Another New Single Quinta 2018 Release – Tasting the Opulent Quinto do Noval Vintage Port…

Similar to 2017, 2018 was also a brutal year of very low yields, but for different reasons. The 2017 vintage was a year of extreme drought, while 2018 was marked in the first part of the year by an unusually heavy rainfall. This meant that potential yields were naturally much reduced by the difficulties of the flowering period. Subsequently however, a long hot dry summer ensued. Water levels in the soil had been replenished, and the result of this excellent ripening period on a low yield is evident in the 2018 Vintage Noval Port, which is magnificently ripe, profoundly fleshy and expressively complex.

The Quinta do Noval Vintage Port is made exclusively from grapes from the Quinta in the heart of the Douro Valley, and the quantity bottled (1600 cases) of the 2018 Vintage Port represents just 7% of the Quinta’s production. So as usual, a very strict selection of the very best lots was made to produce the Quinta do Noval blend. Both Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa flourished in 2018, in particular the Francesa which benefited for the ideal ripening conditions, and this Vintage Port blend is, needless to say, dominated by these two premium varietals.

Quinta do Noval Single Quinta Vintage Port 2018, Douro

This 2018 wine is a wonderfully ripe expression, impressively full and exuberant with a fabulously perfumed nose of ripe blueberries and black berries, salted liquorice, crushed violets, graphite and sappy hedge row spice. With a bit of air in the glass, the wine increases its allure further to reveal notes of Christmas pudding, macerated black cherries and freshly baked blueberry crumble with seductive Asian spice nuances ever present in the background chorus. Super plump and fleshy, the palate just bursts with a rich voluminous density and opulence. The harmonious layers of creamy black and blue berry fruits roll around the palate reaching out from side to side before finally reluctantly retreating leaving a long, intense, concentrated sweet spicy finish. Another block buster from this tiny but awesome vintage. If Vintage Port is your weakness, this ones going to blow you away! Noval’s ongoing high quality vintage run continues.

(Wine Safari Score: 97-98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Superb Single Quinta 2018 Vintage Ports from the Symington Family Estates…

With Covid-19 making a traditional tasting of the new Single Quintas Vintage Ports from the Symington Family Estates impossible in London, we fell back on the services of Zoom to listen to the facinating story of the 2018 vintage from Johnny Symington, group Chairman and Joint Managing Director and Harry Symington, the Symington group Communications Manager and also a 5th generation family member working with the Symington Family Estates. Cask samples were generously couriered from Portugal to allow a group of notable journalists to taste together including Port specialist Richard Mayson, Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin from Vinous.

So 2018 is another superb Single Quinta Vintage Port declaration for the Symington Family after doing the double with a classic Vintage Port declaration in 2016 and 2017. Like in 2015, another Single Quinta Vintage Port declaration year, the 2018s did not show quite enough consistency in quality across all the Douro Valley and across all their estates to merit another Vintage Port declaration. But as we alluded to over our Zoom tasting, the excellent quality of the 2015 Single Quinta Ports was often remarked upon by many consumers and journalists at the time and still today. But of course, this is the essence of the system that ensures which ever wines are released, Single Quintas or classic Vintage Port estate blends, the quality will be exceptional. The Single Quinta vintage wines do however represent excellent value for money with bottle quality that is certainly capable of outshining many other producers classic Vintage Ports.

The future of long distance tasting… Zoom!

With finished wines bottled in May, the Symingtons were pleased to launch their 2018 Single Quinta Vintage Ports. Only small quantities of these Ports were produced from six of their principal Quintas in 2018 and they selected two to release En-primeur this year – Quinta do Vesuvio and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira. Both are situated in the Douro Superior on opposite sides of the river, one north-facing and the other south-facing. These estates delivered unique expressions of the vintage with lifted aromas that characterise the year. The other Single Quinta Vintage Ports produced in 2018 – Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais – will age in their cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for future release.

The 2018 Single Quinta Vintage Ports are the result of a rollercoaster growing season – with a prolonged winter drought, a deluge in spring, and heat waves through the final ripening period. Despite the challenges, the 2018 wines are characterised by a well-defined acidity and marked freshness, reflecting the characteristics of specific parcels of vineyard within each estate. The star of the year was the late-maturing Touriga Franca, which excelled in this warm harvest. Yields were extremely low with just 950g per vine – 11% below the 10-year average from their vineyards – resulting in wines with stunning concentration and piercing intensity.

