We have had a marvelous month of November. It started with the Port Wine Festival in Copenhagen, which we’ve already written about, and ended with the Port Wine Fair in Leverkusen, Germany organized by Axel Probst and Christoffer Pfaff, World of Port.
Ramos Pinto had a Master Class tasting focusing on Tawny in Copenhagen (read about it here). In Leverkusen we once again had the great pleasure of meeting Ana Rosas from Ramos Pinto. This time the focus was on Vintage Ports and the importance of the different grape varieties used. Ramos Pinto has always been one of the companies leading the research on grape varietals. Joao Nicolau de Almeida, former winemaker at the company started to plant grape varieties separate, something that was not common at that time, and also bottled single variety wines from different vintages. All to better understand how the different grape varieties contribute to the final blend. These single varietal bottles are not for sale, they are only used for Ramos Pinto’s internal reference. Remember that Vintage Port is bottled already when two to three years old and then the final blend must already be made. So it was very interesting to get the opportunity to taste some of these single varietal bottles of Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Roriz from 1982 together with the released 1982 Vintage Port.
This wonderful Master Class was rounded off by a magical white port from 1884, directly from Ramos Pinto’s cellars!
The Port Wine Fair in Leverkusen is focusing on the latest Vintage and this year we tasted about 60 different Vintage Ports from 2017 and we have now tasted more than 70 different 2017 Vintage Ports, a very great vintage indeed. Some of us are unfortunately too old to have the opportunity to drink this memorable vintage once it is matured, many years from now. We think there are too many houses with incredible vintages this year to be mentioned them, so just buy your favorite producers of the vintage and enjoy it. Our tasting notes are as always available. Check out all the 2017 Vintages we have tasted here. Last time in history seeing three consecutive such great vintage years as 2015, 2016 and 2017 was 1820, 1821 and 1822 if we remember correctly.
Now we are looking forward to Christmas, when we usually drink very old
vintages (often > 100 years old). That will be nice indeed!
For Vintage Port lovers like us the last year’s Port Wine Festivals have been exciting with three fantastic vintages in a row, 2015, 2016 and now the latest released 2017 Vintages. At this years festival it was possible to taste more than 20 Vintage Ports from 2017, more than ten from 2016 and 8 from 2015. There was also an impressive range with more than fifteen older Vintage Ports with at least fifteen years of age. From 2017 we especially liked Warre’s from Symington’s followed by Churchill, Wiese & Krohn and Quinta da Romaneira, but many smaller companies and some companies better known for their tawnies definitely impressed us as well. Some of these were Burmester, Kopke, Messias, Pacheca, Quinta da Sequeira, Quinta da Santa Eufemia, Quinta dos Mattos, Vieira de Sousa and Vista Alegre. As usual you find tasting notes and our ratings for all Vintage Ports we tasted here on our web site.
To honor that Mr. Henrik Oldenburg have arranged the Port Wine Festival for more than 30 years, Ramos Pintos led a master class with extra focus on the 30 year old Tawny. Master blender Ana Rosas of Ramos Pinto, and her cousin Jorge Rosas, CEO of Ramos Pinto wanted us to understand the enormous effort and persistent work over several decades that is needed to create these old wines.
Following the instructions by Ana Rosas we elaborated and blended our own 30 year old Tawnies from a range of base wines directly from Ramos Pintos cellars. Finding the balance between old complex heavy wines and younger wines with fresher notes and vivid acidity to create the perfect balanced wine is indeed a work of art. We can only conclude that our attempts led us closer to the goal but still far from the final blend by Ana Rosas sold by Ramos Pinto. Actually Ramos Pinto is one of the best producers of tawnies with indication of age.
The newest released Vintage, 2017, is already claimed to be a fantastic Vintage. Following the excellent Vintage of 2015 came the even better 2016. So when the word started spreading that 2017 was also something extra, it was almost too good to believe. Three good Vintages in a row! It was therefore with great expectations that we went to the so called Preview Tasting of the 2017 hosted in Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen. Three of the largest and most renowned port wine companies, Symington Family Estates, The Fladgate Partnership and Quinta do Noval had joined forces to introduce their new Vintage Ports to the market.
Our general impression is that the Vintage is indeed worth all the hype. The extremely dry weather conditions in 2017 resulted in small grapes and a low yield. In fact all companies compared the 2017 Vintage to the legendary 1945 when it comes to the dry growing conditions and the early harvest. We can confirm that the wines in fact show a greater concentration in the fruit compared to 2016, but it is a bit too early to judge one of these Vintages superior to the other.
