Tag Archives: Douro

Spring Sunrise in the Douro

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I was in the Douro for a couple of days earlier this month. A euphoric early morning run from Quinta do Noval around the Roncão Valley and along the Douro was a wonderful reminder that here Spring comes a little earlier than in Northern climes. The sun was rising over the Douro, the almonds were in blossom, and it was generally an inspiring start to a day of tasting blends with António Agrellos. I may perhaps have mentioned before that I love this magical place: I never forget when I am tasting Noval or Romaneira Port wines or Douro reds, wherever I am in the world, that this is where they come from. They are the wines they are because of that.

Sunrise from the terrace of Noval, looking towards Cavadinha.
Sunrise from the terrace of Quinta do Noval, looking towards Cavadinha.


Roncão Valley. Sunrise. Almond tree in blossom.
Roncão Valley. Sunrise. Almond tree in blossom.


 Sunrise over the Douro from the head of the Roncão Valley: Romaneira in the background.
Sunrise over the Douro from the head of the Roncão Valley: Quinta da Romaneira in the background.


Almond tree in blossom above the Douro. Noval vines in the foreground; Romaneira in the distance.
Almond tree in blossom above the Douro. Noval vines in the foreground; Romaneira in the distance.


 Looking down to the Douro.
Looking down to the Douro.


Riotous almond blossom.
Riotous almond blossom.


Return to Noval in time for breakfast before tasting begins.
Return to Quinta do Noval in time for breakfast before tasting begins.


2014 Harvest Report – Quinta do Noval (Douro)

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After the news from Bordeaux and Burgundy, here are the reports on 2014 from Quinta do Noval, Disznókő and Mas Belles Eaux.

António Agrellos of Quinta do Noval, Douro:


“ At Quinta do Noval we finished the harvest on the 13th October. This vintage could have been one of the best years since I have been at Noval, if we had not had rain in the second half of September.

Some information about the year in general:

The heavy rainfall that we had in 2013/2104, well distributed throughout the year, reasonable temperatures in winter and a fresh month of August enabled the vines to maintain a healthy appearance, with lots of leaves throughout the cycle, which protected the grapes from the peaks of heat during the summer, safeguarding the health of the bunches.

At the end of August, the harvest was looking wonderful, with beautiful healthy grapes and an excellent sugar and acidity balance, ideal for making great Port and very good unfortified Douro wines.

We began to harvest the whites on the 25th August and the next day also the Syrahs of S. Mamede and Roncão. At the beginning of September, taking into account the forecast rain, we carried on with harvesting the most advanced parcels at Roncão and Silval. The weather was great and ripening was proceeding…but the gods were not in a humour to help us, and from the 13th to the 27th they sent us 67 mm of rain! With a third of the harvest already in, we decided not to stop the harvest because the weather forecast remained unstable.

The wines:

With regard to the quality, I am very satisfied with the equilibrium of the whites, notably the Cedro do Noval white, for which the grapes come from the Quinta. We will therefore be able to launch our first vintage of Cedro do Noval white in 2015.
The white Ports are also good, fruity and aromatic.

The unfortified reds are also good, elegant, good intense colour, quite structured, and with a good natural acidity which gives them a lovely freshness.

As for the Ports, we have in general wines of deep profound colour, aromatic and well balanced, with some lots of outstanding quality…

During the final phase, the harvest was marked again by 75 mm of rain. By this stage, strict sorting in the vineyard and on the sorting tables in the chai were fundamental for obtaining the quality of wines that were made.

In conclusion, it is a good year, but as is often the case, it could have been even better: the excellent climatic conditions throughout the year, the healthy and harmonious state of the grapes at the end of August having given us hopes of something really extraordinary!

Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall at the crucial moment of ripening meant that we just missed a very great Vintage…maybe one of the best for 21 years. But we will have all the same some very good wines, white, red, and Port wines, from this rather complicated harvest. “

Read the 2014 Harvest Reports of the other properties :

Harvest Time at Château Pichon Baron

2014 Harvest Report – Château Suduiraut (Sauternes)

2014 Harvest Report – Château Petit-Village (Pomerol)

2014 Harvest Report – Domaine de l’Arlot (Bourgogne)

2014 Harvest Report – Disznókő (Tokaj)

2014 Harvest Report – Mas Belles Eaux (Languedoc)

2014 Harvest in our properties: Conclusion

20 years at Quinta do Noval

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I arrived at Quinta do Noval as managing director on the 13th October 1993. For the past twenty years I have had the pleasure and privilege of looking after this wonderful place. So we decided to host a 20th anniversary party recently at Quinta do Noval on the weekend of 13th October.

