Tag Archives: Nacional

V.14&N (8)

Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 2001 and Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2014

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I was in the Douro valley last week, where the harvest is under way. After a very wet start to the year, we then had one of the hottest and dryest summers ever, so it has been a year of contrasts. Harvest continues in excellent conditions, and we will know more about the final quality of the wines in a few weeks time, but it looks good so far.

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Here is a picture of early morning harvest at Quinta do Noval last week, cagettes in the foreground, taken from the promontory at the end of the Roncão valley, which is the midpoint of my morning run, with the Douro and some of Quinta da Romaneira in the background. This is one of my favourite places in the world. The vines here are Touriga Nacional, which we planted in 2000 and which are already giving wines of outstanding quality.

But Quinta do Noval was a good place to be anyway last week as we launched two great Ports on the same day: our Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2014 and our Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 2001.

Click on the links above to read what I wrote about these wines on the Quinta do Noval website.

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Happy Birthday Quinta do Noval

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I have been giving a series of tastings and events recently to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Quinta do Noval’s existence as a vineyard.

In fact, there has certainly been a vineyard on the site for longer than that, possibly much longer. 1715 is the first record of the existence of the vineyard, as it was part of the inheritance of the young Francisco Álvares Taveira, future abbot of Gouvães, who had to show documentary proof of his wealth before becoming the Abbot, (no nonsense about promotion on pure merit in those days) hence the records. But as it was already a vineyard in 1715, clearly it had been a vineyard for a while before that. So we are celebrating that Quinta do Noval is at least three hundred years old, but it is certainly older.

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Going even further back, at the crown of the hill of the Noval estate, there was a Roman settlement, where among the many Roman artefacts discovered during the archeological dig in the early 20th century was an area that looked very much like a wine press. If so, then wine has been made at this site for over 2,000 years, and I like to believe it, though proof positive is lacking.

But it is the relatively recent history that concerns us more, the time during which wines have been made that we can taste today, living memories of the former life of the vineyard at Noval. I personally have an intimate knowledge of the past 23 years at Quinta do Noval, the time that I have been responsible for looking after it having taken over as Managing Director in 1993.

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Before that I mainly know the Quinta’s history through its wines. Among my favourites are of course the extraordinary 1931, both Vintage Nacional and Quinta do Noval; the harmonious and elegant 1955 Quinta do Noval, which was one of my primary inspirations; along with the beautiful delicate and fine 1966, when I started working on the vineyard and the wines in the early nineties. From the Sixties also the 1963 Vintage Nacional is and always has been in a category of its own, rated perfect and great by many distinguished tasters from the time of its birth to the present day. The Seventies and Eighties were a difficult time for Port and for Noval, but I have a soft spot for the very delicate finesse of the Vintage Nacional 1975.

And then glorious days returned with the wonderful 1994 Vintage Nacional, my first at the Quinta, and what luck to have arrived just before such a wine. James Suckling’s 100 points for this wine when he was writing for the Wine Spectator were a shot in the arm for Noval, a clear signal to the world that this great vineyard was capable as it always had been of producing greatness. Since then we have had a series of exceptional years: the 1997, an important year for us when Robert Parker awarded 100 points to both the Quinta do Noval and the Vintage Nacional, a right and left, in shooting parlance, that added momentum to the renaissance of Quinta do Noval’s reputation. The generally declared years of 2000, 2003 and 2007 followed. The Vintage Nacional as always followed its own rhythm, not producing wine to its normal level in 2007, so not declared, but making exceptional wines in the lesser known years of 2001 and 2004.

And then 2011. A phenomenon for Port wine in general, certainly one of the great years in history, with beautiful wines from Quinta do Noval and from the Nacional parcel. The 2011 Vintage Nacional has already acquired a justified cult status, garnering 100 points or the equivalent from several different distinguished wine journalists. I believe that this one is a worthy successor to the legendary 1963 and 1931, scion of a noble breed, both genetic inheritor of the greatness of its ancestors, but also with all the strength and vigour of youth, ready to affront the century to come of long life that certainly lies before it.

We declared both 2012 and 2013 Vintage Ports at Quinta do Noval, very small quantities in both cases, but irresistibly delicious wines. Historically Noval has been ready to make an eccentric declaration (the 1931 was one such), and so inspired both by history and the wines themselves we did not hesitate to make these small declarations, both of which are worthy members of any vertical line up of historic Quinta do Noval Vintages.

