onsdag den 17. december 2014

Cristiano van Zeller at Børsen

Cristiano van Zeller is a big guy himself – and so are his wines. He is one of the famous Douro Boys – the five producers from Douro (Quinta do Crasto, Niepoort, Quinta do Vallado, Quinta Vale Meão and Zellers own Quinta Vale de Maria) – who joined forces to inspire each other and brand their still wines from the Douro. They all produce Port as well, but for the Douro Boys the fortified wines are second to still wines from Douro DOC or the broader Duriense VR.

Some weeks ago Cristiano van Zeller visited Denmark for at tasting of his wines at the Port festival at Børsen in Copenhagen. The tasting for press and members of Port Clubs included 24 different wines – 15 of them still wines, the rest Port. But first Cristiano told us about himself and his view of the changes in the Douro.
The Van Zeller family arrived to Portugal in the 18th century and started as port shippers in 1780. The family was connected to the famous Quinta do Noval, but both Noval and the company; Van Zeller & Co. was sold in 1993. Later the brothers Fernando and Álvaro van Zeller founded Barão de Vilar and their cousin Cristiano started to work with the Roquettes from Quinta do Crasto and other of the member of the Douro Boys. In 1996 he took over Quinta Vale de Maria, which has been in the hands of his wife’s family, and after a renovation the production of both still wine and Port started. In 2006 the family bought back the old trading company as well.
The Quinta still uses lagares for the best grapes, and Cristiano told; that they soon will build some new ones instead of steel tanks. It is sort of back to basis, but with the important difference, that the modern granite lagares has temperature control as well. Another new-old trend is planting different grape varieties in the same field. These mixed fields with many varieties dominated the Douro before, but later most producers planted the five big varieties (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca) in different fields. Recently producers are going back to mixed fields, and not only with the big five, but with different varieties as well. The result is better, is the saying, and it seems like the different varieties are communicating concerning time of maturity etc. Off course the terroir of the different fields is important, and that is why Cristiano van Zeller has started a production of wines from single vineyards.

The tasting at Børsen included both white wine, red wine and Port. Here are some notes.
Rufo Branco 2013: A very fresh and straight white with fine acidity
VZ Branco 2003: Made of a blend of Viosinho, Rabigato, Codega and Gouveio, less acidity, heavier and with notes from the cask, but still balanced. A more complex wine in a burgundy style.
Van Zellers CV 2011 and 2012: A wonderful wine with a great structure. Deep and intense with dark berries, cherries and floral notes, some spices and tannins for at long life.
Vinha do Rio 2012: A single vineyard wine from a field close to the river Torto. A nice nose with dark cherries and on the palate raspberry, fruit and soft tannins.
Vinha Francisca 2011: Another single vineyard wine, named after Cristianos daughter. A bit shy in the nose, but elegant with fresh fruit and strong tannins.
Quinta Vale D. Maria 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012: A nice, fresh and elegant wine with dark fruit and cherries and a nice balance. 2009 was closed, but 2007 was very drinkable and with a great structure and a long finish.
After these wines followed a lecture in different vinification processes. We had three different versions of Touriga Franca, harvested at the same time in 2013, but the first from steel tank, the second from a lagar and the third fortified. They were similar and different at the same time. The first one had green tannins and was a bit sharper in the nose, the second was more open, more concentrated and with softer tannins. The Port version was so to speak a fortified version of the second cask-sample.
Finally we had some different Ports. Reserve Ruby and LBV are both unfiltered and with nice fruit and body. They were followed by Vintage 2003, 2009 and 2011. The oldest one was beginning to soften up, an elegant wine with dark, ripe fruit and soft tannins. The two youngsters were powerful with a lot of fresh fruit and dark berries, immature but with elegance as well.
The last couple of glasses were two colheitas from Van Zeller & Co. made in cooperation with the cousins. 1970 was intense and in fine balance, a nose with dry fruit and figs. 1997 was a bit anonymous compared to the older one, but with notes of nuts and orange.

You can read more about Cristiano van Zeller and Quinta Vale de Maria here

onsdag den 5. november 2014

Wine with an edge

The headline is a translation of the name in Danish of a small importer of wine, VinMedKant. The purpose of the firm is to find wines from mostly small producers that have a personal touch, perhaps a bit different from the majorities in the wine region, they represent. Recently VinMedKant invited me to a tasting of Italian wine with several producers present. Some of the wines surprised me in a positive way, while others were a bit disappointing. Here I will mention some of the first.
The tasting did not only present wine but an independent beer brewery too, Birra Amiata from Tuscany. I tried their fresh ale, ComunAle and then Comtessa, a so called Italian Pale Ale with nice fresh hop and floral flavours. Later I had Bastarda Doppia and Bastardia Nera – both brewed on chestnuts. The last was a very powerful and tasteful Imperial Stout with a roasted character and a bit flavours from the chestnuts. The whole range was impressive and proved that a lot has happened when it comes to microbreweries in Italia.

