveiled, we voted for the best wines of the evening:
  1. Fonseca Guimaraens with 48 votes. My own favourite this evening, fine balance and a long lovely tail.
  2. Graham´s Malvedos with 31 votes. I agreed here as well and had it on my second place. A lot for dark berries.
  3. Quinta do Passadouro with 14 votes. Here I disagreed and in a matter of fact I though it was a LBV
  4. Ramos Pinto Quinta do Ervamoira with 12 votes. I had it in my top 5 as well
  5. Ramos Pinto LBV with 10 votes. The only LBV that made it to the top.
After that followed Dow´s Bomfim, Taylor´s Vargellas, Graham´s LBV, Passadouros LBV and Noval Silval. All in all 80 % of the votes were given to the Single Quinta Vintages.
Therefore my conclusion will be, that it is possible to taste a difference between S.Q.V.P. and LBV – and in generally the former perform better that the latter. But you can make mistakes as well and a good LBV – like the one from Ramos Pinto – can compete and often they will be good value for the money.