Tag Archives: Quinta do Noval

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.


An Exceptional Vintage Port Tasting

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Don Schliff's Exceptional Tasting
Don Schliff’s Exceptional Tasting

I was in Los Angeles recently for an unforgettable tasting organised by Don Schliff of the Wine Warehouse. Don has an extraordinary personal collection of Vintage Port, and opened for a group of enthusiasts a range of remarkable bottles from his cellar, which we tasted in the convivial surroundings of the Hotel Bel Air in Beverly Hills.

I first met Don when I had just started at Quinta do Noval over twenty years ago. He came to visit the property and we had lunch. I knew little about the trade at that time, but was aware that Mr Schliff was a distinguished member of it. So I decided to open one of the more obscure, but one of my favourites, of the old Nacionals, the 1962. I thought to myself: he has made the effort to come here, and so we will open something he will never have had the chance to taste before.

As the decanter went round at the end of lunch I asked Don what he thought of the wine. In a very laid back way he answered “It kind of reminds me of the Nacional 1962!” I realised that I was in the presence of someone who knew more about Port than most people do. As time has gone by I have come to respect even more his encyclopaedic knowledge and fine judgement of great Vintage Ports.

So when Don invited me over for this tasting, it was irresistible. An extensive range of Vintage Ports from 1963; and then a vertical of Quinta do Noval Nacionals: 1963; 1958; 1962; 1960, and finally a 1927 from Dow and a bottle of the 1931 Quinta do Noval Vintage, the legendary declaration that made Noval’s reputation.

While we tasted the 1963s, we were served an outstanding lunch prepared by Wolfgang Puck, who proved that Vintage Port is not just a wine to be drunk in isolation (though that works very well) but also has wonderful gastronomic possibilities when you are in the hands of a master chef.

The 1963s were generally showing very well indeed, the stars of the show being for me Fonseca, Taylor’s and Dow, which was actually my number one wine. Quinta do Noval Vintage 1963 was lovely but the three I mention had more concentration and power. The 1963 Nacional was in another series, and I have to say in another category, as always, astonishingly youthful reserved complex and powerful. And then we tried the other Nacionals, all beautiful and in great condition. The 1960 was particularly lovely, fine delicate and aromatic. And then we finished with the great 1927 from Dow and the astonishing 1931 Quinta do Noval Vintage. I have tasted this wine a few times over the past twenty years, and each time it amazes by its youth, and seems not to grow one whit older. There must be very few bottles left in the world by now, but to anyone who has one, there is no hurry to drink up: this is a wine with at least a couple of decades left in it.

Well, this tasting was one of the great experiences of my life, proof if any proof were needed that Vintage Port is one the greatest wines produced on the planet, capable as we know of providing great pleasure when fairly young (I am drinking some of my 2000 and 2003 Novals right now and they are wonderful), but also capable of revealing extraordinary complexity, finesse and aromatic intensity as they age.  Thank you Don for a memorable experience.

Photo courtesy of Roy Hersh, whom I was delighted to see at this tasting. Roy was writing up the tasting for The SOMM Journal, and his report will later appear in For The Love of Port.

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

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

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.