Spanish and Portuguese Wines

27th May 2003 - 3rd June 2003

 

 

 

 

Ribera del Duero, Spain

For me, the Ribera del Duero is one of the most exciting wine-producing regions of Spain.  It lies due north of Madrid and just to the East of Valladolid in the valley of the River Duero in Castille.  

Growing grapes, or at least making wine is a relatively new activity in the area, and the Denominacion de Origen Ribera del Duero was only created in 1982 and covers around 11,500 hectares.  The first vineyards were established more or less at the same time as those of Rioja, by the Bordelais fleeing the phylloxera that was devastating French vineyards in the middle of the 19th century. 

Map from www.bodegasdecastilla.com

One of the first estates was planted in Valbuena de Duero in 1864 at the Pago de la Vega Santa Cecilia y Carrascal.  In time this name was abbreviated to 'Vega Sicilia'.

But the region was slow to take up viticulture.  Travelling around Ribera del Duero and surrounding areas, it's clear that much of the land is still used for more traditional agriculture - sugar beet, cereals and vegetables - or simply fallow.  But the area under vines is growing, and everywhere you look there are new vineyard plantings.  The region was also slow to gain its reputation in the wine world.  Vega Sicilia was established and revered.  But perhaps the breakthrough came when the American critic, Robert Parker knelt down and worshipped at the foot of Alejandro Fernandez, whose 1986 Pesquera he called the Petrus of Spain.

Naturally, this led to a lot of investment, particularly from those sensing a fast buck to be made.  Even today there's a fair bit of rubbish produced, but overall standards are rising, especially as the top producers expand their operations.  Thus Alejandro Fernandez now has operations at Condada de Haza in the Ribera del Duero D.O. as well as El Vinculo in La Mancha and Dehesa La Granja in Toro.  Vega Sicilia also now have a winery in Toro at San Román (though Bodegas Mauro beat them to the San Román name for the wine), and the Sanz family have opened wineries in Toro and the Ribera del Duero (Bodegas Toresanas and Bodegas Vallebueno respectively).  Driving through the Ribera countryside, it is evident that there is much new planting happening, alongside the cereals that still seem to form the bulk of the crop.

"Ribera del Duero " means the banks of the Duero, and the great river Duero, which becomes the Douro when it enters Portugal, naturally has a huge role to play in the landscape and climate.  But it is odd, how little one sees of the river.  Driving around, the impression is often of being on a continental plain, though hills are never far away, often taking the form of limestone outcrops: the most notable perhaps being that on which the castle of Penafiel is perched.  

The limestone outcrops indicate the determining geology of the region: clay and limestone topsoils, with up to 18%-20% active lime in the soil, on a schist subsoil, with more alluvial deposits on the river plain itself.

The climate is a continental climate, exacerbated by the altitude (c. 750m - 850m above sea level).  It is very hot and dry in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter, with a huge diurnal temperature variation of up to 20°C in the summer, when daytime temperatures easily reach 30-40°C.  Frosts are common as late as May and as early as October.  The River Duero can moderate this, but the vineyards tend to be planted away from the richest soils of the alluvial plain, as vines prefer poorer soils.  The low night-time temperatures during the summer lead to the vines closing down overnight - almost going into hibernation - and only coming back to life during the hot daylight hours.  This means that the vines are slower to grow and longer to ripen than might be expected: harvest can be as late as October at some estates.  

The principal grape, occupying around 85% of the Ribera's vineyards, is tempranillo, or at least a variant known here as tinto fino or tinto del pais.  Some more international red varieties are grown (mainly cabernet sauvignon, but merlot also makes an appearance here and there).  This is a red wine region, with no whites produced, although a native white grape, the Albillo, is permitted by the DO regulations: it is blended judiciously into some reds, but is also used in the blending of the regions rosado wines.

In general there are four grades of wine produced: vin joven; crianza; reserva; gran reserva.  Some estates will also produce a reserva especial, which are not controlled by the Denominacion de Origen rules, but are generally are gran reservas or better: in the case of Vega Sicilia they are non-vintage wines produced by blending gran reservas from the best years.

  • Wines meant to be drunk young (vin joven) are not normally aged in barrel or in bottle before being released.  Some, indicated by the word roble are now beginning to have a brief spell in oak (less than 12 months).
  • Crianza wines are aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months and are released a two years after harvest.
  • Reserva wines are aged for at least three years, with a minimum of 12 months in oak, plus a further two years in bottle.
  • Gran Reserva wines are aged for at least five years, with a minimum 2 years in oak.  Most Gran Reservas are kept much longer.

