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.