Tasting by Zoom

Quinta do Vesuvio 2018 Vintage Port

Considered to be one of the most magnificent estates in the Douro Valley, Quinta do Vesuvio is the last major property in the region to produce its Ports exclusively using the traditional method of treading in granite lagares – an unbroken tradition since the winery was built in 1827. 2018 delivered a notably more elegant Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port with incredible concentration on the palate, beautifully balanced by the freshness from the high-lying Touriga Nacional and Sousão. I found the wine to possess a super elegant expression while showing massive concentration. Very impressive indeed. Always a dense, powerful wine, the 2018 has a hint of extra tenderness and generosity on the palate.

(Wine Safari Score: 97-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira is one of the classic riverside Douro Quintas and has belonged to Dow’s Port since 1890. Famous for being one of the two principal estates that make up the legendary Dow’s Vintage Ports, the Quinta is also renowned for producing magnificent Single Quinta Vintage Ports. The late-ripening Touriga Franca from the south-facing ‘Pedreira’ vineyards thrived in the warm harvest in 2018. The warmer conditions in 2018 are reflected in a much riper style of Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port with more muscular and generous black fruit flavours. This 2018 is true to form showing the extra palate tannin grip, endless layers of broody black and blueberry fruit concentration and a spicy liquid minerality on the long, distinguished finish. Lovely.

(Wine Safari Score: 95-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Other wines tasted but not being released for 2020 En-primeur:

Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta dos Canais is laid out on a natural amphitheatre overlooking a pronounced bend in the Douro River. The estate has a large proportion of mature Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca which provide an essential component of Cockburn’s Vintage Ports. This 2018 Vintage Port is characterised by the estate’s signature aromas of esteva and cinnamon spice, delivered by the mature Touriga Nacional vines. With the warm final ripening period and low yields in 2018, the wine expresses a wonderful ripeness and concentration and plenty of dense meaty rich power and fragrant Touriga Nacional exoticism.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta dos Malvedos has been the cornerstone of Graham’s Vintage Ports ever since it was acquired in 1890. The Quinta still contains large areas of traditional vineyard laid out on terraces supported by dry-stone walls, which face north-east, east and west, giving the estate wines a unique identity. This fabulous expression is driven by the superb Touriga Franca (50%)  in the blend supported by the floral and aromatic blueberry fruited Touriga Nacional from the stone terraced vineyards which thrived in 2018, delivering the estate’s signature notes of eucalyptus and mint, a fine freshness and a lovely long and generous velvety finish with a sweet, minty, chocolately length.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim 2018 Vintage Port

One of the finest Douro estates, Quinta do Bomfim is at the heart of Dow’s, providing the main structure for its legendary Vintage Ports since 1896. The estate is situated in the Upper Douro Valley with schist slopes arranged in vineyard terraces, which have yielded Dow’s most memorable wines for over a century. The sister estate of Senorha, the south-facing vineyards give fine even ripening with excellent ripeness. This wine shows plenty of muscle and power, spicy tannins and freshly cut hedgerow sapidity supported by notable freshness, sweet cassis and blackberry fruit and prominent palate texture and definition. Focused, powerful and very long. Plenty of the Dow ‘dark horse’ broody character.

(Wine Safari Score: 95-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta da Cavadinha is the foundation of Warre’s Vintage Ports. A considerable proportion of the estate is made up of old, mixed vineyards, some of which are over half a century old. Yields are rarely above 1kg/vine and these grapes provide superb complexity and structure to the wines. The estate’s east-facing and high-lying vineyards played an important role in balancing the wines from 2018, with a well-defined acidity. The 440 metre altitude vineyards are always some of the last to be harvested with its wonderful mixed plantings of old vines. Notable elegance and freshness, purity and finesse with the most wonderful perfumed and complex ethereal aromatics of violets and lavendar. Extraordinary balance and harmony but also reveals an atypical exoticism and late season long hang time ripeness and complexity from the east facing vineyards.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Fitting Send Off For Paul Symington – Tasting a Fabulous Array of Old Vintage Ports and Old Tawny Ports to Mark His Retirement…

The Symington Family Estates is one of the most famous wine and Port houses in the whole of Portugal, which has owned and operated several vineyards and wineries since the 19th century. This family run business, now run by the 4th and 5th generations, owns several prestigious brands of Port, Madeira wine and Douro DOC wines, including some of the oldest and most well-known Port and Madeira offerings.