And during this time of reconnection with the illustrious past through the production of great modern Vintage Ports, this historic vineyard of Noval has been reinventing itself as a producer of great unfortified red wines. We launched our first Quinta do Noval Douro DOC red wine with the 2004 vintage, and our 2012, placed first in a recent extensive tasting of Douro red wines by the Revista de Vinhos, has just sold out, so we move to the delicious 2013, with the 2014 and 2015 vintages, among the best ever, waiting in the wings.

In a way, these new Douro red (and white) wines are also a reconnection with the history of the property and of the Douro. Fortification of Douro wines only became general in the first half of the 19th Century. The celebrated Baron James Forrester, who drowned in the river in 1861, was a strong advocate for the unfortified wines of the Douro, an indication that their production as quality wines was general at the time and persisted at least during his lifetime. There is no question that the development of Port Wine as a fortified wine led to the evolution of one of the great wines of the world, for which the Douro is chiefly known today, and no one could love great Port wines more than I. However, something was surely lost in the gradual eclipse of non fortified wine making during the 19th century. We will never know how those wines might have developed had they been the principal focus of Douro wine production.

What we know now however, as we catch up for lost time, is that the Douro is capable of producing world class unfiltered red – and white – wines. The Valley today has a new dynamic, as dozens of independent producers, some small, some less so, contribute every year to this thrilling development by producing excellent wines from all corners of the demarcated area. I find this development wholly positive for the Douro and its reputation, but also very good news for wine drinkers all over the world, and I am delighted that Quinta do Noval has been able to participate in this movement since 2004.

The history of a great vineyard, like that of a great region, is the product of the labours of generations of people who went before us and devoted themselves to their land and their wines. The further back the history, the greater the accumulation of inherited knowledge and tradition, and this is what we build upon. But at the same time we are constructing the future for those who will follow us in these vineyards. So while I wish Quinta do Noval a very Happy Birthday on the occasion of its proven 300 years, I also wish very many Happy Returns to this magical vineyard and to the region of which it is at the heart. Great things have happened here in the past, great things are happening now, and I am confident that even greater are to come in the future.

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Quinta do Noval: declaration of the 2012 Vintage Port & launch of the 2004 Vintage Nacional

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Quinta do Noval
Quinta do Noval

I am at Quinta do Noval in the Douro Valley, in sunny weather, but unusually cool for July. Yesterday we declared the Quinta do Noval 2012 Vintage Port. A declaration is always an exciting event, and Noval’s distributors and agents around the world now have their allocations.

Noval has of course often made “eccentric” declarations in the past, beginning with the 31 Vintage Port that was a major factor in establishing the Quinta as one of the great names of Port. My approach to this is very simple: if we feel that we have a wine of the necessary quality, and with the style and character of a classic Quinta do Noval Vintage, we will declare it, even if this means declaring two years in a row (as we did in 07 and 08, and indeed in 03 and 04,) and even if it means bottling only a very small amount of Vintage Port. In the case of the 2012 just 1000 cases were produced but I am very happy with the result and am convinced that the 2012 will hold a worthy place in the line up of great recent declarations such as 2011, 2008 and 2007.

We also launched the 2004 Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional last month. This great Nacional was officially declared in 2006, at the normal time, but we decided to hold it back until now. In its extreme youth it was so big closed and monolithic in style that we felt it could wait for a few years in bottle, and the wine today is wonderful, though still intense and powerful, and astonishingly youthful.

So with a new Nacional and a new Vintage Port declaration, these are great times for Noval and for lovers of our wines. As I write here at the Quinta the vineyard is looking extremely healthy, even after the extraordinary downpour of rain last week, and we will do our best to make sure that some more great wines are made here this year.

I attach a film of the wonderful vertical tasting of Quinta do Noval Vintage and Vintage Nacional that we held in London last autumn, when the 2004 Nacional was first tasted in public and its release this summer announced.

If you have trouble watching this video, view the web version here

Exceptional Vertical Tasting of Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional in NYC

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As I wrote here, I was in New York a couple of weeks ago for a vertical tasting of Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional with Michael Quinttus.

It was a wonderful day, and the wines showed very well. For me, the most satisfying aspect was to observe the similarities of personality between the great wines of the Sixties and those of more recent years. This is a terroir with a very strong and unique identity and it was a moving experience to be able to taste this across the decades.

You can see on the attached film that the distinguished tasters who turned up that day enjoyed the wines: it was a memorable experience for me, and I am glad that the people who were there shared and appreciated it also.

If you have trouble watching this video, view the web version here

The Magic of Quinta do Noval

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Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1997
Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1997

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.

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Quinta do Noval

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.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994
Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994

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.

The Magic of Vintage Nacional

Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional

If you have trouble watching this video, view the web version here