Symington (Wine maker) and Dominic Symington (Director) from The Symington
Family Estates presented the following Vintage Ports from 2017:
Cockburn– General impression is that this is one of the best Cockburn’s in a long time. The style is the more dry classic expression that we have learnt to love in old Cockburn bottlings. Tasting notes.
Dow’s – Another port in the dry style. As always the intense dark fruit is impressive in young Dow’s and this is certainly no exception. Tasting notes.
Graham’s – Here the concentration of the Vintage becomes apparent in the rich aftertaste. Fantastic wine that is so well balanced that it is surprisingly enjoyable already today, but please, keep your hands off for a few decades!! Tasting notes.
Graham’s The Stone Terraces – This is actually quite similar to the ordinary Graham’s but with a bit more focus on the fruit, definitely one of the best from the Vintage. Tasting notes.
Quinta do Vesuvio – Perfectly clean and nice black fruit dominates, not one of the most powerful but really elegant and nice long balanced finish. Tasting notes.
Capela da Quinta do Vesuvio – Extremely packed with dark berries, terrific concentration in the fruit and tough tannins. One step up in everything compared to the ordinary Vesuvio. Tasting notes.
Warre’s –As usual appears a bit sweeter in style but great structure and firm tannins. Very pleasing sweet dark fruit, floral notes and chocolate. Very easy to like already today. Tasting notes.
Bridge (CEO) and David Fonseca Guimaraens (Head Winemaker) from The Fladgate partnership
presented the following:
Croft – Classic style of the house with good fruit, some elegancy and eucalyptus. Quite easy to drink and like already but there are of course plenty more to come with storing. Tasting notes.
Quinta da Roeda Serikos – The first Vintage made from a small plot of old vines in Quinta da Roeda, the main Quinta of Croft. Again with eucalyptus hints in the nose. Shows a really good concentration in the fruit and will be interesting to follow. Tasting notes.
Fonseca – As always huge power in the fruit and heavy weight tannins. This is one of the more closed wines at the moment and definitely needs time. But as always the quality is on top when it comes to Fonseca. Tasting notes.
Krohn – Since the Fladgates took over Wiese & Krohn in 2013 the Vintage declarations have been kept to the generally declared Vintages and after 2011 only 2016 and now 2017 have been declared. Nice to see that the brand is kept and is still used also for bottle aged port. A bit lighter than most of the other but still an excellent wine and normally a bit more affordable in price. Tasting notes.
Taylor – Interesting to compare to the Vargellas Vinha Velha. The Taylor is a classic style Taylor that will certainly be recognized for its elegancy with floral notes and violet. Quite massive tannins and a lovely aftertaste. Tasting notes.
Vargellas Vinha Velha – Made from grapes harvested on old vines growing on a small plot in Taylor’s Quinta da Vargellas. Fantastic depth in the fruit and outstanding long lasting finish. This is also one of our absolute favorites in the tasting. Tasting notes.
Seely (Managing Director of AXA Millésimes) and Carlos Agrellos (Technical
Director) of Quinta do Noval presented the following:
Quinta do Noval – As usual Noval impresses not by power and tannins, instead it is the complexity, elegancy and balance that is the hallmark of their wines, and this absolutely fulfills our expectations in that sense. Tasting notes.
Quinta do Noval Nacional – Nacional is legendary for a reason, it has delivered some of the finest wines of the 20th century. After a little weaker period in the 1980s there is now again reason to keep an eye on Noval Nacional. The 2016 Vintage released last year is fantastic and the new 2017 Vintage Port is indeed one of the top from the Vintage. Tasting notes.
Quinta da Romaneira– There is no doubt that since Christian Seely took over as Managing Director also for Quinta da Romaneira, the ambition to restore the vineyards to top quality. The latest Vintages shows that they are well on way but it is still a bit lighter in body compared to many of the other wines in the tasting. Tasting notes.
To celebrate the Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th anniversary of The Wine Society 18% in Malmö, Sweden, we decided to have a special tasting. Unfortunately 1993, when the Society was founded, was a horrible year for Vintage Port and only one producer declared, Quinta da Romaneira’s single quinta Quinta das Liceiras. So to get a proper tasting we decided to add all the 1992 Vintage Ports as well. So, it ended up with a proper Jubilee tasting of 24 Vintage Ports in total.
On November 8 we conducted the tasting with 16 attending participants. The tasting was held in two flights and it was semi-blind.
It was with great expectations we went to this year’s Festival in Copenhagen. Not only because we were looking forward to taste some 2016 Vintage Ports, the latest generally declared Vintage, but also to learn more about the Colheitas from Andresen in a special tasting with the owner of Andresen, Carlos Flores dos Santos and their wine maker Alvaro van Zeller.