Today there are 10 family members working across the business, none more committed and married to the business than Paul Symington. A hugely influential and charismatic figure in the Port wine trade for many decades, Paul has finally called time as one of the figureheads of the Symington group and will be succeeded by his cousin, Johnny Symington, who will become chairman while Rupert Symington, previously joint managing director with Paul, will become CEO.

Over the past 20 years that I have worked in the London fine wine trade, it has always been Paul with his cool, calm, measured approach that has been the banner man and figurehead of the Symington Family Estates’ portfolio. So to mark this obviously sad but momentous decision, Paul, along with his long time importer in the UK, John E Fells, decided to go out in style with one of the most incredible Port tastings at the Armoury at the Tower of London.

With the veritable who’s who of the wine trade in attendance, we were treated to a tasting of some of the estate’s greatest wines over the past 100 years. The company is of course in safe hands but Paul will be missed by myself and many in the UK wine trade. Bon voyage et bon chance!

 

Graham 1994 Vintage Port

With 22 years in bottle, this is considered one of the best 3 or 4 post war vintage Ports according to the Symingtons. A classical beauty that is starting to reach a semblance of maturity showing an attractive bouquet of earthy beetroot, milk chocolate, aniseed root, dusty crushed granite, spicy black berry and sweet tobacco. Palate is dense and cool, creamy and sensual with an underlying backbone concealing incredible depth and power, fresh acids and wonderful harmony and balance. Utterly stunning but decades of life ahead of this wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Graham 1963 Vintage Port

An iconic vintage, this was marked as the first vintage in many years that actually made the family some decent money. At over 50 years old, there is a complexity of burnt brown sugar, polished oak, botanical herbs, oranges soaked in cognac and exotic wood spices. The palate shows creamy sweetness, caramelised depth, orange peel, bergamot, cinnamon spice and a spicy salted caramel finish. Mature but certainly delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Dow 20 Year Old Tawny Port

A very different wine to the Graham 20 year old, this tawny shows an exotic spicy lifted nose with dusty minerality, dried orange peel, aniseed root, caramelised figs and cherries in cognac. Incredible tension and core power, fantastic textural precision and balance with an overall drier finish with complex notes of burnt sugar, spicy almonds, pistachio and salted liquorice. Tannins are beautifully elegant and lend a fine gravitas to the long, dry, mineral finish with the most subtle kiss of sweet tobacco and red bramble berry. A finely matured, mellow tawny that is very distinguished.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Graham 1982 Single Harvest Tawny Port

A wine released to commemorate the marriage of HRH Prince Harry to Meghan Markle in 2018. Aged in oak for over 3 decades at Graham’s 1890 Port lodge. 6 Pipes were selected for this exclusive bottling. The nose is very restrained and subtle, with interesting lactic notes of polished oak, butterscotch, pithy red cherry and dusty gravelly minerality. A striking wine that whispers its class, glides across the palate and lingers persistently in the mouth with notes of spiced oranges, cognac spice and vanilla pod. Liquid silk, this wine is as regal the the occasion is was bottled for. Beautiful.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Dow 40 Year Old Tawny Port

Plenty of patience required in creating this expression but it rewards with massive depth and power. The bouquet has almost more in common with Madeira than Tawny Port with a sweet / sour nose of red and black berries, sour plum, brine and a pronounced salty maritime sea breeze complexity. On the palate you see the concentration and power, depth and complexity of burnished oak, polished mahogany, burnt oranges, dried orchard fruits, praline and a sleek tea leaf finish. Beautiful and round, textured and showy, this has the opulence and presence to silence the noisiest room of wine merchants and wine critics.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Graham 1972 Single Harvest Tawny Port

