You know a producer is an iconic winery when they have pulling power. Ok, so what exactly is “pulling power” you might ask? Well, quite simply, pulling power is getting a call on a Thursday afternoon asking if you would like to host Xito Olazabal, the winemaker from Quinta do Vale Meao, at short notice for a small impromptu private client tasting in the cellar the following Monday… then sending out one short email… and filling an entire cellar with 20 blue chip clients. Now that’s what you call pulling power!
Of course I realised Xito was passing through town for the New Douro Tasting and I just thought it would be a crying shame to give a knee jerk trade reaction and say sorry, can’t do an event at such short notice in November, one of the busiest times of year for punters and trade alike. But the speed at which customers replied to the tasting invitation even surprised me.
Enjoying Eben Sadie’s Treinspoor Old Vine Series Tinta Barocca 2015 with Xito at dinner after the tasting.
On the Monday, Xito presented a superb masterclass showing 4 vintages of white and red Meandro do Vale Meao as well as a tantalising mini Quinta do Vale Meao first wine vertical featuring 2000, 2007, 2012 and the pre-release 2015, followed by their single vineyard Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional expressions. But it’s the amazing benchmark 2015 Quinta do Vale Meao I want to highlight here and that’s due to arrive in the UK shortly.
Quinta do Vale Meao 2015, Douro Tinto, 14 Abv.
This imposing wine shows impressive mineral aromatics mixing with perfumed cassis leaf, mulberry, blue berry and fragrant black cherry. There are hints of creamy blue berry muffin opulence together with very impressive fruit purity. The palate is fresh, cool and focused with impressive textural polish. The tannins are very sleek and graphitey, balancing a saline liquorice complexity that finishes with great intensity, yet pure harmony. Perhaps an element of slightly earlier picking, this wine is vibrant and intense, showing off the very best the Douro has to offer with its still wines. Not a wine you want to miss out on. Drink this comfortably from 2018 to 2035+
It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m a big fan of Dirk Niepoort’s still wines. After all, I’ve been buying them for the best part of 15 years, when Premium Portuguese wines in the UK market consisted of only Barca Velha from the Douro and Pera Manca from the Alentejo.
I first encountered Dirk’s Projectos wines with his unfortified Navazos flor white from Jerez several years ago with several other oddments along the way, more latterly the experimental Projectos Baga wines, the precursor preparatory wines to his Quinta do Baixos venture in Bairrada.
Today, I got to taste a true Unicorn wine. The Niepoort Projectos Chardonnay 2003. The Denomination states Vinho Regional Tras Os Montes, but if I’m not mistaken, I remember Dirk telling me the grapes were from high altitude Chardonnay vines from the Douro, but this could not be named on the label as such due to appellation laws. Whatever the case, this was possibly one of the last bottles in the UK to be consumed and it did not disappoint. But then again, when has a Niepoort wine ever failed to impress!?
The Projectos are small experiments where Dirk Niepoort tries out different paths to create unique wines to share with lovers of his wines. The greatest Chardonnays come from Burgundy (Chablis and Cotê dór), and the grapes for the Projectos Chardonnay were picked from twenty year old vineyards planted at 750 meters of altitude, with the wine being fermented and aged for 8-9 months in old oak casks. Even though 2003 was a very hot vintage, Dirk’s objective was to make a Chardonnay as fine, light and elegant as possible with high acidity “important for the drinkability factor” and also ensuring the wine’s ageworthiness.
Tasting Note: Rich, expressive wine laden with green apple, brioche, sour dough, salinity, a youthful chalky minerality, and a tightly laced, linear pear and lemon butter seam. Plenty of dusty dried herbs and green tea notes on a tight, fresh steely palate showing pithy, taught mid-palate tension and real pin point detail on the long, fresh, focused finish. A supremely delicious wine that feels no older than 3 to 4 years. Dead ringer for a 1er Cru or even Grand Cru Raveneau Chablis. The talents of Dirk Niepoort cease to amaze. (Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Yesterday, London played host to The New Douro Tasting featuring a broad cross section of still and Port wine producers.
Of particular interest were once again the brilliant wines of Dirk Niepoort. It just seems Dirk can do no wrong and any vinous venture he embarks on is destined for inevitable greatness.
But a real stand out wine for me was one of his classics, the Niepoort Redoma Branco Reserva 2015, which I later discovered chatting to Dirk, is a wine he considers his best effort yet. First produced in 1995, there have been many profound versions, none more so than the 1999 vintage, of which I drank my last treasured bottle of around two years ago.
The Redoma Reserva is made with grapes from ancient 80 years old vines, planted at an altitude of 600 metres in mica schist soils. Since its creation in 1995, the main aim of producing this wine has been to express the character of the Douro old vineyards.
At the end of the ageing period, the best barrels are selected, considering their minerality, complexity and ageing potential and not necessarily those with the most expressive aromas.
Tasting Note: The 2015 Redoma Branco Reserva is monumental. It’s loaded with dusty granitic sweet mineral lemon pastille fruits with a solid undertone of wet chalk, pithy green apples, honey dew melon and crunchy tart white peaches. The acids are beguiling, adding freshness, electric vibrancy and a real frame over which the intense fruit concentration is majestically draped. The full, textured palate finishes long and broad with a beautifully complexity of green caramelised figs and yellow citrus. This really is a sterling effort and certainly one for the cellar. Yet another super Dirk Niepoort triumph. (Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)