Revista do Vinhos Ports of Dreams Tasting
This was an exceptional tasting of old ports presented by Bento Amaral, Director of Technical and Certification Services at Instituto do Vinho do Porto e Douro.
As Master of Wine I am a privileged person, but some invitations are more special than others. This tasting, organized between Revista de Vinhos, the Port Wine Institute and the participating port houses showed 10 very old ports covering 100 years between 1970 and 1870! Of all houses the owners were present to comment which made it even more special. Prices of these ports vary between multiple hundreds of euros to several thousands of euros -and that is per bottle.
What I have done, is written my own brief comments and added a table of stats to each wine. And although these stats might not be informative to all, I will highlight a number when appropriate. The stats will look like this:
- Year: if the producer can trace it back to a vintage it has been included here. But if is an old tawny the age of the tawny is indicated in years.
- TAV is the alcohol by volume number; through evaporation it normally decreases over time.
- Baumé: is an indication of sugar content
- pH: indication of total acids in the wine; closer to 3 is very acid, closer to 4 is much less acid
- VA: volatile acidity. At lower concentrations this lifts the nose of the wine but at higher concentrations it can make a wine smell like acetic acid. In older ports you will normally experience higher than normal VA concentrations (which for normal wines would be much less than 1 but for these wines can go up to 2 or more and still not be an issue).
- TA: total acidity measured in tartaric acid. As older ports concentrate in sugar they also concentrate in acidity, so acidity levels will be rising to >10 gr/L levels!
- DA: dry extract; is a handy measure to check whether old tawny’s indeed have been in the barrel for their entire life or bottled earlier (then the DA will more or less stabilize). For instance, the Rozès Tawny Colheita 1935 should have had a DA higher than the 1940 and 1944, yet it has a DA of significantly lower. This is an indication that this wine has been bottled a long time ago..
- RS: residual sugar; over time as water evaporates the residual which probably was appr 100gr/L will creep up.
“This is one of the most memorable tastings of the year”, says David Guimaraens of The Fladgate Partnership. “Not the least because not a single port on the tasting table today was made by any one amongst us. They reflect the quality of the Douro vineyards and the taste of time. Now, Vintage Ports are the ports of my dreams. Nd the only Vintage Port on tastin here is the Vintage 1970.”
Fonseca Vintage 1970
“The 1970 Fonseca Vintage is bottled in a magnum, made by my father. The wine brings back memories as I married in Australia in 1991 and my father sent me magnums of this wine to celebrate it!”
Vintage Port shows time capsule skills of the producer of what port is bottled. A vintage is only bottled when it is an exceptional year, a decision taken only two years after the vintage. The Fonseca 1970 is tradionally made by foot treading, which is very effective as it brings out the quality of the grapes very well. The matter with a Vintage Port is that once it is bottled you can’t change it -contrary to a tawny port during whose maturation the winemaker can still manipulate a number of things (for instance via blending). The vines of the 1970 Fonseca are old, first generation vines after phylloxera, made from field blends.
Garnet red, clear, quite light, some sediment. On the nose beautiful developing aromas, pure and intense. After 30 years in bottle for Vintage Ports you separate the men from the boys -says Guimaraens- and only the great years keep going after 30 years. The 1970 Vintage still has a lot of fruit and tannin after 50 years. Cherrie, plum, freshness, complex, round, and not really that sweet. Still lots of reserves. (TSW96)
Kopke Very Old Dry White
Kopke was represented by Carlos Alves of Sogevinus. Kopke Port is specialized in stocks of very old white port and red ports. Earlier last year they launched a very old white port made form at least a century old stocks. For this tasting Kopke brought an old white tawny blend -a true limited edition- of whites from the 1940s up to the 1960s. Incredible beautiful smooth mouthfeel, excellent acidity too, which gives the wine freshness, with a nutty complexity, and this creamy, mouthfilling, very long, almonds-like aftertaste. Absolutely great!!! One of the best wines of this incredible tasting for me, and as you can see from the table the driest of the lot. A strong recommendation to purchase some old white ports from Kopke when you can: there is not so much around and they are reasonably priced. (TSW97)
|Kopke Very Old White||Sogevinus||50YO||21.57||1.1||3.32||0.69||5.08||87||67|
Colheita 1944 Tawny Quinta da Devesa
Filipe Marinho of Quinta da Devesa explained that this wine was kept in a big wooden vat of 13,000 liters capacity, with still 5,000 liters of this particular wine left. Bottled in 2018, 75 years old, bottled only 200 bottles. Clean smell, deep concentration of colour, amber, brownish, depth of taste, mouthfilling again, coffee, tobacco, smokey oats, nuts of all sorts, great freshness. Impressive for 75 years of age!! (TSW96)
|Colheita||Quinta da Devesa||1944||21.04||5.2||3.8||1.6||6.68||162||132|
Vista Alegre Branco Colheita 1940
Miguel Martins is the fifth generation of wine producers. Vista Alegre only releases some 30-40 bottles each year. Now deep brown in color, oily, petrol notes, caramel, tobacco, spices, piney, eucalyptus, balsamic. (TSW94)
|Colheita Branco||Vista Alegre||1940||19.7||5||3.83||1.44||4.63||155||131|
Rozès Tawny Colheita 1935
Manuel Henrique Silva of Rozès recently bottled 700 bottles and had a first bottling in 1980 (each quantity corresponding with one pipet). Mix of green and brown, more volatile but very seductive, caramel, coffee, espresso, bastard sugar. (TSW93)
As I mentioned in the introduction, here we see that the Dry Extract is too low in comparison with the other ports which suggests that the wine has been bottled a long time ago. The high VA level gives the wine this slightly volatile nose.
