Ports and a couple of other Portuguese

Tasted on a visit to Oporto and up the Douro river 27 - 30 September 2002.  (some photos are available by following this link - slow download alert!)

Graham's Port

An evening tasting held at Graham's Port Lodge, looking down on the lights of Vila Nova de Gaia and Oporto.

Graham's Fine Ruby €7.35
Light fruity nose with lots of spirity alcohol. Good, fruity, quite forward. Alcohol to fore especially on finish.

Graham's Fine Tawny €7.35
Much rounder nose, more evolved with Christmas spice and nuttiness. Rounder, more fruit on the palate, less obvious alcohol, but alcohol still showing on finish.

Fine isn't a word I'd use to describe either of those, and I have to wonder why they bother offering them for tasting for a bunch of wine-lovers.

Graham's Late Bottles Vintage 1996 €13.75
Much deeper colour. Rather subdued nose. No spiritiness on nose, just lots of dark fruit. Good. Very rounded. Nice character.

Graham's Six Grapes Ruby €15.50
Big dark colour. Not particularly fruity and has some alcohol on nose, which is a bit subdued. VG, but very clearly just a ruby.

Graham's 10 Year Old Tawny €18.30
Much paler, more wood colour. Fair nose. Plenty of fruit and christmas spice. Lightish fruit on attack, but alcohol takes over and overwhelms. Very spirity on finish.

Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny €36.20
Quite pale. Very raisined nose with rancio tones. Nice attack. Good, clean, rounded and very well balanced.

Quinta dos Malvedos 1996 €30.50
Dark and young. Quite a straightforward fruitcake nose. Big full attack with lots of fruit. Full & fruity in the mouth. Long and very full. Massive finish with great length. Not entirely knitted together - needs at the very minimum 5-10 years.

This was followed by dinner at Grahams (vegetable soup; gorgeous bacalhau fish pie, which must have had the cream from several dairy herds in it, served by the square foot, excellent cheese and I guess there was some sort of dessert but I can't recall it. Copious quantities of anonymous wine in carafes (which was ok, though nothing particularly notable) and an anonymous port.

The following were tasted wandering along the quayside of Vila Nova de Gaia:

Ferreira 6 year old tawny
Spirity nose with heavy black fruit. Nice and fruity on attack, but big kick of spirits on middle. Finishes well though, with decent length and good fruit after.

Vasconcellos Reserve Superior (30 year old tawny)
Very pale brickish colour. Light attack - very attractive. Fills nicely. Full and rich. Clean & rather good.

Vasconcellos Special Reserve (40 year old tawny)
Very pale tan colour. Quite spirity on nose & quite raisiny. Very very long. But rather spirituous.

Vasconcellos House Reserve (allegedly a tawny made from only the 1902 and 1942 vintages)
Mid tan. Raisined nose, but oddly lively. very elegant and restrained. Enormous length, just goes on and on. Excellent.
I bought a bottle of this, but when I opened it a couple of years later, it bore no relation whatsoever to what I had tasted here.  Caveat emptor!

This Calem was bought from Calem's hi-tech porta-cabin cafe and drunk there about 1 a.m. in the morning with some gorgeous cheese.

Calem 1977
Don't have a proper note on this given the time of night and that we were drinking it in the dark. It cost about €180 I seem to recall. Memory tells me that it was really rather gorgeous. Very balanced, nicely mature but still with good fruit.

Quinta da Pacheca at Regua 
On Saturday 28th I went with Arblaster & Clarke, the wine tours company, as part of a group to the Quinta da Pacheca oppposite Regua, mid-morning for the customary tour and tasting. We took the train on the marvellous journey up the Douro Valley as far as Regua (where you change for the narrow gauge line and the steam train),

The Quinta da Pacheca, which has belonged to the Serpa Pimentel family since 1903, has some 36 hectares of vineyards: in the older vineyards the vines have an average age of 50 years, and in newer plantings of 20 years.
The main varieties grown are the red varieties: Tinto Cão, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz; and the whites: Malvasia Fina, Esgana Cão, Verdelho, Rabo de ovelha, Cerceal, Viosinho e Códega. Alongside those Portuguese varieties, the quinta also has a few vines of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. No, I don't know why! I'm sure there's a defective gene in all winemakers that makes them grow daft things - though, as a Riesling nut, I couldn't resist buying a bottle of Quinta da Pacheca Riesling! (I've still not opened that ...)

Unlike many other quintas, most of Pacheca's vines are on relatively level ground, allowing a high degree of mechanisation in the vineyard. The mechanisation doesn't continue in the winery, where all eight lagares, which were built in 1916, stand ready for use at harvest time. Total production is around 190 pipes. Only recently have they started bottling port under their own label.

After the tour came lunch: we were led into a room just off the courtyard with a large dining table in the centre, groaning with delicious and dangerously moreish goodies - hams, cheese (gorgeous à point Serra da Estrela), bacalhau fritters, sausages etc (and numerous bottles of Quinta da Pacheca Sauvignon Blanc). Tables outside in the courtyard. Fabulous. Eat a bit, swig a bit. Stumble indoors for more from the groaning table. More wine. Hmmm ... shame to let that cheese and those bacalhau fritters go to waste ... ah, well, might as well have another glass ...

Here's a TN on the Sauvignon Blanc:

Quinta da Pachega Sauvignon Blanc 2000
Little nose. Light, fresh. Unexceptional. Nice and pleasant here, but I can quite imagine that buying a bottle and trying it back home would make you wonder why on earth you'd bought it.

But as we were tucking into all this gorgeous food, we were told not to eat too much, as there was the proper lunch to come yet: this was just an appetiser! There then followed a lovely sit down lunch on the terrace overlooking the Douro, with wines and ports from the Quinta. Unfortunately, I've lost my notes on these, though I bought a bottle of the basic Tawny port (no age designation), which I think may well have been the only port they had for sale and which I opened in October 2003: Then after lunch it was time to launch ourselves into some "hard" work: there were grapes to be trodden! The women had the relative luxury of a rudimentary toilet block in which to get changed for the treading - the men had a vineyard behind the toilet block! (Trousers, shirts and socks hung on the vines etc …!) Fortunately we only did about 5-10 minutes of regimented treading and instead were allowed to go straight to libertad (these were grapes for table wines, not port, which might explain their laxity and willingness to let a bunch of mad Brits, Ozzies and Kiwis play around!). We probably did an hour or so of libertad style treading before going outside to the "showers" to clean off: "showers" of course meant a hose pipe with *very* cold water! A lot of the ladies commented how great their skin felt afterwards!  


And finally a couple of vinhos verdes, supped over dinner.

Encostas de Paderne Alvarinho 1998. Producer bottled Manuel da Rosa.
Interesting fruity nose with depth. Nice attack - interesting and really quite complex flavours. V clean and still crisp with really quite good length.

Muralhas de Moncao 2001, Adega Cooperativo de Moncao
Light & fresh nose. V clean and fresh on attack. Not great power or depths to it, but very pleasant. crisp and fresh.


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Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:52