The first wine producer I met was a very pleasant surprise too. Società Agricola Bulichella is a family owned estate from Suvereto in the northern Maremma in Tuscany – a hilly place with a lot of sun and a salty wind from the coast. Bulichella are producing very nice, certified organic wines with a clear line:
  • Tuscanio Bianco 2013: Based on 100 % Vermentino. A very fresh nose, with some tropical fruit notes like pineapple and a hint of mint. Dry full-bodied, but perhaps a little low on acid.
  • Rubino 2011: Rosso Toscano based on 50 % Sangiovese, 25 % Merlot and 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon. Ruby and a very present nose, dark berries and some minerals and spices from the cask.
  • Tuscanio Rosso 2010: 100 % Sangiovese. Typical nose of cherries and darker berries. Great acidity and some floral notes and vanilla from the cask.
  • Hide Syrah 2010: Ruby red. Full-bodied and deep with lots of fruit, red berries and acidity. Velvet tannins and a nice tail.
  • Coldipietrerosse 2010. Not an easy name to pronounce or spell, but worth to remember! A blend of Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and some Petit Verdot). Blackberries and cassis, some tobacco and spicy as well. Tannins for a longer life and a nice finish.
Bulichella is succeeding in creating a clear line of inviting fruitiness combined with minerals and a balanced use of oak.

From Camperchi in inland Tuscany, Arezzo east of Sienna, I tried:
  • Sasso Lupaio 2013: A nice, straightforward red blend (50 % Merlot, 30 % Sangiovese and others), with strawberry and other red fruits. A fresh and well balanced entry level.
  • Anno O 2008: A blend from old vineyards with more than 70 % Sangiovese. Still with red fresh berries, but more spicy and with soft tannins. A good and very drinkable glass.
  • Sangiovese 2007: Dark cherries and with discrete notes from the cask, spices and a bit tobacco. Deeper and with a very good structure.
  • Merlot 2007: Dark berries like blackcurrant, balsamic, spices and a bit jammy. A good wine, but I sure prefered the Sangiovese.

The third estate in Tuscay was Poggio Mandorlo in Montecucco DOC area, who presented three wines:
  • Il Guardiano 2010: Made of 85 % Sangiovese and 15 % Merlot from young vineyards. A medium bodied wine with a lot of fresh fruit and some floral notes. An easy going and straight forward wine. 
  • La Querce 2009: The same blend, but more depths and more, but soft tannin. Read berries and some spices from the time in cask.  
  • Poggio Mandorlo 2008: The top win made of a Super Tuscan blend of 70 % Merlot and 30 % Cabernet Franc aged 18 months in new French barriques. A different nose with dark berries and cassis and more roasted flavours from the time in barriques. More powerful tannins, but still fresh and elegant. A great glass that last in the mouth.

Finally I will mention a producer from Valpociella, Vini Dindo situated near Fumane in Valpociella Classico. Therefore it was no surprise that they presented the tree common red wines from that area. The only one missing was the sweet Recioto:
  • Valpolicella 2013: A typically blend from the region, but with a more fruity character. Light, with red berries and cherries. Low on tannins.
  • Ripasso 2012: 70 % Corvina and then Rondinella and a bit Corvione. Deeper ruby with dried cherries and fruit, low on tannins, but with nice acidity. Aged in steel tanks, which gives more a fruity flavour.
  • Amarone 2010: Darker in the nose, cherries and some raspberry. Some notes like vanilla from the barrique as well. A deeper wine with the typically Amarone character, but different a fresher as well.
Vini Dindo is making more fruity wines that normally from Valpociella. At first I found it a little odd, but giving it a second try, it was quit tasty. But I must admit that I personally prefer the more heavy style from other producers.
All four producers mentioned had a clear line in their wines and some of them were different from the typically style of their region. If that is what the importer seeks with his mission, he had made some good choices when selecting producers. Some of the other producers I tried did not have the same approach in my humble opinion.   
You can visit VinMedKant here