Pocas 1918 Very Old Tawny Port
Wow!!!! This is impossible for me to spit. “Just imagine”, said Jorge Pintão and Pedro Pintão of Pocas, “that at some point in time, our predecessors considered to keep the wine in vat rather than to bottle this, and decided to keep it for next generations”. When the grandfather of the current owner started the business, he was a trader, not a producer. However, in 1930 as a debt was paid with an estate, he started their production of port and cultivated the vines on the land in the Douro, got himself barrels of port wine. Part of the payment in port, was this now called ‘2018 anniversary’ year tawny port. Tobacco, freshness, creamy, thick, good balance, between acidity and sugar, long after tastes, depth enormous length, just wow!!!!! (TSW97)
|Very Old Tawny||Pocas Junior||1918||19.94||9.3||3.36||1.1||6.35||243||217|
Vallado Nelson Mandela Centenary Very Old Port 100 years old
Francisco Spratley Ferreira chose this port to be bottled last year in honor of Nelson Mandela. Vallado means ‘big valley’, and the company started with still wines and only two port wines but over the years they expanded port more and more. The port inside is a blend of at least 100 year old colheita’s. More sweetness, depth, deep brown reddish color, nectar, family company, incredible caramel, mocha style. Fruit from Cima Corgo, dense, sweet, good acidity, purchased from another producer blended with the oldest wine of themselves, lots of complexity, aged in 600L barrels. (TSW96)
|Nelson Mandela||Quinta do Vallado||100YO||20.44||7.7||3.57||1.56||7.48||178||210|
Last Drop Centenario 1870
The port business also has its ‘Christiano’. Christiano van Zeller has been his whole life in the port business, from Quinta Noval to his own, Van Zellers & Company. He will celebrate 400 years non-stop working in port soon, are the 14th generation, have been in the port business with ups and downs, but always with a good story and insight. A few years ago he teamed up with a company called ‘The Last Drop’ who traditionally are searching -literally- for the last drops of rare casks in terms of Cognac, Whiskey or Rum. After spirits they asked Christian to find some last drops in his cellar..
This port has incredible freshness, intensity and length, chocolaty, some mocha too, spices, herbs, pure elegance. (TSW95)
|Last Drop||Van Zellers||1870||19.78||6.4||3.71||1.69||7.13||182||149|
Blackett Very Old Port 1895
Pedro Carneiro of Alchemy Wines chose Blackett as it is a very old house which doesn’t exist anymore. Much more sweet and juicy, some VA, intens, and different, more exotic. (TSW90)
|Very Old Port||Blackett||1895||19.74||13.8||3.34||1.76||9.17||303||336|
Honore Very Old Tawny Port Quinta do Crasto 1890
Manuel Lobo and Thomas Roquette of Quinta do Crasto explained that the first papers referring to the quinta date from 1615. For the house 1890 was an important vintage with extremely good quality and character. In the port we find extreme depth and racy acidity, almost dry in aftertaste, despite the very high residual sugar. (TSW95)
|Honoré Very Old Tawny||Quinta do Crasto||1890||19.69||15.4||3.36||1.49||11.9||318||368|
In my thank-you-note, I told the producers that we indeed did taste ports of which -before this tasting- I could have only can dreamt about.. Ports -wines in general- of these ages bring us in touch -albeit in a virtual way- with different era’s. Times before telephone, before petrol powered automobiles, before world wars. Bottled by different generations, kept for us by again other generations.. That is very special.