The main feature was an extensive vertical tasting of Quinta do Noval Vintage and Vintage Nacional Ports, from 1955 through to the recently declared 2011s. It was the first time we have done such a tasting and as well as being a rather emotional experience for me, gave I thought a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable vision of the life of this great property over the past fifty years or so, as expressed in the wines that were produced during the different phases of Quinta do Noval’s history throughout this period.

A great range of decanters. Thanks to Andre Ribeirinho for this photo.
A great range of decanters. Picture credit: A.Ribeirinho.

We opened two bottles of each wine, and I felt that it was the least I could do to taste all of them before the tasting began.

Tasting wines before the tasting
Tasting wines before the tasting

I was thrilled by the number of distinguished journalists and sommeliers who turned up for this event. Tim Atkin was on line almost immediately with a great piece that writes more eloquently than I could about the wines:

What it takes to make great wine by Tim Atkin

Also Andre Ribeirinho via Instagram:

–          Quinta do Noval

–          Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994

–          Quinta do Noval Colheita 1971

–          Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1963

–          Quinta do Noval Vintage 1955

The occasion of the event was the 20th anniversary of my arrival, but as I made clear in the rather rambling speech I gave at lunch, just slightly influenced by the fact that I had tasted all of the wines at least three times that morning, it is also the 20th anniversary of my collaboration with António Agrellos, Quinta do Noval’s brilliant technical director and blender, who is of course the person principally responsible for the quality of the wines we have made together since 1994.

António Agrellos
António Agrellos

It also goes without saying that neither he nor I did it on our own: Quinta do Noval has a great team of dedicated people, many of whom have been with us right from the beginning, and some who have joined us since then.

It was a wonderful weekend, very relaxed and happy. Among the highlights for me were :

- Finding Jancis Robinson up and dressed and writing an article at 5 am as I came out of the kitchen with my morning pot of Assam and then drinking a cup of tea with her by the fire in Quinta do Noval’s drawing room before the rest of the world woke up;

- Running in the Douro a bit later that morning with Victoria Moore who wrote up an entirely fallacious account of the run in her blog which made me out to be some kind of heartless fitness freak;

- Caroline Furstoss decorating a director’s chair for me with a 20 years message;

The director’s chair decorated by Caroline Furstoss
The director’s chair decorated by Caroline Furstoss

Sitting on the chair. Picture Credits: Andre Ribeirinho
Sitting on the chair. Thanks to A. Ribeirinho for this photo.

- A kiss and some nice words from Ausenda, Quinta do Noval’s talented oenologist, who has been with us from the beginning, and with whom it is a daily pleasure to work;

- Maria Joao the cook at Quinta do Noval presenting me with a surprise 20th birthday cake;

- And finally a speech from António Agrellos at dinner on the final evening, in English, certainly the first time he has ever done such a thing and I guess I will have to wait for the thirtieth anniversary party before he does it again.

Vintage Tour 2011 in the US

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A few days ago, I was on tour in the US to launch the 2011 Vintage Ports. This was a joint exercise with the Taylor Fladgate Group. It was a real pleasure to go on tour together and to share our enthusiasm for this great Vintage with the journalists, members of the trade, and Port lovers from all over the States who came along to the tastings.

We visited Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, in each city putting on a tasting, the aim of which was principally to show the great wines of the 2011 Vintage, but also to show some of the Vintage Ports of the past decade. The 07s and the 03s shone, even if the 11s were the stars of the show.

With David Guimaraens
With David Guimaraens
With Adrian Bridge
With Adrian Bridge

As the photographs show, the ambiance was great. I think we all enjoyed the opportunity to show our wines to these very distinguished and enthusiastic tasters. The 2011s seem to have caught the collective imagination of the wine world, and with reason: I am sure it is one of the greatest Vintages ever.

Presenting the Nacional 2011
Presenting the Nacional 2011

But the strong showing of the back Vintages we were showing helped to remind everyone how great these wines can be, and not just in the very greatest years: the 04s and 08s, which we were showing at the Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira tables, and neither of which were general declarations, were lovely, in both cases rather good to drink now. I say this perfectly objectively, as I have almost none of either of them left. Anyone who has is sitting on something rather good.