onsdag den 24. september 2014

Tasting and talking about wine

”My daughter knows it. She will soon be taking over anyway.”
It is said with a big smile, telling that is not going to happen in the near future. But on the other hand it is a well known fact that many wine estates is owned by the same family in generation after generation. Sons and now also daughters are taking over from their parents.
I am talking with Fred Cline from Cline Cellers about old vineyards, naturally farming, watering minerals into the soil and making wine on single grape varieties. Cline Cellers is based in California – in Los Carneros, Sonoma Coast and Contra Costa County. Fred and his daughter are visiting Denmark together with many other winemakers from all over the world and right now they are in Odense for a big Wine & Spirit Festival arranged by Vinoble.
To begin with we are trying a white Pinot Gris from Sonoma Coast. Nice fruit, but low on acid to balance. A to low serving temperature late in the afternoon probably can explain some of it. We are moving on to the red wines, which pleases us more. First Ancient Vines Mouvedre based on 80 to 120 years old vine stocks, planted by Fred’s maternal grandfather (photo), and then Big Break Vineyards Zinfandel – both from Contra Coast County. The latter is a real California hot climate power wine. Deep and fruity and with a lot of alcohol. Plums and dark berries, some green herbs like mint, notes from the cask (vanilla and oak) and enough acidity to balance. Finally we try his Late Harvested Mouvedre, a sweet and tempting wine, but without the complexity and the balancing acid, that I like in Port. 

Cline Cellers is the final stop on a short tour at the Festival. 24 international producers from the whole word are present together with eight Danish importers – and together they cover the whole world and present all kind of wine and spirits like gin, tequila and rum. Unfortunately I am short of time, and therefore I choose to be very purposive and mainly concentrate on Italian wine.
First I visit GAJA, who is famous for Barbaresco and Barolo, but I decide to taste wines from their two vineyards in Tuscany instead, Ca´ Marcando in Bolgheri and Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino. From the first I tried the white Vistamara 2012 and two reds, Promis 2012 and Magari 2012, both classified as Rosso di Toscana.
Vistamare is dry with with fresh fruit, freshness, some minerals and good acidity, made of a blend of Vermentino and Viognier. Promis is a blend of Merlot, Syrah and 10 % Sangiovese. Nice Sangiovese-nose with red cherries, but darker and softer in the mouth due to the blend, nice acidity and a good aftertaste. Magari has more tannin and more complexity and a darker palette with dark berries and some coffee. Finally I try the Brunello di Montalcino 2009 from Pieve Santa Restituta – a blend from different sites and not the single-vineyard version called Rennina. But still a great wine with expressive cherries and dark berries in the nose and some green herbs too, well structured with powerful tannin. 
Next stop is in Tuscany as well. At Carparzo I try their Rosso di Montalcino and again a Brunello – both made on 100 % Sangiovese. The former is straight forward, but both with a nice body and concentrated fruit. The latter is more concentrated and with striking notes from the cask and tannin.
From Tuscany I am moving south to Planeta on Sicily, where I am trying two very different wines. Nerello Mascalese, Eruzione 1614. The first part of the name is the name of a typically grape variety from Sicily, the latter is referring to the eruption at Etna which lasted about 10 years and started in 1614. The wine has a nice nose of red berries and spices, surprisingly fresh and with acidity due to the facts that it is made of grapes picked in nearly 1000 meters altitude. The next wine is based on 100 % Syrah. Syrah Menfi is more typical Sicilian with a lot of powerful fruit, darker berries, spices and pepper, notes from the cask and soft tannins.
After these Italian visits I choose to improvise the rest of the time. A couple of Italians more, Ripasso Amarone from Cantine Lenotti is followed by Cremant de Bourgogne from Louis Bouillot with a great, fresh Millesime from 2009. More talking about wine and more tasting and the finally the visit at Cline Cellars – a great final.

mandag den 7. juli 2014

Confraria do Vinho do Porto

Every year around Midsummer, when Porto is celebrating São João, the Enthronement Ceremony of The Confraria do Vinho do Porto and the Rabelo Boat Regatta takes place. Last year I witnessed it for the first time and this year we came back for the Ceremony and the Dinner again. Unfortunately we had to go back home before the Regatta, so we did not see the boat from Dalva win this years race.
Most wine regions have their Brotherhoods with different traditions. The Confraria do Vinho do Porto was founded as late as 1982, but is rich of tradition. The members, the Confrades, are both Brothers from the Port companies and Honorary Brothers - the latter divided into three ranks: Cancelários (Heads of States etc.), Infançãos (Noblemans) and Cavaleiros (people dedicated to Port). Last year the late chairman of The Vintage Port Club was introduced as Cavaleiro, which was the reason for our participation last year. We found it an honour to be there came back this year.

The Ceremony takes place in the famous and beautiful Palácio da Bolsa. At first the five members of the Chancelaria (the Chancery) proceed into the Pátio das Nacões followed by the new Confrades. After the Ceremony where the new member are introduced and given an insignia and a diploma, everyone – Confrades and guests – are raising a glass of Port with the toast: “For Port Wine, for the Confraria, for the Confrades”.