Andresen are producing both Colheita and Vintage Ports, but according to Carlos they have always considered themselves of being a Tawny and Colheita house. After participating in this tasting we can understand why. Vintage Port lovers as we are, we have of course tasted many of their Vintage Ports, and even if they are good they are not competing with the best in that category. Their Colheitas on the other hand are indeed very good and in this tasting we got the chance to taste two Colheitas from each decade all the way back to the 1960’s, and on top of that two older fantastic Colheitas. 1937 Colheita bottled already in 1980, meaning it had about the same time in wood as on bottle. This was a great wine, showing elegancy, complexity and a quite light body, but with a long lovely finish. The last wine was more recently bottled Colheita 1910; actually it was bottled when 100 years old in 2010. This wine has an enormous concentration and a fat lovely aftertaste which never seems to end. Indeed a top quality Colheita!
Carlos Flores dos Santos and Alvaro van Zeller
In the open tasting we focused on the Vintage Ports and we found some interesting new producers we never got the chance to taste before. Dona Otilia, Martha’s, Boeira and Lacrau were new to us and we also tasted Quinta da Oliveirinha from Alves de Sousa for the first time. The latest Vintage 2016 was quite well represented and some of them are very impressive, we especially liked Sandeman and Dow’s but there were others that also impressed on us like Churchill, Kopke, Barros and Quinta da Romaneira. Even if 2016 is generally declared and 2015 is not there are for sure some really good wines made from 2015 as well. One that we have been very impressed by since we tasted it the first time last year is Niepoort Vintage Port 2015, and once again it shows that the best from 2015 can match many of the 2016 Vintage Ports.
Overall this year’s Festival shows that port wine is more popular than ever in Denmark. There is a huge assortment of all kinds of port available from many devoted and passionate importers, many of them with great knowledge of Port in general and there is always something new to learn when talking to them over a glass of port. So a big thanks to all of you for all the generosity, both with wine and knowledge. We are also of course sending our compliments to Mr. Henrik Oldenburg for the great arrangements. This is indeed one of the highlights on the year for port lovers like us.
We have been lucky enough to participate in two Great Sandeman tastings together with George Sandeman in the last six months. The first one was in London in May at the Big Fortified Tasting where George Sandeman held a Masterclass tasting together with wine maker Luís Sottomayor. The following vintages from Sandeman were tasted:
10, 20 and 40 years Tawny, LBV 2011, Founders Reserve and Imperial Reserve Tawny.
Two brilliant and exclusive tastings guided by George. It was very interesting to hear his analysis of the development of Sandman’s Vintage Ports over the decades. These tastings showed that Sandeman is again making top quality Vintage Ports. It will be interesting to follow the latest Vintages from 2007, 2011 and 2016 and see if they develop into the same kind of fantastic wines as for instance the 1963 and 1970.
We are very thankful for the opportunities to taking part in these two wonderful tastings. Tasting notes are on our Sandeman page.
In June this year we visited Porto and Douro, starting with a few days in Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto and concluding with visits to some of the quintas in Douro. In Vila Nova de Gaia we had several fantastic and very well organized tours and tastings, but also a few drop by tastings at some lodges we had not booked in advance.
Symington is one of the leading Port companies and has several lodges in Gaia. We visited Graham’s and Cockburn’s. At Graham’s, that is one of the bigger lodges in Gaia, the tours are very professional and interesting and the tasting was very good.
Tasting at Cockburn’s
Coopers at work in Cockburn’s lodge
Cockburn’s new lodge offers also a very good tour and tasting and includes a very interesting view into how the coopers make or renovate the pipes, barrels and vats.
Alvaro van Zeller in the Barao de Vilar lodge
Barao de Vilar Colheitas
At Barao de Vilar wine maker Alvaro van Zeller showed us their stock and bottling operation in Gaia. Barao de Vilar is much smaller as a company than the major port groups, but they are also one of the most creative. In order to make an impact they are making very clever packages and bottles, such as their 100 years tawny, consisting of four small bottles of 10+20+30+40 = 100 year tawny. Alvaro and his team also have a number of very old colheitas, of which we had the great honor to taste 1990, 1977, 1963 (Barao de Vilar vs Palmer), 1962, 1950, 1934 in addition to their vintage and white colheita. It was an absolutely amazing tasting which we will remember for a long time.