Only a few barrels were selected in 1972 by Peter Symington for ageing in seasoned oak casks at the Vila Nova de Gaia lodge. Quite exotic with mature notes of wood spice, chocolate caramel wafers, almonds and dried orange peel. Not the most complex aromatic profile but certainly shows incredible fleshy opulence, creamy vibrant freshness, silky soft tannins with all components of this wine in a very happy harmony. One of those wines that confirms that sometimes less is definitely more. Low volume but incredibly melodious.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Cockburn 1969 Single Harvest Tawny Port

A sample drawn straight from cask that is currently ageing at the Cockburn lodge in Gaia and is not currently available on the market. This is also the birth year of head winemaker Charles Symington so holds a special position in the sentiments of the family. The bouquet is brimming with sweet wood spice, polished mahogany, oranges macerated in cognac and a subtle nutty almond peel intensity. Full and opulent, this shows a deliciously fresh and vibrant palate that is thoroughly tantalising and alluring with salted caramel, cognac and vanilla spice, dried orange peel and salty, briney fresh acids. Fleshy and harmonious, this is a very impressive fine wine expression that the market will eagerly watch and wait for!!

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Graham 1963 Single Harvest Tawny Port

This vintage produced some of the finest Tawny Ports of the 20th century. Aged for over 50 years this wine shows incredible subtlety and finesse, delicacy and elegance with notes of dried orange peel, barley sugar, dried maraschino cherries, nutty almond powder and deliciously intriguing wood spice complexity. Beautifully fresh and vibrant, this wine reveals the most regal of tannin structures, a bright crystalline purity, weightless concentration and a delicious tangerine and salted toffee finish. This is incredibly fine, thoroughly distinguished and a definite show stopper. Wow!

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Graham 90 Year Old Tawny Port

Specially bottled to commemorate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this very fine old Tawny is an extraordinary blend of 1912, 1924 and 1935 and is one of the rarest wines in the Symington range. Each vintage seems to build on the shoulders of the next rising to an ever higher level of complexity. The blending was done to incorporate the colour and acid intensity of the 1935, the rich hedonistic honied opulence of the 1924 and the extraordinary complexity and intensity of the concentrated 1912. A dark tawny opaque brown colour, the bouquet is fiery and a touch spirity but also loaded with ample notes of salted caramel, butterscotch and nutty cognac wood spice. The palate is regal and fleshy with the most delicious concentration enlivened by bristling acids, creamy burnt sugar sweetness and finishes with the most complex dried fruit and coffee caramel finish. Beautiful power, towering elegance and nearly unrivalled hedonistic showmanship. Utterly spellbinding.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Postscriptum: This was a truly amazing tasting of some of the greatest ports ever produced. So if any readers looking at my high scores are thinking I have succumb to a bout of score inflation, think again. This really was one of the most accomplished and remarkable line ups of mature Port that I have ever had the privilege of tasting altogether.

The Dawn of a New Vintage – Tasting the Component Parts of the 2017 Vintage Port With Dirk Niepoort…

After selective Port house vintage declarations in 2015 including Niepoort and Quinta do Noval, Niepoort then decided not to declare a 2016 Vintage Port when most others did, as the quality of the provisional 2017 vintage component parts were considered some of the highest quality wines Dirk had ever seen, showing similarities in style to his excellent 2015 and possibly even surpassing 2015’s exceptional final quality. 

It seems to me, after tasting almost all the 2015 single Quinta Vintage Ports as well as all the 2016 Vintage Ports, that some houses got themselves into a bit of a muddle. In the end, the 2015s appear to have turned out better than most expected and then of course the pressure was automatically on to declare the ripe 2016s. The problem remained that most producers had by then already realised that 2017 was going to be a small but exceptional vintage, creating the unusual dilemma of whether or not to break the unspoken Oporto rule of never declaring two consecutive vintages in a row.