After the Ceremony everyone is marching after the horse guard and the orchestra to the nearby Edífício da Alfàndega do Porto for the reception and Dinner. This is a nice ball and a great place to have a talk with old and new friend in the Port Business. The menu this year was poached hake with cream and clams, oxtail and pork cheek duo with puréed cauliflower and asparagus ragout, Farófias (a traditional Portuguese dessert) and regional cheeses with strawberry and pumpkin jelly. And of course it was served with wine and Port: Vinho Branco Dalva Reserve 2012, Vinho Branco Tiara 2012 from Niepoort, Quinta do Grifo Reserva Tinto 2010 from Rozès, Vinho Tinto Touriga Nacional 2009 from Quinta do Noval, 20 Years Tawny Port from Confraria do Vinho do Porto and then different Vintage Port from 1994. Among others I tried Fonseca, Taylor’s, Dalva and Ramos Pinto.

As a Port lover and journalist writing about Port and Portugal it is a great experience to be among so many people dedicated to Port – and of course a lovely evening with friends.  I sure hope to be back again.

You can read more about the Confraria do Vinho do Porto here.

fredag den 4. juli 2014

Cockburn’s – reopened and revisited

From Graham’s we went straight to Cockburn’s. When I visited the lodge in March in was closed and under renovation. In the beginning of June the lodge reopened, so we found it the right place to meet with a close friend of The Vintage Port Club, Gustavo Devesas from the Symington Family Estates – the company that bought Cockburn’s in 2010. In April the club had a tasting of Vintage from Cockburn’s.

First we had a walk around the huge lodge with its long row of pipes and vats. The lodge is the largest in Gaia, and you can’t help getting a bit of the same feeling as when you enter a big cathedral. You feel small and impressed of the richness that surrounds you.

After the tour we went to the new shop and tasting room, where Gustavo had prepared at nice tasting of both Tawny and Vintage for us.
10 years Tawny: Tawny red. Fruit, nuts and almonds, dry and with a spritty end.
20 years Tawny: A bit lighter, red brown. Nice nose with almonds and some orange. Dry and again a spritty end.
Special Reserva: The most popular Port from the company. Pure fruit, blackcurrant. A bit spicy. A great reserva.
LBV 2007: Deeper and a broader palette. Fruity and spicy.   
Canais Vintage 2007: Fruit and some green notes in the nose. Blackberry and other dark berries. A bit pepper and others spices. Still young, but a very nice glass.
Vintage 2011: Lots of fresh fruit, blackberry and other dark berries. Robust with tannins. A baby that sure will grow beauty.

After the tasting we went for a late lunch at splendid restaurant in Matosinhos. Gaveto is famous for its fish and seafood and for at good reason. We had different seafood like shrimps, mussels and “percebes” – a special kind of mussel, and then grilled fish, cheese and cake. And it was served with fresh Vinho Verde from Soalheiro, Graham´s Late Harvest 1982 and Smith Woodhouse Vintage 1999.

I will sure come back to Gaveto next time I am in Porto and explore their menu. And of course I will come back to Cockburn’s as well. A pity that you don’t find a lot of that brand in Denmark.

torsdag den 3. juli 2014

Churchill’s - a clear house style

Our fist appointment Saturday in Porto was with Maria Emília Campos at Churchill’s. Churchill’s is a relative new company, but founded by a family with a long tradition in Port. The founder and wine maker is John Graham from the family that owned Graham’s until they sold it to Symington Family Estates in 1970. In 1981 he established the new company, Churchill Graham Lda and used his wife’s name for the brand. Since then the reputation for high quality Port and table wines has been growing. In 1999 they bought Quinta da Gricha on the south bank of the Douro, between Pinhão and Tua.

Back in 2011 I attended a tasting of their Vintage Ports in Copenhagen and this spring I paid the house a short visit in Gaia. Here in June we had a tour around the lodge and then a tasting prepared and commented by Maria Campos, the company’s director.
We started with some of their very nice table wines:
Estates Branco 2012: Mostly based on Rabigato and then some Viosinho and old vineyards. Fresh with nice acidity, a good body with citrus and minerals.  
Estates Douro 2011: A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Beautiful, deep red. Cherries and other red fruit and notes from the oak, soft tannins, dry and with nice minerality.
Touriga Nacional 2008: More maturity and complexity and a bit rougher, green in the nose, a long finish. More rough than the blend.

Then we continued with Port:
Dry White Aperitif: 10 years old, a blend of Malvasia Fina and other white grape varieties. Looking orange and golden, a bit hidden in the nose. Soft, fresh and dry. Some almonds and mandarin, and a nice finish with pepper. Very useful as an aperitif.
LBV 2007: 4 years on cask, unfiltered. Nice ruby red, but a bit unclear. Great fruitiness, black berries, dry.
10 years Tawny: More red than brown and more fruit than notes from the cask. Dried fruit and orange. Some oxidation.
20 years Tawny: A lovely and impressive glass of tawny. More character and flavour from the cask. Soft and smooth in the mouth, almonds and a long, nice finish.
Vintage 2011: Young, dark and purple with fresh raw fruit and blackcurrant. Dry and with tannins for the long term. Good potential for aging. 

