An Exciting Marlborough and 1960 Vintage Port

Sauvignon Blanc is popular at present in the UK and I understand commands a higher average price than other wines among UK high street consumers. I have a suspicion that it is tropical new world Sauvignon responsible for this rather than Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. I think fans from both camps may well be in for a shock if they wound up with a bottle of this great Sauvignon from Dog Point.

Perhaps not quite so popular among the general public is vintage Port. In part this is due to cost but it is also due to the huge amount of ageing required to tame this most magnificent of wines. At 56 years old this was ready to drink but the idea of waiting 20+ years to touch it would have shocked me even a few years ago. Lay some down

These wines were tasted during my recent visit to The Sampler. These wines didn’t fit anywhere else so I put them together. Check out the main article on my visit to The Sampler.

Dog Point, Section 94, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2012:

This is a really interesting Sauvignon Blanc. This is a serious affair from a small plot, barrel aged with extended less contact yielding a wine of great intensity. This is very different from characteristic lower end Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (primary tropical notes). Strangely all of us tasted this picked up on a strong note of capsicum on both the nose and palate, leading into a spicy finish. This was a savoury and interesting wine and something I will be revisiting by the bottle at some point in the future.

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Crofts Vintage Port, Portugal, 1960:

Boy this was a treat. My experiences with old port are limited but every one only serves to increase my interest. At 56 years old this is showing beautifully. Over Christmas of this year I opened a bottle of Taylor’s 1985 which was gloriously intense, young and fresh. The benefit of the extra 25 years shows itself in this bottle of Crofts.  This throws a strong dark sediment which gradually settled to reveal the pale pink/ruby nectar above.  Great mouthfeel (still full bodied but not thick as in youth), grip from residual tannin and a warming sensation all the way to the stomach from the alcohol. I would struggle to do justice to the flavour but its complex, fruity, silky and delicious.  This is a vintage port in its prime and I would take this over dessert every day.

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Learning Point: Marlborough Sauvignon is really getting interesting but given enough time you cannot beat Port.

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Noval’s Ten Year Aged Tawny Port

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.

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