A pleasant flight to Madrid, followed by a drive to the Ribera del Duero brought me to my base for the next few days at the comfortable if unexceptional  Hotel Tudanca at Fuentespina near Aranda de Duero.  We punctuated the drive with a little "light" luncheon at an unknown restaurant in an unknown small town about 15 - 20 minutes north of Madrid on the drive from Madrid airport to Aranda de Duero. 

 

 

 

Ricardo told me that there will eventually be a reserva from years like 1999.  Through the language barrier and Ricardo's hyperactivity, I couldn't quite grasp whether there would be a 1999 reserva - I think probably not.  There won't be any reservas from 2000, 2001 or 2002.

I spent the night of the 29th May 2003 in the beautiful city of Salamanca at the excellent hotel, the Palacio de San Esteban, converted from one wing of the still functioning monastery of San Esteban.  We  had dinner at the Meson Cervantes a well-regarded restaurant on the first floor overlooking Salamanca's beautiful Plaza Mayor, where we met up with Jorge Banús, the commercial director for Haciendas de Espana, who would be taking us to two of his company's brand new bodegas, the Bodega Zoritas and the Bodega Durius, the next day.  The food at the Meson Cervantes was decent solid stuff, nothing special; service was pretty dreadful.  We drank:

 

 

The next day, the 30th May 2003, after struggling to escape from the Salamanca one-way system, we again met up with Jorge Banús, he drove on ahead, while we tried to keep up in pursuit of his racing green MG.  We stopped first at the Hacienda Zorita, some 12 km north east of Salamanca.  This was largely still a building site, as the main building, an old mill and Dominican convent, was being converted into a boutique winery hotel: wine tourism is an important and growing business.  The Hacienda Zorita and the Hacienda Unamuno are the home of the Marques de Grinon's Durius project.

We had a quick look round here, but only the barrel store (see below), for the ageing of Durius wines was complete, so we were quickly on our way to the second of the Durius properties.

The Hacienda Unamuno is set in around seventy hectares of vineyards and olive trees, and is an even more boutique and exclusive wine hotel (this one was more or less finished when I was there!), with just four rooms in the Italianate building.  The Hacienda gets its name from the writer and poet Don Miguel de Unamuno, who described the Arribes del Duero as one of the most beautiful landscapes of Spain.

The Hacienda Unamuno is surrounded by vineyards, planted with five varieties: malbec, tempranillo, syrah, cabernet and there is one hectare of Juan Garcia, a local grape used for red wine.  The on-site winery is run by young winemaker Alma Garcia (seen below).  The grapes are harvested by hand into 25kg boxes and after destemming, the different varieties are vinfied separately in the temperature-controlled 25,000 litre stainless steel tanks visible in the background.  A mixture of French and American oak is used for ageing the wines.

Over a lunch of various local charcuterie and cheeses, followed by a splendid paella and some rather chewy stewed veal, we drank the following wines.

After lunch, for dessert, they produced some gorgeous little aniseed confections, like a cross between a cake (with an almost scone-like texture) and a doughnut.  Very yummy but utterly wine-killing!

The Douro Valley, Portugal

Then it was back to the road for the drive over the border into Portugal.  The very uppermost reaches of the Douro Valley in Portugal are quite interesting: it is wild, open, quite savage country, deeply cut by the river.  What signs of civilisation there once were are rapidly being reclaimed by nature: an old border crossing point is crumbling, and signs of former agriculture (vines, fruit trees, olives) show no sign of continuing to be tended.  Indeed there are more than a few completely abandoned terraces.  You need to come quite a way into Portugal before habitations and agriculture, predominantly viticulture, become more frequent. 

The upper reaches of the Portuguese Douro

The most famous product of Portugal's Douro valley is, of course, port.  This is not the place to go into depth on the history of port and the method of production: there are several websites out there devoted to port alone.  I will direct your attention in particular to Port and Douro Wine Institute (IVDP) which is one of the most comprehensive sites there is, Roy Hersh's growing resource at fortheloveofport.com, the Port Appreciation Site, and the Vintage Port Site (though note that this is run by the Symington family, one of the biggest of the port producers, some of whose ports I taste below at Quinta do Bomfin and at the Graham's Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia),