Tasting both wine and Port and among the latter both Tawny and Vintage it is obvious that John Graham and Churchill’s have managed to create their own style with fruit, dryness and minerality. 

tirsdag den 1. juli 2014

Vintage Cellars

Most people who have been visiting Port lodges in Gaia are impressed by the amounts of cask – from the smaller pipes (600 litres) to the big vats (up to 100.000 litres). But another very interesting thing to see and explore is the cellars where the companies are storing their Vintage Port – the Port that are aging in bottles.
After tasting Port at Burmester and Sandeman, we had an appointment with winemaker David Guimaraens in the evening. David Guimaraens is the head winemaker of The Fladgate Partnership which owns Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca – three prestigious Vintage brands. Last year they bought Krohn as well, a house that is famous for its aged Tawnies and Colheitas.

We met David at Taylor’s lodge and went through the big storehouse with all the casks and down to the Vintage Cellar. Well in a matter of fact there are two cellars – a big one with bottles in two levels and a smaller one. A sign says that the big cellar has a capacity of 576.996 bottles of Port! 
I did not count the bottles, but there sure was a lot in different sizes and ages – and from all three houses. It is interesting to see the differences in the amount of bottles from the vintages. In 2011 all the companies sold most of their stocks en primeur, but in older classical years they stored more.

The cellar at Taylor’s is not the first Vintage Cellar I have visited, and every time I find it exciting to walk around looking at all those bottles from vintages going more than 100 years back. The cellars are very different, which the photos below will show. First we have the cellar in the newly renovated Graham’s logde and then the old and more rustic cellar at Ramos Pinto.

When we left Taylor’s we went across the street to The Yeatman, the hotel that Fladgate opened in 2010. There we had a great dinner beside the pool together with David Guimaraens. 

Oysters, presunto, fish and cheese among other things and off course wine and finally Port: Fonseca Vintage 1994 and 1977, Taylor’s Vintage 1985 and Quinta da Eira Velha Vintage 2008 and 2011. A very comfort and pleasant way to end a long day in Gaia.

mandag den 30. juni 2014

Sandeman with Sandeman

After leaving Burmester Friday, we - the board of The Vintage Port Club – went straight to Sandeman´s lodge a bit down the road. It has been many years since I last visited the lodge, so it was nice to be back. We were kindly welcomed by Ligia Marques and Vasco Magalhães, who showed us part of the museum: Old Port bottles, advertisings and posters with the famous Don and some very beautiful drawings of the good old days.

Then we were invited upstairs to the tasting room, where George Sandman, the 7th generation of the family who founded the company in 1790, joined us. Together we had a tasting of some of the Ports from Sandeman and the two other companies in the Sogrape group. In March this year I visited Offley´s lodge and the year before Ferreira, a company that both I and The Vintage Port Club will like to know much better – both due to the quality of the Port and the impressing history connected with the legendary Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira.
The tasting at Sandeman was both vertical and horizontal. First we had Sandeman Vintage 1977, 1994 and 2003 and in the next flight Vintage 2011 from Offley, Ferreira and Sandeman.

Sandeman 1977: Brownish and matured, but still with some acidity. A taste of cedar tree and spices.   
Sandeman 1994: Red berries and fruit, but unfortunately a bit oxidised, lacking some freshness.
Sandeman 2003: A fine balance, nice fruit, blackcurrant and other dark berries. More robust, but a bit closed at the moment.
Sandeman 2011: Black, potent, powerful and concentrated with lots of fresh fruit, blackcurrant, plums, cedar tree and cassis and strong tannins. Impressive now and will sure be great in the future.
Offley 2011: Less complexity, but with a nice taste of plums and black fruit. A fine finish. 
Ferreira 2011: More elegant and more character. Red berries, blackberry and flowers, robust but not hard tannins and a good spiciness with a bit curry. 

After the tasting we had superb lunch with Ligia, Vasco and George. Among other things we had bacalhau in a small packet of bread, duck and a cake with almonds. The wine served was from Casa Ferreirinha, first a white Vinha Grande 2012, then a red Quinta da Leda 2011, a very delicious 30 years Tawny from Sandeman and finally we retasted the bottles from the tasting.

When we left the lodge we were full of impressions after being welcomed like that and spending some hours in good company with great food, wine and last but not least, Port. The tasting proved that the style and in my opinion the quality of Sandeman has improved during the last two decades.

søndag den 29. juni 2014

Port and Revolution

Friday in Porto, our second day, began with a lovely visit to Burmester´s lodge, where Sonja Figueira and winemakers Carla Tiago presented some nice bottles from Sogevinus – the group that beside Burmester owns brands like Cálem, Barros, Kopke, Hutcheson and Feist. Before the tasting we had a short tour around the beautiful restored lodge, which first of all is a visit center for the many tourists and Port lovers. The main building for storing Port is further up behind in Gaia.

