It was the president of the IVDP, Gilberto Igrejas, who best described it: a “wine tasting, many of which have already surpassed a century of history”, in which producers and tasters of “various age groups, including many young people”, who “manage to give a new dynamic to the way of communicating Port Wine”, were present. This is what tasting is all about”, as Bento Amaral, cicerone and brilliant host summed up – the youngest are entrusted with the task of continuing this unique legacy.
As an introduction, Bento Amaral introduced the producers and winemakers of the various houses present, referring to them as “guardians of time, in charge of bringing to present and future generations the wines made by our ancestors”. And he talked about the wines in tasting, from “Vintage Port, but also very old whites and tawnies”, in a demonstration of the enormous “diversity of Port Wine”.
The tasting was conducted in the form of a timeline, which began in 1994 with the Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage and ended in the early twentieth century with a Very Old Tawny from the producer Costa Boal. In between, stars from decades past were paraded in the form of exceptional wines.
Let’s follow, then, the timeline. We started with Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 1994, presented by the current winemaker, Carlos Agrellos, nephew of António Agrellos, the winemaker responsible for this “national” pearl. A vintage with “only” 25 years, from one of the most emblematic Portuguese vineyards. It is born from the phylloxera untouched vineyards of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Sousão. “The climatic year was extremely favorable”, resulting in a concentrated wine, rich and intense, harmonious and elegant, of great softness and finesse.
In turn, Taylor’s 1970 Vintage Port, made with grapes from Quinta de Vargellas and Quinta de Terra Feita, is presented “with the harmony and tension” that define the style of the house, as explained Nicholas Heath, from The Fladgate Partnership. Tested in Magnum bottle, it already reveals the aromas of the bottle that result from its aging, but still with much to offer. Excellent to accompany blue cheeses, dried fruits and crystallized fruits.
From one of the best years of the 60?s decade, Dow’s 1963 Vintage Port appears in its equilibrium and concentration splendor, presenting honey aromas, wild fruits, complex, fruity flavor, intense freshness and endless end. Gonçalo Brito, from Symington Family Estates, recalled that “this is one of the best Ports of the 20th century; comparable to the predecessor of 1945”. It was also an important Port for the company and for the region, as it allowed the difficulties posed by the end of World War II to be overcome, with the opening of new markets for Vintage Port – the 1963, 1966 and 1970 Vintages registered great results, determining the economic recovery of the region’s operators and the development of the Douro’s mechanization. As can be seen, these wines also tell the history of the region…
The power of time
The tasting continued with a new chapter, this time dictated by the parade of Colheita, wines from one year only, aged in cask, and the unsurpassed old Tawnies. Cristiano van Zeller presented Quinta do Vale D. Maria Colheita 1969 and explained that it is the result of “intense work – but fun – of searching and acquiring, in old wineries of the region”, stored specimens of old Colheitas. She was thus able to constitute a collection whose first sample is this 1969, bottled in October 2019, that is, with 50 years of minimum ageing in Port wine barrels. Amber-colored, it shows an immense complexity, with the tertiary notes giving density and depth to a long wine, full of freshness and vivacity.
Specialist in Colheita Port, Kopke, the oldest Port Wine house, keeps a true bookstore of old wines, including white Port, as the 1940 copy that was presented by the master blender Carlos Alves. Although white, this wine shows all the shades of deep aging, between amber, greenish and dark brown; citric, spicy, dried fruits, all the complexity and balance of a wine that presents 130 gr/l of sugar and 5.06 gr/l of total acidity. Portentous.
And what about the 7.06 gr/l of total acidity vs. the 140 gr./l. of sugar displayed in Maynard’s Colheita 1935 Baron of Vilar? All the sublime sweetness of a Port Wine, anchored in the intense freshness manifested in an old gentleman who counts already 85 years old! Mariana Van Zeller recalled that, like her counterpart from Quinta Vale D. Maria, this “was acquired in the Douro a few years ago”, being aged in the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia – and not in the Douro, it should be noted – reflecting the influence of “the warehouse and the microclimate”, which contribute to a silky, unctuous wine, but with exemplary freshness and remarkable balance.
Dating from the previous year, it was up to Miguel Martins, Vallegre’s general director, to present Vista Alegre Colheita 1934, a dazzling golden colored wine, which releases noble tertiary aromas, such as varnish, iodine, vinegar, dried fruits; ample, voluminous but immensely seductive body, fresh and tense. A wine that wouldn’t disdain a good ripe cigar, with a wide diameter and smooth shooting. From Niepoort, a Very Old Dry White appeared next. Daniel Niepoort, Dirk’s son, was responsible for the presentation of the wine, a tribute to Rolf, Dirk’s father. Three generations around a unique wine that, although dry, “displays” 138 gr/l of sugar, supported by 7.54 gr/l of total acidity. In the mouth, it shows all the proverbial dryness, clean and fresh and, at the same time, irreverent.
Like the example that followed: Quinta da Boeira Very Old Tawny 1917, marketed in… perfume bottles. In fact, Sara Castro, the company’s marketing manager, revealed that this wine, acquired from the Strecht Ribeiro family, is placed on the market in 100 ml units, so it is drunk in “small steams”. In the tasting, it was served in a glass, showing complex, balsamic, with notes of dried fruits, figs, spices, full and long. Ending this journey through time and Port Wine, the Costa Boal Very Old Tawny. A wine that, according to us, gave to speak even in the Tasting Chamber of the IVDP. Elaborated by the duo formed by the producer António Boal and the winemaker Paulo Nunes, this centenary wine was kept for generations in the winery of the producer’s family in Cabeda, Alijó, without any intervention in the last three decades. Dry (despite its 266 gr/l of sugar), fresh and tense (given the 7,92 gr/l of total acidity), a dazzling in amber tones, intense notes of varnish, caramel, tobacco box, dried fruits like walnut and hazelnut, honey. Intense, elegant and alive. As one asks to the dream Port Wines, to unveil to us memories of the future time.