But quickly, lest you are completely unfamiliar with port, here is a brief rundown.  Port is a fortified (i.e. spirit is added to stop fermentation) red wine produced from up to around thirty varieties, the most common of which are Tinta Roriz (known in Spain as Tempranillo), Tinta Barocca, Tinto Cão, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca.  It comes only from the Douro Valley in Portugal, which is the oldest denominated region (or appellation contrôlée as the French have it) in the world.  Much of the port industry is dominated by non-Portuguese owners - and in fact the majority are British.  The vineyards are classified into six quality levels from A to F (the Port Appreciation Site has a good summary of this here) depending on a number of factors, such as exposure to sun, height above sea level etc.  Based on the vineyard classification, there are quotas as to how much port can be produced, with the remainder of the grapes being used for table wine.  Formerly, the table wine production in the Douro was seen pretty much merely as a way of using up the left over grapes, but increasingly more attention is being paid to the table wines and some great wines are being produced now.

In my view, this property, owned by Cristiano van Zeller (the former owner of Quinta do Noval until it was sold to Axa) and with wines made by the lovely Sandra Tavares, is one of the rising stars of the Douro, both for its ports and its table wines.  The Quinta, which has been in Cristiano van Zeller's wife's family for more than 150 years was leased to Smith Woodhouse between 1973 and 1996 and used to contribute to Smith Woodhouse vintage port before van Zeller took over: the first vintage under its own name was the 1996.  The Quinta has around ten hectares of vines, all of which are over sixty years old, in a field blend of at least 28 varieties - all of which go into all the wines.  The grapes for both the port and the table wines are trodden by foot, which is still practical given the relatively small production.  The grapes for the table wines are selected on the basis of their acidity, as a higher acidity is needed for the table wines than for the ports.  To fortify the ports, they use brandy from Bordeaux, and Sandra Tavares aims to make ports that can be drunk relatively young, rather than having to live them for thirty years.

Winemaker Sandra Tavares is the Douro's first female winemaker making port, though not the only female winemaker in the Douro (for example, a Spaniard makes wines at Quinta do Cotto).  Born of a Portuguese father and a Swiss mother she studied agronomy at Lisbon and oenology at Piacenza, she is married to Jorge Serodio Borge, who is a winemaker at Niepoort.  Together Sandra and Jorge make Pintas in their garage: both the table wine and the port of Pintas are rapidly gaining cult status.  Sandra also makes wines at her family's estate in Alenquar.  In the laboratory at the Quinta, Sandra Tavares led us through the following tasting:

That evening, we dined with Sandra Tavares and Jorge Borge at an old "château" several hundred metres up in the hills on the south side of the Douro, up no less than perilous roads (though we only got held up by one accident on the way).  We began in the first floor drawing room with nibbles of grilled homemade chorizo-style sausage and bacalhau fritters to die for, accompanied by the Gloria Branco (see below), before moving into the dining room next door, a room which had not yet been wired up for electricity, so everything was little by candlelight.  We had a delicious, simple, creamy vegetable soup, followed by roast smoked pork, accompanied by polenta with smoked pig mixed into it, creamed cabbage and garlicky roast potatoes.  Pudding was a yummy creme brulée with strawberries.  We drank the following wines:

For notes on further wines made by Sandra Tavares, see this page.

The Symingtons are one of, if not the biggest player in the port industry, taking in the big names like Graham's , Dow's, Warre's, Quinta do Vesuvio, Smith Woodhouse, Quarles Harris and Gould Campbell.  Each estate has its own winemaker.  In general, the harvest begins around the 20th September, and Quinta do Vesuvio is invariably the first to start picking.  Typically, the grapes are pressed (either by foot in the granite lagares typical of the region, by the robotic lagares invented by the Symingtons or (less commonly) with the usual sorts of press.  Quinta do Vesuvio is entirely foot-trodden.  After pressing, the must is left to ferment for three to four days, when it's drained off (at Bomfin into large wooden casks) and the aguardiente is added.  The aguardiente is a neutral grape spirit around 77% alcohol approved by the Casa do Douro, although since government restrictions on the brandy that can be used were lifted, some winemakers such as Sandra Tavares above are using brandies from outside Portugal.  At Bomfin, the brandy comes from southern Portugal.  A typically sized lagar will normally hold around 50 pipes of port (1 pipe is 550 litres) and it takes 50 people to tread the grapes in each lagar.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find locals or Portuguese from elsewhere in Portugal to do this, and commonly the workforce is now drawn largely from central and eastern Europe.  When treading the grapes, the team of fifty will spend two hours in regimented systematic treading and then they get two hours "libertad" (freedom) when the music strikes and they can have a bit more fun (though still treading the grapes!).  In no small part in response to the problems of finding the workforce to tread the grapes (and of paying them in an age of minimum wages), the Symingtons developed robotic lagares in which machines mimic the action of the human foot.  The robotic lagares were invented and developed by the Symingtons, but they have not taken out a patent pro bono publico.  The Symingtons insist the robotic lagares work well and have been installing them in most of their properties: Graham's 2000 Vintage Port was robot trod.  Unusually, at Bomfin, the port goes into large white "mammas" (Portuguese for 'boobies' - see the picture below left), where it stays 5 or 6 months until the spring, when it is moved to the Dow's lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia.