This time the tasting took place in a room behind the lodge with a magnificent view to the Don Louis I Bridge. Above there is a terrace, where you can enjoy the Bridge from a more seldom angle and the tasting room below has large windows too the river as well. A lovely place to spend a couple of hours together with nice glasses of Port. 

First we hand a couple of table wines. Kopke Doc White 2013 is made of a blend of Arinto, Gouveio and Rabigato. It is very fresh and straight forward with nice acid and some exotic fruit notes, but perhaps a bit short tail. Kopke Doc Red 2011 is made from typical Douro grapes. Beautiful red, cherries and some spices, nice soft tannins and a long end. 

The followed a nice row of Port.
Burmester Vintager 2011: Young, but drinkable, dark and purple, a nice nose with red fruit and some violet, good fruitiness and some notes of flowers and then a nice long end.
Kopke 10 years Tawny: Mahogany. Some dried fruits in the nose, almonds and fruit and a nice balance.  
Burmester Colheita 1998: Brown, a bit orange in the nose, intense and fruity with cherries and other red berries, a nice balance and some pepper in the end.
Kopke 20 years White: Delicious, elegant and with notes of coconuts, almonds and some orange. Soft in the mouth, but perhaps a bit sharp in the nose.
Kopke Colheita 1989, Dark brown, dried fruit and vanilla, but still with fruit too. Deep.
Kopke 40 years White. A bit sharp in the nose. Still with coconuts, but more character from the oak. Nuts and fruits, a bit orange, nice acidity.
Barros Special Edition Colheita 1974: Released as a celebration of the 40 year anniversary of the revolution and therefore the bottle is decorated with a poem, a hymn to freedom, formed as a carnation. Amber, very well balanced with great fruitiness and lots of almonds. Elegant and delicious.  “Freedom, Evidence of Portuguese Talent”, as the poems says.

After the visit at Burmester we went straight to Sandeman. Report will follow.

fredag den 27. juni 2014

Old Colheitas and Bacalhau

A week ago I was back in Porto – my second visit this year. Lovely.
This time I was here with the board of The Vintage Port Club, and the main reason was the Enthronement Ceremony at the Confraria do Vinho do Porto and the dinner after. But we arrived a couple of days before and off course we spent our time visiting port lodges for meetings and tastings. Everywhere we were welcomed with great hospitality and kindness.

The first day we met Alvaro van Zeller from Barão de Vilar and Maynards, who visited the Club for our annual Winemaker’s Dinners earlier this year. Alvaro kindly poured from his old stocks of Colheita and from bottles in the tasting room. First we had 2003 in two different blends – one of them sweet and heavy with a lot of coconut flavor. Then we had a 10 years white Tawny followed by white colheitas from 2004 and 2003 and colheitas from 1998, 1970, 1963, 1947 and 1934. My favorite again was 1963 with its great balance, but 1947 was great as well, very dark and intense with caramel. 1934 is off course delicious, but for my taste it is a bit too concentrated with its balsamic character. I prefer more freshness like in the 1963.
The visit at Barão de Vilar had another purpose. The Vintage Port Club will celebrate its 25th years Anniversary later this year. The club was established in 1989 by a group of Port lovers. The Anniversary will be celebrated in two ways. We will arrange an international event and a big tasting of Vintage 1994, and at the date of the founding of the Club we will have a tasting of both Vintage and Colheitas from 1989. Besides this we will release our own White Colheita 1989. It is Alvaro van Zeller who has found a cask and blended our Jubilee Port. When we visited him we tasted two different versions and decided which one it should be. We choose the bottle shape and size as well. Now we just have to design labels.

After the visit we were have dinner with Alvaro in the restaurant Bacalhau in Ribeira – a very nice family owned place with good Portuguese cooking.

The next couple of days we visited several Port Lodges. Some reports will follow soon.

tirsdag den 10. juni 2014

Cortes de Cima

In March I went to the Alentejo in Portugal and paid Cortes de Cima a visit. I had a lovely evening there and spent the next day with the Danish-American owners of the quinta, Hans Kristian and Carrie Jorgensen, the chef Bjarne Otto who prepared a lovely dinner and Head Winemaker Hamilton Reis among others. The main purpose of my visit was writing an article for the Danish wine magazine, Vinbladet, which has just been published in the new issue.

Jorgensen’s bought the 365 hectares big estate in 1988 and after a few years growing different vegetables they planted some vines. From the beginning Hans Kristian has been experimenting with different varieties – some with good results, others just for fun. Today their range of wine includes both blends of international and Portuguese varieties and several single grape varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Petit Verdot and Touriga Nacional.
- It is great fun to make wine based on single varieties. But we don’t produce that much and a lot of people abroad don’t know the Portuguese varieties, says Hans Kristian Jorgensen.

