Tag Archives: Porto

Porto to the past (Porto, Portugal – Day Two)

In case you weren’t aware (and I certainly wasn’t), the Douro Valley where port wine is produced was the first officially demarcated viticultural areas in the world in 1756, although Chianti and Tokaji were regionally defined but not regulated before this. The actual viticulture and initial fermentation is no different to any other red wine, but the fruit can tend to be a little riper with more natural sugar in it. After the fortification the wine used to travel down the river on boats in barrels, but today the wine travels on the road in climate controlled tanks. When you visit Vila Nova de Gaia on the left bank of the Douro in Porto, you can still see the barcos rabelos moored and floating, and now they are only used for racing and tourism. British merchants were permitted to import port at a low duty in 1703 which led to the wine gaining much popularity, partly because the war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The English involvement in the port trade grew much like in sherry, and still remains today in the names of many port shippers such as Cockburn, Croft, Gould, Osborne, Offley, Sandeman, Taylor, Graham, Dow and Warre, the last three of which are owned by the same family and I had the chance to taste on my second day in Porto.

Port boats docked in Villa Nova de Gaia

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Hard a’ port (Porto, Portugal – Day One)

Only a week a go I was talking about a style of wine considered to be very old-fashioned and makes one think of old British movies. This wine was sherry, and it is interesting that about two weeks later I am here where they produce the other wine that comes to mind which is port. Sherry and port share a few things in common apart from being thought of as an old persons drink. Firstly they are both fortified wines, but in the case of port the fortification is made during the fermentation to stop it and retain a residual sugar, whereas sherry with the exception of pedro ximenez and muscatel are fortified after the fermentation. Secondly the fortification was important for the transportation and spread of port as it was for sherry, but it was actually British wine merchants who introduced the process into port whereas the Moors introduced it in sherry. The third similarity is with the fact that like dry sherries, cask-aged port doesn’t age in the bottle and should be consumed pretty soon after bottling, whereas vintage port ages in the bottle and can keep for a very long time indeed. The first fundamental difference between the two is that the vast majority of port is made from red grapes, whereas more sherry is made from white grapes. Along the same lines, almost all port is sweet whereas the majority of sherry is either dry or medium-dry. Like sherry however, port is also undervalued and underappreciated, and the best examples are truly exceptional wines regardless of their style.

The port halls of Taylor’s

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Warre’s – 14/07/2012

Warrior Ruby Reserve
Nice spicy black fruits, Christmas style wine, very slight floral elements. Soft sweet brightness, smooth and long, nice and velvety and rich, nicely balanced sweetness. Brightness, sweetness and really approachable, exactly what you want from a ruby port.

LBV 2001 Unfiltered
Nice ruby creamy bright nose, showing some nutty characters, quite concentrated. Rolling flavours, quite complex, sweetness of ripe red fruits with a very creamy nutty texture, showing some nice characters of maturity, robust and full on the palate, good acids tying things together.

Otima 10 year old
Very subtle and smoky caramel. Crisp fresh and bright amazingly, tight and oxidative almost like an amontillado. Very intense and note really that sweet until very late on the palate. A very unique port wine.

Quinta da Cavadinha VP 1989|
Colour already starting to tawny up in colour. Almost like an old wine rather than an old port, fresh soft focused not sweet vey much, smooth yet brisk, showing its age.

Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny

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Graham’s – 14/07/2012

Six Grapes Reserve Port
Much more oxidative barrel elements, slight smoky characters, mature and more still wine notes on the nose. You can see the VP character in this wine. Soft bright but complex on the palate with some interesting sea influence, perhaps from the ageing? Velvety again, but more complex and savoury.

20 year old Tawny
Lovely intense golden caramel colour. Subtle smoky whiskey like nose, very casky and complex. Nutty texture and complexity, a little fiery and creamy, very long and opulent, good concentration, balance and still retaining freshness after all these years.

VP 2003
Deep intense dark but not expressive, very closed and young. Bold intense sweet, quite broad and simple, I’m not convinced this should have been a vintage year. There is absolutely no structure.

Graham’s 20 year old Tawny

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Ramos Pinto – 13/07/2012

Duas Quintas Vinho Tinto 2010
Very balsamic on the nose, savoury dark fruits, very slight herbal toast elements. Fresh focused dark red fruits, balanced and approachable, clean and pure, oak not having a huge influence in weight and texture, just a very slight honey character late on the palate.

Duas Quintas Reserva 2008
Sweeter oak and fruit notes, coconut caramel, black olives, blackcurrant, slightly new-world/international wine. Round robust tannins, sweet oak profile, deceptively hot on the palate. Aggressive, over-macerated, over oaked, fruit totally overwhelmed, maybe due to concentration from the vintage but I struggle to see this wine improving.