The (A) indicates that aguardiente has been added; the 2600L indicates the cask contains 2,600 litres.

The Bomfin mammas  

I found Bomfin an interesting visit, which is more than can be said from the ports we were offered to taste, which were all a bit low-end.  On the other hand, it can be useful to try these more entry-level wines without having to buy a bottle!

 

View from Noval towards Pinhao (the black roof building is Noval's "lodge" or barrell store, where the port is aged)View from Noval towards Pinhao (the black roof building is Noval's "lodge" or barrell store, where the port is aged)Quinta do Noval was bought from the Van Zellers in 1993 in 1993 by Axa Millésimes, (owners of Disznoko, Suduiraut, Pichon Longueville etc, as well as Noval), and initially managed for several years by Christian Seely. Axa and Seely introduced a number of technical improvements from the beginning and started a big re-planting schedule. By 1996, they had replanted around 35 ha of the original 66 ha estate, reducing the number of varieties considerably, concentrating on touriga nacional (now accounting for 50% of all the vines on the estate) and tinto cão.  A large temperature- and humidity-controlled warehouse was built (visible in the photograph to the left with the black roof) which maintains a constant 18°C and replaced the lodge in Vila Nova da Gaia: all of Noval's wines have been matured here since the restrictions saying that the wines had to be exported from Gaia were lifted.  (The bottling plant is off-site, around 12km north of the Quinta.) 

Around 90% of the Noval estate is dedicated to port production: the other 10% to olive oil production and table wines.  When Axa took over, Seely also set about increasing the vineyards, on his own admission by spending much time in the bars and cafes of Pinhao, discussing Portuguese football and buying the odd square metres of prime vineyard sites in and around the Noval estate that for whatever reason Noval didn't own. They now have 100 hectares under vine. The fabled Nacional vineyard, with its pre-phylloxera vines, which are replaced from their own cuttings, extends to some 2.5 hectares, directly below the house.  If a Nacional port is not released in a particular year, the grapes with go into the classic vintage port.

The geology at Noval is basically schist, and such soil as there is is predominantly schist also. Vines are not so much planted in the Douro Valley, as inserted into holes drilled into the rock! As throughout the Douro, the valley sides are so steep that terraces have had to be cut/blasted into the rock: at Noval the vineyard walls retaining the terraces can reach 8 metres high.

Noval typically harvests late in the season and late in the day: grapes arrive in the winery around 17:30 and are trodden from around 20:00 in the evening.  The first treading is apparently a men-only affair.  Originally the Quinta had five lagares, but some are now divided so that they can deal with separate blends differently.  They also have one robot to work at night to keep the grapes moving.  The second team starts treading at 08:30 the next morning and while go through to 17:30.  Noval use Portuguese brandy to fortify the wines, including some made from their own pressings.

Within the main Quinta building there is a small chapel, where a priest blesses the new wine and as part of the ceremony, the winemaker is given bunches of flowers which go on the barrels.

Noval also has the Silval estates, which make ports ready for earlier drinking - they start to come round after around five years.  They are bottled simply as Silval Vintage Port, not Quinta do Silval, as the wines are not from a single quinta.

View from Noval towards Pinhao (the black roof building is Noval's "lodge" or barrell store, where the port is aged) Before lunch, a small tasting was laid on in one of the quinta's elegant rooms View from Noval towards Pinhao (the black roof building is Noval's "lodge" or barrell store, where the port is aged)
  • Noval 10 year old tawny (lightly chilled)
    A very attractive, golden strawberry colour.  A bit of an almondy, biscuity nose with a bit of dried fruit.  Soft and gentle with a nice combination of fresh and dried fruit flavours, with a reductive oxidative note.  There is also a touch of toast on the palate, which is rather curious.  Excellent for a 10-year old tawny.  Very Good Indeed.