This was the final leg of a round the world trip as I had been in Hong Kong on Bordeaux business before that. One thing I reminded myself of on the journey: there are some fantastic beers being made in the US today. There are few things more agreeable than a day spent tasting Vintage Ports, but at the end of such a day, a pint of some microbrewed ale exactly hits the spot – I have heard Australian winemakers describe this precious moment as “a PH adjustment”. I enjoyed one or two PH adjustments with David Guimaraens during the trip: all Port lovers will understand.

2011 Vintage Port

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I am in the Douro right now, where the weather is fine and sunny and spirits are high. On Monday, the Institute of Masters of Wine organised a fantastic tasting in London of all the declared 2011 Vintage Ports, which confirmed that we have a great Vintage on our hands.

At Noval, we have declared the Quinta do Noval Vintage 2011, and also, for the first time since the 2003, the Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional, which is of course a thrilling event. At Romaneira, we have also declared Quinta da Romaneira Vintage 2011.

I was here a couple of weeks ago finalising the blends with António Agrellos, and we took some pictures in the tasting room. As they show, we were feeling rather cheerful about the wines. It is always a great moment when you know that you have an outstanding Port wine that you can declare as a Vintage Port, and at Noval it is a rare and exciting event to be able to declare the Nacional as well. There have been a few blog posts about the Nacional over the past few months, following the big tasting we did in New York, and I also wrote a while ago about the tasting of the Nacional 94 with the Wine Spectator, also in New York. So no need to go into detail today about what the Nacional is or what makes it special. But it is worth pointing out that the 2011 is the first time we have wanted to declare a Nacional since 2003, so it is an exciting event. A lot of people asked me at the time of the 2007 Vintage declaration why there was no Nacional 2007. The answer is that I resolved when I first started working at Noval (luckily for me the 94 was my first vintage) that we would never declare a Nacional that was not clearly outstanding. The wine that came from the Nacional parcel in 2007 was very good but not outstanding, and so we did not declare it. We had no such doubts about the 2011.

Here I am with António in the tasting room at Noval with Ausenda Matos, the oenologue of Noval.


And these next two pictures give an idea of how cheerful we were feeling about the wines we were tasting. I love the wines from 2011, and now having tasted the wines from our neighbours and friends in the Douro at the IMW tasting, I am sure that it will go down as a great historic Port Vintage.

Christian Seely and António Agrellos

Christian Seely and António Agrellos

I think we are tasting the Nacional in this picture. António and I have together been responsible for the 94, 96, 97, 2000, 2003 Nacionals. We were beginning rather to miss it, and it is wonderful to have again a great Nacional declaration in our hands.

The Quinta do Noval Vintage is quite lovely, I think one of the best ever, and I am sure that the Quinta da Romaneira Vintage 2011, of which we made only 700 cases is in fact the best Romaneira ever. My tasting notes are probably not impartial enough, but I give them here just for the record. Fortunately I am not a journalist or I would not last long, but I just give you in note form the impressions these wines made on me.

Quinta da Romaneira Vintage 2011

Intense bright fresh seductive fruit. Great elegance and harmony. Complex profound aromas. Something wild about it, typical of Romaneira.

Quinta do Noval Vintage 2011

Very seductive. Lovely fresh floral notes on the nose, many delicate complex aromas. Violets. Wonderful purity and fresh precision of fruit. Intense concentration, but delicate at the same time. Fine long tannins.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 2011

Very strong distinctive personality. Tannins powerful reserved and fine. Very intense long and concentrated fruits, explosive in the mouth, balanced and with great freshness. Brooding presence.

But don’t take my word for it. Read what the journalists will say, or better still, buy some.

Finally, one photograph of António Agrellos, which I think gives an idea of the immense intelligence and artistic flair that he has brought to bear on the making and blending of the great wines of Noval over the past 20 years. I tend to travel round the world and do the talking, and maybe get some of the credit for these wines, but he is in fact the person who makes them, and I am very lucky to have the pleasure of working with António, both at Noval and at Romaneira, and to have been able to offer to the world as a result a few exceptional Vintage Ports over the past two decades, of which I think the 2011 may be one of the greatest.

António Agrellos