2016 Vintage Ports tasted at the Calem lodge
Sogevinus owns Cálem, Kopke, Burmester, Barros and some other brands. We visited the newly renovated and upgraded Cálem lodge that combines hi-tech presentation in combination with a traditional tour to provide a good experience. For example, they have a 5D-cinema experience. We had a very interesting tasting of their latest 2016 vintages as well as some fabulous older colheitas. We really appreciated to be able to taste their fine ports in the company of Sogevinus PR & communication manager Jose João Santos, Business manager Stefano Marello and winemaker Carlos Alves.
Beautiful colours of Dalva and Cruz port wines.
Cruz and Dalva are situated in the main square in Gaia, at Espaço Porto Cruz. Gran Cruz bought the company C. da Silva and their brand Dalva in 2007 and they are now both presented at Espaço Porto Cruz. At Grand Cruz you can have a meal in their restaurant or try a selection of their ports. We got a very good expose of Cruz and Dalva port including their fantastic white ports, Dalva Golden White, and Presidential Vintage 2011. Presidential is an alternative brand for Dalva used in some markets.
In addition, we stopped at some other lodges and had some ports in the bar at:
Beginning of May we went to London to shop port wine and participate in some tastings. The shopping was somewhat disappointing; we can find far more Vintage Ports for sale in Copenhagen than we could in London! If the shopping wasn’t very successful the tastings were definitely so!
We have already written about the tasting arranged by The Port Forum held on May 8.
On May 9 we participated in the Big Fortified Tasting, the B.F.T. in Church House, central London. The B.F.T. is the single largest wine fair in the world which is solely dedicated to fortified wines. All kinds of fortified wines were served but we focused on Vintage Port and mature Madeira. Some producers offed the first tasting of Vintage 2016, and from the samples we had, we believe that 2016 is an even better vintage than the superb 2015. In addition to the last vintages, there were also some older vintages served, such as Dow’s 1985, Warre’s 1980, Fonseca’s 1985 and Taylor’s 1985. Some very well arranged master classes were also arranged as part of the B.F.T. We participated in the Master classes ‘The Golden Age of Taylor’s Tawny’, ‘Barbeito Madeira – New Challenges and Projects’ and ‘Sandeman Port presented by George Sandeman and Luís Sottomayor’, more about these will soon come on our site.
Finally we think it is worth mentioning the new era of White Port. The old saying ‘The first duty of Port is to be red’ (Ernest Cockburn), does not necessarily hold anymore. While most White Port is sold and consumed young, there are some excellent examples on the market showing the aging potential of White Port. Miguel Braga from Quinta do Murão severed a very good S. Leonardos 50 years old white port and a 90 years old white port. These are not only impressive in age, but also very impressive in taste. Both well worth to try for all of you who haven’t discovered the world of White Ports.
Overall, we think the fair was well organized and we hope to be able to come next year too.
The Port Forum is an internet forum as well as a devoted group of port wine lovers. We attended a “high-flying” tasting organized at the Royal Air Force Club in central London. The premises were very elegant and we were awed and could hear the sound of the Spitfire planes in our mind when we admired the hundreds of paintings of air crafts hanging on the walls.
With participants from Sweden, Germany, Portugal and Italy in addition to the U.K., we were a fairly international group. The theme was set to “Something nice from the 60s” and everybody brought a bottle of their own choosing to fit the theme.
The final selection became quite interesting. Two bottles were vintage port mixed by the importer- Harvey’s 1962 (Cockburn+Martinez) and Averys 1963 (Sandeman+Fonseca+Taylor). Three bottles pre 1963, 8 bottles of 1963 and three bottles of 1966.
Croft 1960 – Fonseca 1960 – Harvey’s 1962
Averys 1963 and it’s components – Sandeman 1963 – Fonseca’s 1963 – and Taylor 1963
Warre 1963 – Dow 1963 – Feist 1963 – and Dalva Golden White Tawny 1963
Fonseca 1966 – Taylor 1966 – Noval 1966
The tasting was a lovely experience. Most bottles were very good but a few were not at peak performance. This is the risk you have to take when you drink wine that is more than 50 years old. As a vintage, the legendary 1963 has peaked and some of the wines are beginning to deteriorate, but most are still very good and will stay on high level for many years to come. It is also noteworthy that 1966 is keeping very well in general, and some were perceived as quite young – at an age of 52 years. This was a great and quite wonderful tasting for us from Sweden and we hope we can go to London again at these occasions.
The Wine Society 18%, celebrating 25 year anniversary this year, had a tasting of the house Portal on March 15, 2018. Out of the 15 Vintage Ports released from Portal, we had 14 in this tasting. This includes some Single Quinta Vintages from Quinta do Portal and Quinta dos Muros.