  • Noval Fine Ruby
    A very bright colour.  There's very forward fruit on the nose, but also a certain nuttiness.  The palate is characterised by soft fruit and fresh flavours.  This is a pretty good ruby, markedly superior to most, and not at all overly spirity.  Although at €7.80 in Portugal, I wonder if there might be value-for-money issues here in the UK. Very Good Indeed.

  • Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage 1997
    The expectation at Noval is that the 1997 LBV should last around twenty years.  There is intense black fruit on the nose with a bit of orange zest: a superb nose.  Nice fruit: powerful and quite concentrated on the palate.  It just seems a bit closed, but it's still very impressive.  Very Good Indeed +

  • Silval 2000
    Intense, inky purple. Very closed nose. A bit brambly but difficult to get past the spirit.
    Excellent attack. Superb fruit. Length is massive. Huge structure. Hugely impressive in a huge sort of way! Fruit, alcohol and tannins aren't quite married yet, but it's an impressive baby that'll be pleasant drinking in 5 or 6 years, but really needs a minimum of 10 years.  Very Good Indeed.

and then it was time for an aperitif or two on the terrace.  The almost traditional aperitif on the terraces at the port quintas is the "portonico" - white port and tonic, on the rocks.  Noval's white port didn't really appeal to me, so it was good that they had some nice ice-cold Superbock beer to hand too!
  • Noval Extra Dry White Port
    A very floral, very attractive nose.  Extremely dry and not entirely drinkable with pleasure, and not even particularly good once tonic's been added.

After an enjoyable fifteen minutes or so, relaxing in the gentle heat of the terrace, looking down the valley towards the Douro (see the photograph above left), it was onto a lightish lunch, with which were served:
  • Corucho 1999, Douro DOC
    This is Noval's table wine.  A blend of tinta roriz, touriga francesa and tinta barrocca.  Quite a porty nose with black fruit aromas.  Good soft fruit.  Fairly tannic and with a lot of acidity.  A decent enough drop with the meal.  Good.

  • Quinta do Noval Colheita 1974 (served blind)
    Lightly chilled tawny. Orangey brown tan colour. Good mix of fresh acid, sweetness, fruit and dried fruit. Very fresh and clean. Lively and quite vibrant.
    Bottled 2002.

  • Silval 1997 (served blind)
    Very dark and young looking, with a hint of purple youth on the rim.  The nose is really powerful, with mulberries and violets.  Smooth attack.  Lots of fruit.  Some spirit on the finish.  This is very fruit driven, though not oversweet.  Quite concentrated and really quite complex.  The spirit blows off after a while.  Very pleasant to drink now, but I'd give it 5+ years.  Very Good Indeed.

For more notes on Quinta do Noval, including four vintages of the fabled and fabulous Nacional, and the 1955, click here.

That evening, I ate in the Rabelo restaurant of the otherwise excellent Vintage House in Pinhão, where I was staying.

As an aperitif, we were served

For a starter, I chose a dish containing that archetypal Portuguese foodstuff, salt cod (or bacalhao), for which it is said the Portuguese have 365 ways of preparing it.  This, a bacalhau and chickpea pancake, was, I think, the 366th, and there's a good reason to stop at 365.  This was a rather leaden fritter with very salty bacalhao - and very little of it.

Main course was a leg of kid, supposedly milk-fed.  This suffered from being overcooked.

To finish, a tarta de arancia turned out to be a bit like an orange-flavoured sponge pudding cum baba.  It was rather stodgy, but had a good taste.

Service was very slow and far from charming.  With the meal, we drank:

 

passadouro outpost barrelsOwned since 1991 by a Belgian, Dieter Bohrmann, and, when I was there (1st June 2003), Niepoort had a share in it too, though there has since been a parting of the ways (Niepoort's Redoma used to be made with Passadouro grapes, but those grapes are now going into Passadouro reserve wines). We were shown round by the Dutch managers, Jet Spanjersberg and Ronald Weustink, and Ronald took us through a tasting before a slap up lunch with Passadouro and Niepoort wines and ports. Jet and Ronald also run the guest house operation at Passadouro. I didn't stay there, but I bet it's a lovely place to stay and the prices aren't bad at all.

The estate covers around 32 hectares, 16 hectares of which are under vines, though in June 2003 they had just obtained a 2 hectare beneficão allowing them to extend production. Until 2002, it had also been possible to use a beneficao from the Vinho Verde or even Dao regions. Most of the vines at Passadouro are old (many 50+ years), although looking from the terraces of Passadouro I could see lots of new plantings belonging to Fonseca across the valley.

