While in Portugal, I made a visit to Quinta do Panascal, Fonseca’s flagship estate in the Cima Corgo sub-region. It’s an incredibly good visit; the self-guided audio tour, in concept quite off-putting, is actually fantastic, and the estate itself is one of the more scenic in the Douro. I was there during harvest and, in a region that is discovering ways to ease the cost and pain of making wine, Quinta do Panascal is quite old-fashioned in the winery. Lagares were full and hordes of Portuguese men were treading the grapes for hours on end. It was like stepping back in time and, although none of this necessarily means a better wine, it’s certainly fascinating to see such old traditions being practiced.
One can taste though a pretty comprehensive range of wines at the Quinta, which of course I did. I’ve chosen to write this one up as a companion note to the Quinta de Noval 40 Year Old Tawny. Both show an angularity of flavour that pushes them into more distinctive territory than their 20 Year Old counterparts, though this wine much more so than the Quinta de Noval.
Whereas Fonseca’s younger tawnies have the sort of familiar generosity one expects of this style, the 40 Year Old is immediately more challenging. There are some pretty funky aromas here that move past a familiar nutty oxidation into territory that encompasses sardines, sea spray and decaying vegetation. In the mouth it comes alive by presenting its flavours within a strikingly rich, yet incredibly clean, palate structure. This feels more structured than, say, then 10 Year Old, with a good whack of tannin on the finish, carried easily by its rich body. I love the combination of funky and clean here, and find it the most characterful wine of all the Fonseca tawnies.
Price: $AU200 (approx)