Portugal – Tasting Notes

1970 Warre’s, Vintage Port, Tercentenary (RT95) A bit short on sediment, this was surprisingly deep in color, bordering on full-blown ruby. Beautiful, sublime notes of sweet, sun-dried red fruits, mature figs, hazelnut and holiday spices show fabulous, yet slow aging development. This 42 year-old remains young, full of life and surprisingly fresh. The palate is layered with sumptuous fruit as the freshness stands tall. Well stored bottles of this beauty have a long, long life ahead! Drink now-2040+    

Smoking Hot Bubbles – Vadio is On Fire October, 2022

2019 Vadio, Bairrada DOC, Espumante Bruto Rose (RT93+) Here’s an amazing value in the sparkling rose market! With just 4490 bottles produced, this is a minuscule project of Luís Patrão, one that seriously outperforms its retail price at just under $30. This bottling was disgorged in August 2020, and is crafted from 100% Estate harvested Baga grown in clay and limestone soils near the central coast of Portugal. The pressing is gentle followed by fermentation in stainless steel and used oak barrels, then aged for 18 months prior to a very modest 3 grams/liter dosage. Impressively delicious, this Champenois Methode-produced wine wafts up notes of ripe, rich strawberry, red raspberry, layers of minerality, dried orange zest, gravel and hints of toasted almonds, the level of complexity keeps you returning to the glass for sniff after sniff. What an intoxicating bouquet! The palate is just as decadent, as ripe fruit and soft acidity lead to a convincing closing. This is outstanding and given how little of it makes it into the market, grab it while you can, IF you can find it! Drink now-2027+

1995 Taylor Fladgate, Vintage Porto, Quinta de Vargellas (RT94) As the 1995 Vargellas moves toward its 30 birthday it remains young, fresh and vibrant. Holding its deep, ruby garnet hue, it has fleshed out a considerable amount of sediment, so a healthy, slow decant is in order. Enchanting ripe red cherry with layers of dark chocolate, spices, espresso, hazelnut and smattering of orange zest. The mouthfeel is full throttle and power-packed porto, loaded with acidity and a blast of alcohol to mark the punctuation clearly. As this moves toward its prime drinking window get ready to savor a most excellent value is single quinta, vintage porto. Drink 2025-2045+         

A Portuguese Gem in the $25-30 Range

2018 Niepoort, Bairrada DOC, Baga, Lagar de Baixo (RT92) You’ve not had the Baga variety before? Here’s an outstanding one to sample! Lagar de Baixo is the passion of Dirk Niepoort and reveals the soaring heights Baga can achieve as a single variety. Crafted from 40-60 year-old vines, then fermented in lagares and aged for 19 months in large, old barrels. Reminiscent of Mencia “light”, with a bit firmer, yet still elegant tannins. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the style is the 12.5% alcohol. This excellent food wine also makes a fine sipper as notes of red berries, dried herbs, hints of underbrush and a puff of smoke rise. It’s translucent, medium density ruby hue coats the mouth with a savory lathering of fruit, lovely fresh acidity, and clean ripe tannin. Highly enjoyable, if you lean toward lighter styled reds this is a wine to check out! Drink now-2028

STUNNING ALVARINHO October 2021

2019 Foral de Melgaco, Alvarinho Old Vines (RT92) A luxurious and concentrated organic wine crafted from 35-50 year old vines in the northern fringe of Portugal. It’s loaded with dense fruit revealing ripe Granny Smith apple, Comice pear, layers of minerality and decadently fresh acidity. Beautifully balanced, it opens magnificently in the glass, revealing its full glory only over time. A stunning expression of Alvarinho! Drink now-2024 to catch it at its full freshness!

2021 Foral de Melgaco, Alvarinho Old Vines (RT 92) 2021 is a fabulous vintage for Foral’s Old Vines Alvarinho. This is a decadently ambiance-packed white with ripe fruit revealing green pear & apple, minerality and mouth-watering acidity. Beautifully balanced, it unwinds in the glass, revealing its full glory only over time and coaxing. Do not serve this excessively chilled, you will mask the magic. A stunning expression of Alvarinho! Drink now-2027 to catch it at its full freshness!

VAN ZELLERS & CO. June 2021

Cristiano Van Zeller – the man behind Quinta do Noval and more recently Van Zellers & Co.

The story of Van Zellers & Co is long and ancient, yet this is a relatively new winery. It began as a Port Wine company in 1780, making them one of the oldest in the Douro. At one point it held a fleet of more than 27 ships, but over time the ships and the company were sold off. In 1937 great-great grandfather to the family, Luis Vasconcellos Porto, owner of legendary Quinta do Noval, rebought Van Zellers & Co. In the 1980’s, when current generational lineage head Cristiano Van Zeller was leading Quinta do Noval, Van Zellers & Co became independent from the main company. These gyrations in ownership deeply affected how the company operated, but in 2006, with the blossoming trajectory of the Douro and under the leadership of Cristiano, the company was set to be back in the business of hand crafting Porto and still red and white wines.