In 2003, the winemaking facilities at Passadouro were, to put it politely, charmingly rustic. There are four lagares and a basket press. This was the barrel store at the time:

passadouro outpost barrels passadouro barrels

The grapes are hand-picked and most are pressed by foot in the lagares.  As elsewhere, the pressing process consists of two hours of strictly regimented pressing, normally beginning around 8 o'clock in the evening, followed by one hour of "libertad" when the band plays and the wine flows.  In amongst the usual explanations of the pressing process, I got the interesting statistic that you need two treaders per pipe. Many of the treaders are now from central and eastern europe: there were 200,000 Ukrainians working in Portugal in 2003.

I'll just say that I think the labels for the Passadouro ports are pretty hideous.
 

passadouro barrels2001 Redoma Branco, Douro DOC, Niepoort
The vineyards for Redoma Branco are all between 400 and 800 metres above sea level and hence are a lot cooler (especially at night), which means a longer ripening period.  Three of the vineyards are over 100 years old, and the rest are at least 60 years old.  the main variety is rabigato, together with a significant amount of codega, as well as some other varieties (including donzelinho, viosinho and arinto, though there is no malvazia fina in the Redoma branco).
Quite a deep gold. Rather dull nose with some citrus and a light oaking. Light, refreshing and quite crisp on the palate with an attractive minerality and decent acidity. By no means a fruit-driven wine, however. Really nice. Very Good Indeed.

1997 Quinta do Passadouro (table wine)
Dark and quite young. A dullish nose with some deep black fruits and quite scented as well. Unfortunately it seems a bit flat on the palate. Pleasant, juicy, and nice easy drinking, but a bit dull. Good/Very Good.

1999 Quinta do Passadouro (table wine)
Very dark and very young looking. A pleasant, rather rustic nose. Decent fruit and good balance. Nice tannic structure, especially on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2000 Quinta do Passadouro (table wine)
Very young appearance and a very bright, vibrant colour, but inky and impenetrable at the centre. Deep, dark plummy fruit on the nose, and vaguely reminiscent of Beaucastel. Very good, very forward fruit on the palate. Oddly spirity at the moment and really this does still need some time to sort itself out and come together. A bit disunified at the moment. But, assuming it does sort itself out, this should be Very Good Indeed.

Quinta do Passadouro Ruby Port
A new wine, commercialised for the first time in 2002. Good colour - exactly what you'd expect of a ruby. Rather good nose with lots of deep plums. Very nice attack. Round fruit that opens out well. Really quite dry. A rather interesting and different style for a ruby, perhaps because (unusually for a ruby) it's bottled unfiltered. Very Good Indeed.

1997 Quinta do Passadouro Late Bottled Vintage
Bottled, unfiltered, after five years. Young and inky appearance. Very pleasant nose with nice floral notes. Good attack. Fairly complex and well knitted. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1996 Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port
Showing some medium age in its colour. Nice fruit on the nose, but also some disjointed spirit. Really quite sweet on the attack. Good fruit. Nice and rounded. Spirity finish balanced with soft tannins. Nice character. Very Good Indeed.

2000 Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port
A vibrant young colour. Good fruit on the nose, with violets and almonds. Quite forward fruit on the palate. Interesting flavours - really quite crisp and clean flavours. Good tannins on the finish. A notable lack of spiritiness, which makes a nice change. I'd happily drink this now. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port (barrel sample)
A barrel sample, cunningly hidden in a Passadouro Vinho Tinto 1995 bottle, which was momentarily confusing!
Very dark and intense colour. Very attractive nose with violets and liquorice. Sweet attack. Very nice fruit balanced by fairly soft tannins. Lovely on the finish, with no jarring spiritiness. A very interesting wine with lots of character. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.

NV Niepoort 10 years old tawny port
(Bottled 2002)  A very pale, brickish orange colour.  Good nose with a nice balance for fresh and dry fruit.  Very attractive on the palate, with lovely balance.  This has a nicely counterpointed fresh/dry fruit nuttiness.  Very Good+

NV Niepoort 20 years old tawny port
A lovely, pale rosewood colour.  Round soft fruit.  Very nice balance though a bit marred by heavy spirit on the finish.  Good/Very Good.

NV Niepoort 30 years old tawny port
(Bottled 2001)  An attractive pale caramel colour and an old fruit-cake nose.  This is a very fine wine: clean, neat and remarkably fresh.  Excellent.
 

 

 

 

 

Text and photographs © Copyright Andrew Stevenson, 2003 (except where noted)


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Last updated: 12 July 2007 18:52