Cortes de Cima’s most well-known and most prestigious wine is called Incógnito and is made of 100 % Syrah. But when they started producing the wine it was not allowed to use Syrah if you wanted to have your wine approved under the DOC system. Hans Kristian planted some stocks anyway and with a good result. Incógnito was born.
- We made the wine illegal for two years, but in 2000 the rules were changed, explains Hans Kristian.

During my visit we had at tour around the lovely estate near Serra do Mendro. We saw some new plantings and passed by the big dam used for water supply. Hans Kristian Jorgensen has a background in mechanical engineering and insists in creating, building and repairing everything including energy supply and recycling of wastewater from the winery.

Finally we ended in the tasting room for at broad tasting. Here are some notes:
Chaminé Branco 2012: Fresh and straight forward, made of a blend of varieties from Cortes de Cima´s new vineyard at the cost. 
Sauvignon Blanc 2012: Nice, fresh and crispy with some more exotic notes.
Cortes de Cima Branco 2012: A blend of Alvarinho, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Fresh lime but with more character and fruit, deeper and with notes from the oak.
Chaminé 2012: Blend of Syrah and Aragonez, fruity and tasty, straight forward, popular in Portugal.
Cortes de Cima 2012: Blend stored on French and American oak. More complexity, fruit and some chocolate, dry and well balanced. Good tail. 
Aragonez 2012: Raw and with lot of tannins. Red berries, a bit eucalyptus and some balsamic. Great potential for storing.
Tricandeira: Green tannins. Some broccoli in the taste and not that much fruit and concentrations. A bit spicy.
Syrah 2011: Cherry and other red berries, a bit vanilla. Well balanced. 
Hans Christian Andersen 2010: A tribute to the Danish author, 100 % Syrah and only made in the best years. Good fruit, fresh and spicy. Some vanilla and a bit toasted from the oak. A very nice glass.
Reserve 2012: A blend of 42 % Aragonez, 32 % Syrah and then some Petit Verdot and Touriga Nacional. 12 months on oak. Very powerful and complex. Red berries and notes from the oak like tobacco.

Read more about Cortes de Cima

onsdag den 21. maj 2014

Visiting Offley and Quinta do Seixo

During my last visit in Portugal I spent a day with Joana Pais from Sogrape, the company that owns the famous brand Mateus and three big Port producers Offley, Sandeman and Ferreira. Joana suggested that we took a daytrip to the Douro and – knowing the beautifulness of the valley – I off course agreed.

Before driving up, we visited Offley´s lodge in Gaia. After a formal tour around the lodge, winemaker Luis de Sottomayor joined us for a tasting of some of the companies Port. First the entry level with White Port, Ruby and Tawny, where I found the White Port among the better ones with a good balance. Next we had Offley´s 10 years old Tawny. Yellow and with notes from the cask, almonds and vanilla and a nice balance. Fresh, but not with a lot of character. Finally we had LBV 2009 and Vintage 2011. The former unfiltered, dark and with plenty of fruit. Black currant and a bit elderberry in the nose and soft tannins. The latter more dark, powerful and sharp, a great nose of black currant, cassis and a bit coffee, not that deep, but straight forward and tempting. 
Luis de Sottomayor explained that the styles of Sograpes three Port brands are different when it comes to Tawny and Ruby. Among the tawnies Sandeman is the most elegant, Offley more rustic and Ferreira somewhere in between. When it comes to Ruby and Vintage Sandeman is more powerful and robust than the more easy going Offley – and again with Ferreira placed in the middle.
With this introduction we went off to the Douro and arrived at Quinta de Seixo close to Pinhão a couple of hours later, after climbing and crossing the rainy Serra do Marão, the mountain that forms the border between the green Vinho Verde district and the Douro.

Quinta do Seixo was renovated and reopened as a wine and visit Centre in 2007. It has 70 hectares of both old and newly planted vineyards. Inside you pass by a big rock which has not been moved to the place for the exhibition but is a part of the actually rocky hill, which gave the Quinta its name. The tour starts a bit mysterious in the dark, where you can follow guides dressed in the famous cape and hat like Don – the iconic silhouette connected to the Sandeman brand. And it ends in the light in a beautiful tasting room and shop with big windows opening to the sunny view of the Douro Valley. Besides being the visit centre, the Quinta is the main vinification centre for the company’s best Ports and therefore has big robot lagares and modern production facilities.

After a lovely lunch with vegetable soup, octopuses and cheese, served with the fresh and crispy Planalto White and a red Callabrica Douro 2010 – both from Casa Ferreirinha – and finally Offley Colheita 1997, we walked around in the vineyards. Luis de Sottomayor showed a field with Touriga Nacional and one with 80 years old mixed grapes. The old vines give a high quality and are used for the best Ports.  

