I’ve tasted so many wines over the past couple of weeks it’s difficult to know where to start in terms of writing them up. I’ll begin with a highlight of my recent visit to Northern Portugal. Tasting in the Douro Valley and Vila Nova de Gaia, it’s at times tempting to focus on the new breed of table wines, as there’s considerable excitement in the region for these styles. But in tasting both these and the vast array of more traditional Port wine styles, I was struck by the effortlessness of the fortified wines, whereas the table wines, at times truly excellent, also showed an occasional struggle to achieve finesse. The strengths of some regions are just self-evident.
This particular wine jumped out during my tasting blitz of the region, not because it was the best wine tasted by any means (that honour goes to various 2011 vintage ports) but because it provides such deep satisfaction. Tawny port is such a great style in terms of the immediacy and ease of its pleasures; there’s no digging deep here, just a pure, hedonistic wine experience. The aroma is wild, certainly wilder than its 20 year old counterpart, with a striking savouriness and clarity of aroma, well articulated and clean despite its richness. Indeed, this isn’t a combatively expressive wine. There’s no shortage of aroma, but it doesn’t suffocate the nostrils as some richer fortified wines can. Interestingly, the typically nutty oxidative aromas are here, but not in as much abundance as in the 20 year old. Perhaps it has evolved past even those notes.
As good as this smells, it’s all about the palate. It’s amazingly unctuous and mouth-coating, seeming to press its flesh against every last corner of the mouth. Interestingly, there’s still good tannin and decent freshness, and it’s not a heavy wine, despite its rich flavours. Indeed, this is a pretty good example of how refined a very old tawny can be. It’s tempting to look to these styles for impact and overwhelming intensity of flavour, but that sort of scale isn’t an inevitability; this has plenty to give, but it never feels assaultive.
Quinta de Noval
Price: €60 (375mL)