LBV 2007 (kept in ‘large’ barrels and bottled unfiltered in 2011)
Ruby black fruits, violets, camomile, smoky chocolate and cumin, slightly spicy. Soft mellow bold, very warm on the front of the palate, rich broad and creamy on the mid-palate, wonderfully smoky and spicy, sweet but quite nutty towards the back with some dark chocolate notes. Cassis and blackcurrant, showing a little bit of freshness very late on the palate.

VP 2003 (two years in large old barrels, released after another two years in bottle)
More subtle on the nose, quiet fruit and floral elements, very closed but obviously like a coiled spring waiting to open up. Very intense and full, sweetness well restrained and good depth. Broad and mouth-filling but very focused with a core of acidity. I think I’m missing something with this one, not really seeing it…

VP 1983
Starting to thin out and get more of a tawny colour. Picking up much more complex oxidative notes, very nutty and spicy, very dry raisins, smoky chocolate and carob elements. Exquisitely smooth ad mellow, quite heady as the alcohol has integrated very well. Unbelievably complex and long, layers upon layers of flavours hard to pinpoint. Smoky herbal sweet thyme and a creaminess as well.

Porto White (medium dry white, fermented on skins but not able to age in the cask as long as a red port, 3 years ageing)
Nutty vanilla caramel honey. Fresh vibrant yet subtly sweet, showing the warmth a bit, but nice nutty and oxidative flavours and textures. We should be importing this if we aren’t already, a really delicious wine that can be chilled. Summer port! Complexity in youth!

Lagrima Branco (three years ageing, more sweetness)
Quieter on the nose, subtle salted caramel. A lot less subtle on the palate, quite simple and sweet, very creamy and too viscous. Opening up a bit more with some warmth, served a bit too cold.

Adriano White Reserva (7 years average age)
More oxidative elements, lees and caramel elements. Supple mellow, rich and textured, bold warm, layered complex and delicious.

Adriano Tawny 6 years old
Interesting nutty meaty complexity. Wonderfully subtle, but still fresh, mellow soft and silky, lovely approachable yet complex texture, nutty coffee.

RP10 Quinta de Ervamoira
Quite rummy in character, but also very nutty and creamy. Quite subtle savoury elements, Sitting in the middle too much, not enough complexity.

RP20 Quinta do Bom Retiro
Nice smoky warm spice and dried fruit notes. Exceptionally well balanced, oxidative, textural, mouth-filling, focused, long and haunting. Perfect balance between sweetness and mature savoury notes of walnuts and toffee.

Complex closed tar and molasses notes, smoky toasty, pretty intense and warm, showing some complex nuttiness but I think it could do with more age to set it apart.

Some of the new labels from Ramos Pinto

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Fonseca – 13/07/2012

Bin 27 (Reserve Ruby)
Slightly oxidative toasty notes, slightly smoky dark currants. Lovely and viscous, warm and slightly spicy, fresh vibrant fruits, smooth and straight but mellow and slightly woody. Youthful and fresh.

Terra Prima (organic viticulture)
Very slightly earthier and spicier, certainly more ‘porty’, a little smokier. Softer and more red wine-like on the palate, ripe and intense, showing less of the sweetness, more integrated spice elements, softer and more a cuisine wine.

LBV 2007
Brighter on the nose, much more aromatic, earthier and less dark fruits, more in a dried raspberry and cranberry realm. Fuller and richer in it’s fruit and sweetness, although showing more of the alcohol in a rum kind of way. Much punchier and hotter in it’s texture and structure. Finishes a little short, undercooked somehow, not balanced.

10 year old Tawny
Wonderfully caramelised and toasty, burnt orange and cinnamon. Wonderfully soft and light, still quite fresh, persistent concentrated, not too sweet, nice balance and great acidity. A little savoury celery on the back.

20 year old Tawny
Much lighter in colour. Sweeter and smoother like whiskey. Bright intense but much more refined and considerd. Showing the wood in a very confident way. Powerful and explosive almost, yet subtle and complex. Still with a nice slightly savoury fresh finish.

40 year old Tawny
Insanely subtle and complex but much smokier and caskier. Nutmeg, cinnamon, warm spice and cherry stalks. Voluptous opulent silky and long, integrated wood and sweetness, almost like crème brulee. Exquisitely balanced and pure, yet with layers of complexity.

Quinta do Panascal VP 2008
More grapey and young, mostly fruit on the nose but you see the potential for ageing. Fuller and more robust, very sweet profile, intense and ripe fruits. Very hot and young, mostly seeing the fruit which will age gracefully.

VP 2009
Much toastier and smokier on the nose, fruit is more subdued and yet to open. Big on the front, and on the middle, but clean on the back. Much more oak influence, will take a while to lose this and soften out. Much more structure, fruit subdued for now. Needs time.

Some of the Fonseca wines from the tasting

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