Before heading back to Porto we enjoyed Sandeman´s range of tawnies. As Luis de Sottomayor explained the style is more elegant and perhaps feminine compared to Offley. I preferred the 20 years Tawny, which was light mahogany, a bit discreet in the nose, but with a splendid taste of almonds and a nice balance. The 30 years was brown with a yellow and green rime, more taste from the cask and some orange peel in the nose, creamier but still well balanced. The 40 years was more intense and concentrated, fat, heavy and creamy. A nice glass to end a lovely day with.

mandag den 28. april 2014

French Discoveries

The 9th edition of French Wine Discoveries took place in April at Børsen in Copenhagen. The festival is arranged by Wine4Trade whose aim it is to connect Wine Makers and Professional Wine Buyers. 
Nearly 30 different winemakers from all over France were present, and they came from both old well known regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Alsace and “newcomers” like Languedoc-Roussillon. A festival like this is not the place, if you want to taste the famous Chateaus and the First Growths. But I always find it interesting to meet new winemakers and try wines that I have never heard about before, and quite often there are some lovely discoveries to make.    
Champagne was present as well with seven producers, so that is where I started my little Tour de France. Honestly I am a newcomer when it comes to Champagne, but my impression was very positive. As a starter I had a glass of Carte Or Brut from Champagne Paques et Fils (http://www.champagne-paques.com/) – fresh, dry, fruity and with a clear taste of lemon.
After that I went for the full range at Champagne Leclerc Briant (http://www.leclercbriant.com/), who is making organic wine. The Brut was fresh and fruity with acidity and some melon on the palette. The Brut Reservé was a bit shy in the nose, but better balanced and with more dept. My favourite was the Brut Millésime 2006, more complexity, honey and herbs in the nose, less fruit, but the fruit came with full power in the long, lovely aftertaste. A bit like having two different wines in one. Their Premier Cru, Les Chévres Pierreuses, was nice as well. It is based on a field with mixed grapes (40 % Pinto Noir, 40 % Chardonnay and 20 % Pinot Meunier), fermented together, very fruity and well balanced. Finally I tried the Cuvée Divine made in the best years. Complex, more fruit and a long tail.  

The third Chapagne House I tried was Champagne Pertois-Lebrun (http://www.champagne-pertoislebrun.com/en-History) from Côte de Blancs, who are making Blanc de blancs – single grape Champagne based only on Chardonnay. The Instant Brut was full of freshness, fruit in the nose, some peach and great minerality in the taste and tail. The Millésime 2006 had a fruitier nose with lemon, grapefruit and a bit melon, and again a long tail with minerality. The Cuvée Exaltation had lemon and grapefruit too in the nose, great complexity and well balanced.
After that I had a short stop in Alsace, whose Pinot Noir still don’t impress me, Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon and Burgundy before I went to Bordeaux, where I visited two Chateaus.
Chateau Montaiguillon (http://www.montaiguillon.com/) from Montagne Saint-Emilion was the big surprise of the day. The region is placed behind the more famous and respected – and more expensive – Saint-Emilion and close to Pomerol as well. The Chateau is owned by the Amart family through three generations. They are only making one wine, the AOP Chateau Montaiguillon based on 70 % merlot, 5 % Cabernet Franc and 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon (the blend is a bit different from vintage to vintage) with an average vine age of 50 years. 2011 had a lot of blackcurrant, cherries and fruit, tannins, but was very well structured. The 2010 had softer tannins, a very delicious, elegant and well balanced wine. A great wine, comparable with some Grand Cru Classé wines from the more famous neighbours in Saint-Emilion.
Saint-Emilion was exactly the next stop with Chateau La Marzelle (http://www.chateaulamarzelle.com/), who presented both their Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru wine, Prieuré. I tried both in 2007 and they were both very nice. Chateau La Marzelle Grand Cru Classé was dry with blackberries and other dark berries, some spices, good dept, well balanced and quit elegant. The Grand Cru with softer tannins, a bit more easy going and well balanced as well.

Finally I will mention Chateau Armandiere (http://www.armandiere.com/) in Cahors – a region that I normally don’t appreciate that much, because of its too rustic appearance. The entry level, Fee Violine 2012 based on 95 % Malbec and 5 % Merlot had a bit smoky notes and the typical Malbec aftertaste, but was quit easy going and modern in its style. The Grand Reserve 2002 (100 % Malbec) impressed me. It was dark, powerful, spicy and with a lot of berries, but without the rustic character and with a very nice taste of tobacco box in the finish. Finally I tried their fortified wine made of 100 % Malbec too. Black fruit and plums, not to sweet and enjoyable, And that is said by a port lover!

A lot of other producers were present, but you have to make your choices… Most of the producers are looking for importers in Denmark. I sure will welcome some of them on the Danish marked.