New Douro Tasting

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In London to present the 2007 red wines of Quinta do Noval at the New Douro tasting at the Tate Modern. I managed to escape from behind my table from time to time and so taste all the wines there: this sort of opportunity arises rarely in the region of production, so I try to make the most of it when I can. There were some very exciting wines on show: 2007 was a lovely year in the Douro, both for Vintage Ports and for the unfortified wines.

Paul Symington gave a presentation to the assembled visitors about the Douro region, the theme of which was that it is quite possible, though unusual, for a great vineyard region to be able to produce two different world class wines: Vintage Port and now unfortified Douro wines. To re-enforce the message, we showed the 07 Vintage Ports after the red and white wine tasting.

I find the emergence of the new Douro wines, both red and white, an immensely exciting phenomenon. I have now spent nearly sixteen years working in the Douro, at Quinta do Noval, and also more recently at Romaneira, and I lost my heart to the region a long time ago. To see red wines being produced that express the Douro terroir, as Vintage Port has done for a very long time, is a huge pleasure. More than anything, these new wines have given the Douro a new vitality and dynamism, as they make it possible for small winegrowers to establish themselves independently, something that is very difficult to do with Port wine.

The result has been the emergence of a new generation of Douro winemakers, establishing their reputations on the world stage with wines produced under their name or that of their quintas, and this can only be positive for the region, and of course for wine lovers everywhere. Although I cannot claim to be very small or very young, we would probably not have acquired Romaneira for example, had the project only been to produce Port wine: one of the principal attractions of the Romaneira vineyard is its potential for the production of Douro red and white wines. At Noval, we are certainly not giving up the day job, and the production of great port wines is and will remain our principal reason for existing, the red wines of Quinta do Noval, and the Cedro do Noval play an increasingly important role in the life of the Quinta. So in general: exciting times in the Douro Valley.

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4 thoughts on “New Douro Tasting”

  1. Hallo Christian,

    last time i went to tokaji, you wasn’t there ;-))

    i did want to ask about 2007 nacional:
    what was the reason to do not bring it out as a nacional?

    as you see, i’m still addicted to port and tokaji :-)

    greetings from switzerland

    Albino aka Tsunami

    1. Hello Albino

      Sorry I missed you in Hungary. We did not declare a Quinta do Noval Nacional 2007. This might seem strange as it was such a beautiful Vintage generally, but the Nacional is a strange phenomenon.

      As you know, it is made from grapes grown on ungrafted vines in a small area at the heart of the Noval vineyard. This gives the wine a unique and distinctive personality: when it is great, as in years like 03, 00, 97, 96, 94, 63 it is quite extraordinary, one of the great wines of the world. But it is a wine that confirms something that is for me a deeply held belief, which is that a wine is great because of the quality of the grapes, the character of the year and because of the place they come from. These things are far more important than anything we may do either in the vineyard or in the winery.

      We vinify the Nacional in the same way as the other grapes from the rest of the Quinta do Noval vineyard: foot treading in stone lagares, a simple if laborious procedure, and the result is always something very different for the Nacional wine compared with the wine from the rest of the Quinta. Nacional is what it is because of the grapes and where they come from, not because of anything clever that we do.

      However, though it is always different, and with a distinctive personality, it does not necessarily follow the same rhythm as the rest of the vineyard. In 1996 for example, which was not a declared Vintage year for the rest of the Quinta do Noval vineyard, the Nacional was outstanding, and we decided to declare it. In 2007 on the other hand the Nacional just did not sing. It decided to be great in 1996; it decided not to be in 2007. It is just how it is. The decision not to declare the 07 Nacional was therefore a relatively easy one. I decided when I arrived at Noval in 1993 that we would never declare a Nacional that wasn’t great, something we have stuck to ever since. Of course, one can imagine the short term temptation to declare the Nacional 07 anyway – we would have been able to sell it! But we are custodians of the reputation of this magical wine, and long term that is what matters. So I am sorry, no Nacional 2007. But watch this space: every year is a new opportunity. We have had a good run of great Nacionals in recent years, and I am sure there will be more to come in the future.
      With best wishes,

  2. Hello ChristianSeely,

    my name is Gonçalo Devesas, I was very happy seeing ia the FTLOP that you have your owm website!

    And why ?
    I work in Vinologia, a Small Port wine Estates Shop/Bar in Oporto, actually this is family business, but I´m looking forward to jump for the big industry and therefore I´m making some courses.

    My big passion is talking about Port and explain it to customers, I sold lots of Quinta da Romaneira Colheitas and sold out the Over 40y old that is my preferred Port.
    The best Colheitas and Over 40y old in my opinion !!!

    A long time ago I read that you bought Quinta da Romaneira Romaneira, it didn´t suprise me once that you are a “terroir” seeker, and now I think that you are only making Vintage and wine in Romaneira…

    I´ll not tell the name of the person but
    I heard that you use some grape quantity for quinta do Noval, can you tell me if it´s true ? Once that it seems strange to me…

    I´m anxious to try Quinta da Romaneira 10y old tawny, once that Roy Hersh and Andy Velebill told me that was the best 10y tawny.
    I must visit your incredible 6* hotel!

    Normally for the Nacional you bottled a average of 50 cases ?

    If possible, it will be for me great honor having the opportunity to visit Romaneira and learning more with your presence !

    Thank you

    1. Dear Goncalo

      Thank you very much for your comments about the wines of Romaneira. I too love the 40 year old and the Colheitas. You are exactly right that we acquired Romaneira because of its terroir. With 2 kilometres of river frontage on the Douro and over 400 hectares of land, I believe that Romaneira has some of the finest vineyard sites in the Douro valley. We have now 81 hectares planted, and will continue steadily to increase this as years go by. While it is is true that the first wines we have produced from Romaneira have been Vintage Ports (in 2007, 2005 and 2004) and Douro Red wines, under the Quinta da Romaneira label or the “R” da Romaneira label, as well as some white and Rose wines, we will also be laying down Port wines in barrel to age and to become Old Tawny Ports. As you say the ten year old is remarkable, and I hope that we will be able to maintain this quality of ten year old tawny from Romaneira in years to come. As for your question about grapes, we do sometimes, at this early stage, sell some grapes to Noval and indeed to other Port Shippers, but this is a small proportion of our production: our long term strategy is to concentrate on producing our own wines under the Romaneira label.

      You asked me a question about the Quinta do Noval Nacional. production varies between about 190 cases and 250 cases. But of course we do not make it every year.

      You would be very welcome to visit Romaneira when you like.

      With best wishes, Christian Seely