I am in New York today for a very exciting vertical tasting of Vintage Ports from Quinta do Noval. The tasting is in fact billed as a Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional Vertical, which indeed it is, but I was very keen to show some Vintage Ports from Quinta do Noval made from the rest of the vineyard, since the Vintage Nacional is great because of where it is, in the heart of Quinta do Noval, and so I think it is important to speak also of the great Vintage Ports of Quinta do Noval when we speak of the Vintage Nacional.
Quinta do Noval is a very singular Port House. The only one of the major traditional Port houses to be named after its vineyard rather than a founding family, the only one whose principal Vintage Port is always a Single Quinta Port in the sense that it comes from one vineyard only and proudly declares that fact on its label, and the only one of the traditional Gaia based shippers that has moved all its operations up to the Douro and is now entirely based there. It is clear that the vineyard of Quinta do Noval is at the heart of the identity of Noval, and is the principal determinant of the character and quality of the wines that we make there.
So Quinta do Noval itself is exceptional and outstanding. I have had the pleasure and privilege to look after this great vineyard for the past nineteen years, and though it may be objected that I am not entirely impartial, I can confirm that it is a very special place. The notion of a great wine being the expression of a particular place is at the heart of the concept of terroir which is behind the great wines of the world, notably in Burgundy and in Bordeaux, but also elsewhere, and it is certainly at the heart of my way of thinking about Quinta do Noval and the wines we make there.
Situated in the centre of the Douro Valley, its terraced vineyards clinging to the hillsides overlooking the Pinhão and Roncao valleys, and also overlooking the Douro itself, Quinta do Noval is a magically beautiful place. The wines that we make here, whether they are Vintage Ports, Ports destined to become fine old tawnies, or in recent years, red wines made from the Douro Port wine varieties, have distinguishing characteristics that mark them out, and which I believe spring from the nature of the place itself.
Great Quinta do Noval wines have a wonderful delicate fine aromatic quality, that needs time to develop and reveal itself. Vintage Ports such as the Quinta do Noval 1955 and 1966 – inspirations to me when I started there – have this quality, as do for example the Quinta do Noval Vintage Ports of 1997 and 2000, and as do red wines such as the Quinta do Noval 2009 or the various varietal Tourigas that we have made at Noval in the past few years.
I stress the character of the vineyard of Quinta do Noval because I believe that the Vintage Nacional is the supreme expression of the personality of Quinta do Noval, and is only able to exist because of its situation at the heart of Quinta do Noval’s vineyard. Any discussion of Vintage Nacional that just focuses on the five acres of Nacional vines without taking into account the great vineyard of Quinta do Noval that surrounds it will I think miss the point. Of course, Vintage Nacional is exceptional and extraordinary because it is made from grapes from ungrafted vines. But these ungrafted vines can only survive as they do because of the place where they are planted, surrounded as they are by the rest of the vineyard of Quinta do Noval, which has been producing great Port wines for centuries.
So although today’s tasting is principally a vertical tasting of various vintages of Vintage Nacional, I thought it particularly important to show some Vintage Ports from the rest of Quinta do Noval’s vineyards, so we shall begin by tasting Quinta do Noval Vintage 2003 and Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 2003, followed by the Quinta do Noval Vintage 2000 and the Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 2000, and then compare the 1997 Quinta do Noval Vintage and the 1997 Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1997. What I hope these first three Vintages will show is that although the Vintage Nacional is always different, with its own clear and distinct personality, there is a strong family link with the Quinta do Noval Vintage Ports, which although in each case clearly different from the Vintage Nacional, can often aspire to similar heights of greatness, being just different expressions of one great vineyard.
I am very much looking forward to this epic tasting. After the first three comparative tastings, we shall go on to taste the Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1996, 1994, 1975,1970,1967,1966, 1964, 1962, and will finish with the legendary 1963. I will be posting another blog about the tasting next week. In the meantime, here are a couple of links that might be of interest.