onsdag den 18. november 2015

Two days with João Nicolau de Almeida

It is no secret that I always have been very fond of the Portuguese producer of Port and Douro wine, Ramos Pinto. I love the fascinating story of how they – since the days of the founder Adriano Ramos Pinto – have combined art and culture with winemaking. Just look at all the beautiful posters or the tiles (azulejos) in their interesting museum in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Recently the General Manager of Ramos Pinto, João Nicolau de Almeida, spent a couple of days in Denmark. First he gave a tasting of wine and port at Henrik Oldenburgs Port Festival at Börsen in Copenhagen, and the day after he was invited as guest at a tasting in The Vintage Port Club in Odense – a special tasting of Vintage 1983, both single grape variations and the final blend. Two days of learning from all the experience and knowledge that João Nicolau de Almeida has gained during his nearly 40 years at Ramos Pinto.

At the first day João paid attention to Duas Quintas the still wine brand that celebrates its 25 years anniversary this year. The two quintas are Quinta dos Bons Ares and Quinta de Ervamoira both in Douro Superior, but the first in higher altitude with cooler climate than the hot Ervamoira. The soil is different as well, the former with a lot of granite and the latter with mostly schist. These differences are the reason why grapes from the two quintas complement each other and make a great blend of freshness and maturity.   
João told us as well about the research he did in the grape varieties in the Douro late in the seventies and beginning of the eighties. When he came back from his studies in Bordeaux, he was challenged by his uncle, José António Rosas, who wanted to replant Quinta de Ervamoira, which he bought shortly after the revolution in 1974. Together they planted different grape varieties and studied them, and João insisted that they researched in both grapes for port production and for table wine. No wonder, because besides being educated in Bordeaux he is the son of Fernando Nicolau de Almeida – the pioneer when it comes to making still wine of quality in the Douro with the legendary Barca Velha.

The result of the studies in rootstocks, varieties, vineyards and vinification was that five varieties were recommended: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão. During the years with research Ramos Pinto made different examples of single grape variety port from the Vintage in 1983, and that was precisely what was on the menu for the tasting the next day in The Vintage Port Club, combined with older and younger vintages. Here João kindly told us about the different varieties and their contribution to the final blend, and about how the research made it possible for the winemakers to make the right blend vintage after vintage.
During the two days the following wines were tasted.

Duas Quintas White Reserva 2014
Blend of Rabigato, Viosinho, Arinto and Folgazão. Very bright, green yellow. Green apples and citrus in the nose combined with more tropical notes. Full bodied with a nice structure and a good combination of fruitiness and minerals. Harmonious and with a good aftertaste.

Duas Quintas Red 2013
Blend of 43 % Touriga Nacional, 37 % Touriga Franca and 20 % other Douro varieties. Dark red and ruby. Blackberry and other dark berries, spicy. Powerful and deep with a lot of clean fruit and good tannins. A fine spicy finish.

Duas Quintas Red Reserva 2011
Blend of 50 % Touriga Nacional, 40 % Touriga Franca and 10 % Tinta Barca. Same character, but with more maturity, elegance and complexity. Dark berries and plums. Soft and velvet in the mouth, but powerful and with great tannins. Notes from the 18 months in cask, but well balanced. A great wine from a great vintage.

LBV 2011
Dark ruby. Fresh fruit, blackcurrant and spices. Still young and powerful as the vintage in general, but drinkable anyway. The LBVs from Ramos Pinto are among my favourites.

10 Years Tawny
Dark red, brown. Still with some fruit in the nose, but with notes from the cask as well like dried fruits and almonds. Nice, fresh and with a good balance. 

20 Years Tawny
Dark brown. Very intense in the nose and mouth with figs, raisins and almonds. Creamy and full bodied with a long, nice aftertaste. Very well balanced.

Vintage 1983
A scary nose, but not directly corked, and it seemed to fade slowly. Strawberry and other red berries in the nose. Still with both fruit and acidity, but odd and not in harmony. Did not perform well this day compared with the following day. Perhaps the bottles should have been opened and decanted earlier.

Tinta Barroca 1983
Dark ruby, clear. A little sharpness in the nose. Still with fruit and berries. Full bodied and soft, a little sweat, but also with spices and pepper. Soft tannins.

Tinta Roriz 1983
Bright, red brown. Not clear. A fine nose with red delicate berries. Tasting ok, but light and lacking acidity and tannins.  

Tinta Franca 1983
Ruby with brown rim. Discrete in the nose, but some dark berries and floral notes. More acidity and still powerful, but not in harmony.

Touriga Nacional 1983
Dark ruby, with a bit of purple. Dark berries like blackcurrant. A lot of fruit and with good depth and a fine structure. Intense and nicely spiced.

Ramos Pinto Vintage 1983
Blend of 50 % Tinta Barroca, 30 % Tinta Franca, 10 % Touriga Nacional and 10 % Tinta Roriz. Dark ruby. A beautiful nose with strawberry, cherry and darker berries too. Nice balanced with acidity, fruit and integrated tannins. A good tail. A wonderful, mature port to be drunk now, but can last as well.

Quinta da Ervamoira Vintage 2002
Blend of 40 % Touriga Nacional, 30 % Tinta Franca and 30 % Tinta Barroca. Dark ruby with purple rim. Very closed in the nose and when it comes to taste too. Fruity with some blackcurrant. Powerful, but with soft tannins. Short. Needs time.

Ramos Pinto Vintage 2000
Blend of 50 % Touriga Nacional, 40 % Tinta Franca and 10 % Tinta da Barca. Dark ruby. Some fruit gum in the nose at the beginning, but it slowly disappeared after some time. Closed, but with red berries, a lot of acidity and tannins. Not ready at all.

Ramos Pinto Vintage 1994
Blend of 40 % Tinta Franca, 30 % Touriga Nacional and 30 % Tinta Barroca. Ruby and clear. A nice bouquet, but perhaps a bit scented. Red berries and floral notes. Still a bit closed with lots of fruit and tannins. Will develop further.

Quinta da Ervamoira Vintage 1994
Blend of 60 % Touriga Nacional and 40 % Tinta Barroca. Ruby. Nice and elegant with berries and floral notes and soft tannins. Drinkable right now, but can still last.

Ramos Pinto Vintage 1982
Blend of 70 % Tinta Barroca and 30 % grapes from vinhas velhas. Dark ruby. An unpleasant smell of rot and acetone, but some fruits and plums too. Faulty.

Ramos Pinto Vintage 1970
Tawny and bright. A bit disappointing in the colour, but with a pleasant nose and an excellent taste. Cherry and other red berries. Soft, silky and elegant with a good combination of fruit and sweet spices. A great mature port.

Ramos Pinto Vintage 1950
Brown and not clear. Dried fruits and caramel in the nose. Oxidated like a tawny. Not in harmony. Variation between the two bottles, and the other one was better.

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