So if I say “smooth” – whats pops into your mind? I was giving this some thought today while trying to figure out an intro to this piece. I was thinking about what “smooth” might have evoked in me at different stages of my life. This exercise pulled together an eclectic little assembly of visualisations. From the click-clock-click Pharell does on the intro to ‘Drop It Like Its Hot‘ to the small patch on my dog’s aged back where her fur has fallen out due to disease or despair at her canine condition – there was quite a range. From this day forth however, there shall only be one: Noval’s ten year aged Tawny port – well, at least until I try the twenty year one.
Quinto de Noval by its full name, is one of Porto’s older Port houses. The estate’s vineyards, nestled relatively high up the Douro river near the township of Pinhao, have been producing grapes used in the firm’s Ports since 1715. Today, Noval run two main ranges. Their “red” ports, briefly aged in casks before bottling, and their “old” ports – Tawny’s – which follow the usual 10,20,30, and 40 year denominations. They also supply a king of ports – allegedly unblended – reflecting a particular vintage or crop (such ports are called Colheitas). Noval also make a range of Duoro wines, to which I cannot speak – although, if that changes, I will let you know.
Seeing as Noval do not sell the basic “Age-not-specified Tawny” (the lack of a specified age indicates it has been in a barrel for a minimum of two years and likely not many more), this ten year aged one is actually their entry level in the Tawny range.
Robe: The wine has remained fairly red, with the suggestion of gently approaching brownness. This is somewhat surprising because I have seen more unhealthily-dehydrated 10 year olds before. This may of course simply be due to the varietals in the blend although it would be interesting to see some side-by-side. As expected, the legs are viscuous.
Nez: The smell resides on a base of vegetables overlaid with nuttiness. But on a particularly solid drag, a slight uptick of sweetness drills through: dried fruit – apricots perhaps.
Bouche: So yeah – smooth. But also pleasantly complex. There is a danger with port that the smoothness becomes almost oppressive – levelling flavours with its sickly viscosity. Noval escapes this in two ways. First, the nutty flavours are particularly developed and manage to stand out. While they are perhaps not quite developed enough for the ten year to be truly great, they do provide a semblance of structure rising above the gobbling smoothness. A city of great elegance, now ruined and half buried in sand. I understand this is not unusual in ports of a certain quality. Where this port stands out positively is in the hint of citrus it carries on the after-taste. The slight orange tang rises up against the smooth flow of the wine and the acidity offsets the threatened sickly sugary smoothness.
This is a solid port. Drink it to redefine your childhood memories of an oft-used adjective – one you will now associate with an orangey twist.