First came the release of VZ Douro White. Then came a few more reds and whites in the early part of 2011. Port wines reappeared later, because to truly become a port wine producer there must be a stock ageing in the cellar to have diversity of age, flavors, and aromas needed to create the complex blends of port.

By 2018 Van Zellers & Co had finally stocked itself with over 175,000 liters of tawny ports of various ages and they were ready for new life to be brought into the company. Today their focus is on hand-crafted ports and still wines, pressed by foot and cared for with delicate, experienced oversite of all aspects of the winemaking process. This was an early snapshot of the wines coming into the US market today, and I’m highly enthusiastic about the way they showed and the bright future ahead for the blossoming winery!

2018 Van Zellers & Co, Douro White (RT93) A blend of Viosinho, Ribigato, Codega & Gouveio, the grapes are destemmed and cold stored prior to being crushed, then aged for 9 months in French Oak with battonage. This is a superb, succulent white that caresses the palate with layers of bright, fresh fruit. Super floral and concentrated, this will make you smile from ear to ear! Drink now-2025

2017 Van Zellers & Co, Douro Red (RT91) A field blend of over 30 different red varieties from 30-80 year old vines and aged for 21 months in Allier French Oak. This is an exceptionally elegant and delicate wine which is as traditional, complex, and structured as Portuguese wines are renowned for. Full bodied, crisp, expressive & spicy! Drink now-2028+

Van Zellers & Co, Ruby Port (RT91) A serious, foot crushed Ruby built on a solid foundation of black cherry, blackberry liqueur, mocha and hints of baking spices. Full, round and mouth coating with deeply delicious fruit and excellent, bright acidity. This thoughtfully crafted ruby is ready to enjoy tonight and over the next 3-6+ years.

2015 Van Zellers & Co, Late Bottled Vintage Port (RT93) With its classic bouquet revealing it’s youthfulness, firm notes of blackberry, black cherry compote, orange zest and crushed gravel create the sensation of a structural fortress. Crafted from more than 25 different traditional Douro varieties, then foot crushed and aged in 100-year-old oak barrels for 42-48 months. The result is miraculous, this is an unknown gem! Drink now-2030+

Van Zellers & Co, 10 Year Tawny Port (RT94) This is a hand crafted, foot pressed, highly structured, and focused Tawny that shows great depth and elegance. Warm flavors of oranges and burnt caramel dominate with hints of elegant hazelnuts, star anise, toffee and dried apricot lead to a clean, delicious finish. Outstanding! Drink now-eternity

GEMS FROM THE AZORES ISLANDS March 2021

2018 Azores Wine Company, Arinto dos Açores Non Sur Lies (RT94+) This super nonchalant, esoteric wine is grown a mere 50 meters from the Atlantic ocean and produced in microscopic quantities with a mere 250 six packs bottled. The soils are 100% black basalt, grown in miniscule bush vine plots of 2-6 vines per square. The grape – Arinto dos Açores – is indigenous to the Azores Islands and is not related to the mainland variety of the same name. This gorgeous authentic white reveals a magnificent bouquet with layers of honey suckle, white flowers, minerals, lemon peel and honeydew, interwoven with layers of misty smoke. With time in the glass the mineral character builds momentum punctuated by a distinct salinity. The textural aspect is clean and endearing, with a mouthcoating, sappy quality accented by bright fresh fruit and vibrant acidity. As pure as the driven sea breeze! Marvelous, unadulterated winemaking by master António Maçanita. Drink now-2028+ This may blossom even longer than my suggested drinking window.

2019 Azores Wine Company, Rosé Volcânico (RT92) Another masterpiece of winemaking by António Maçanita, this unique rose is crafted from a blend of 25% Saborinho, 25% Agronomica, 25% Aragones and 25% Touriga Nacional. The result is a supple, rich Rose that expresses the minerality of its origins in 100% black basalt. The bouquet reveals whispering notes of raspberry, strawberry, fresh apricot, and honey with hints of crushed stone and tufts of smoke and ash. The mouthfeel is deliciously rich, full, and round with just enough of acidic lift to keep it fascinating. An alluring Rose that keeps you coming back for another sip! Drink now-2024+

DELICIOUS TABLE RED September 2019

2017 Quinta des Saes, Tinto, Dão DOC (RT91) A blend of 25% Tinta Roriz, 25% Touriga Naçional, 25% Alfrocheiro, 25% Jaen grown in granite-based soils at 500 meters. With its soaring aromatic profile that embraces its vineyard soils, this classic Portuguese red delivers an elegant mouthfeel with a soft, sumptuous finish. A perfect food wine for lighter fare, grilled meats, paella or cheeses! Drink 2020-2026 (Tasted June 2020)

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