Today, in early April, the declarations for 2017 Vintage Port started and later this week, I will taste the final completed bottled expression of the Niepoort Vintage 2017 Port with Dirk Niepoort. According to Dirk, 2017 was a great year in all aspects, with the harvest promising perfection and the weather during the harvest helping to achieve this. Up until this point, 2015 was considered the best Vintage Port he’d made. 2017 follows in the same vein as the 2015, but with a touch more perfection according to Dirk … 

“It is possibly our finest Vintage Port since 1945. This is a Port that is concentrated and intense with beauty and perfection shining through. Perfect tannins with a fruit component that is austere, precise and alive. The spirit is perfectly integrated, and the resulting finish is long, seductive and persistent. All its components are wonderfully balanced, a veritable orchestra in harmony. A fatal attraction with an insane potential for ageing, yet unbelievably perfect in its youth. This 2017 Vintage Port is unquestionably a King of Ports.”

The 2017 Vintage

2017 will be remembered for the intense heat and record low levels of rainfall. In-spite of the dry weather, flowering and bud burst developed under good conditions and in August and September the high temperatures during the day and cold nights allowed an even and gradual ripening. The decision to start harvesting early, at the perfect moment of ripeness, allowed grapes to be received in ideal conditions with fantastic natural acidity. Harvest at the Vale de Mendiz winery, began on 24th of August under perfect weather conditions, with musts displaying an intense colour and a powerful character. The last grapes were harvested on 26th of September. The yields were approximately 30% down on a normal year essentially due to dehydration.

I look forward to seeing Dirk Niepoort again soon when he launches his newest creation. But as the perfect entrée, I have typed up my tasting notes from the fascinating masterclass he presented in London in May 2018, where he presented eight individual 2017 Vintage Port blend components taken from barrel, alongside a his final “indicative blend”. 

A Snapshot of the 2017 Niepoort Vintage Port In Component Parts: 1 to 8

Component parts 1 all came from very old vines, the majority over 100 years old, with component parts 2 also coming from very old vines from between 80 and 100 years old. Both wines deliver incredible intensity and concentration adding real gravitas and length to the blend. Blend component 3 showed fine harmony and balance while component 4 came from the Pisca vineyard and was fortified with organic spirit. As is often the case with the Pisca wines, there was a youthful aroma of bananas before melting away into sweet black berry fruits. Ripe and very concentrated, “it tastes like where it comes from so you need to use it in moderation” according to Dirk. This cuvee also showed a very fine tannin structure indeed. Component 5 was a little more vinous in weight, lighter and shorter as a wine acting to help lift the concentration of all the other component parts coming from 100% Souzao fruit. A superb blending component at 2-3% normally. Component 6 was cooler and earlier picked from the Charmes vineyard, with some of the juice going into the Niepoort Charmes unfortified red wine with the remainder being worked harder and going into the Port blend. Component 7 was rich, opulent, grippy and gravelly with savoury tannins that added a whole extra dimension to the wine. Component 8 was from a small parcel made by a small grower producing fruit and wines in a very individual style, allowing 10% to make the final preliminary blend. 

Preliminary Niepoort Vintage Port 2017 Indicative Blend – (Barrel sample taken in May 2018)

Dense, long and profound with great precision, tannins and fruit power that you can savour and chew with an incredibly long finish. So many aromatic layers of graphite, sweet black berry, mulberry and nuances of blueberry preserve. Suave and elegant yet utterly imposing, powerful and masculine, very well honed and chiselled. Creamy, powerful, with powdery mineral grippy tannins, showing such fresh vibrant acid perfection, textural seamlessness and sublime harmony. Pronounced classical bramble berry fruit profile loaded with hedgerow spice, incredible intensity and precision and a very long, block-buster finish that goes on and on and on! Classy benchmark Port, this really is an inspired creation. 

(Wine Safari Score: 97-99+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Soalheiro Granit Alvarinho – One of The Best Mineral Whites I’ve Ever Experienced…

This could possibly be one of the most incredibly delicious mineral driven whites I have ever drunk. Created from vineyards planted above 250 metres altitude, this wine reveals a minerality and tension not seen on many wines anywhere in the world. Coming from vines grown on granitic soils from the Moncao e Melgaco terroir, the wine was further enriched with bâtonnage on the fine lees to create a profound Alvarinho mineral white expression.

Soalheiro Granit Mineral Selection 2017, Vinho Verde, Portugal, 13 Abv.

A most incredibly lifted, fragrant, mineral nose bursting with a wild array of peach blossom, tangerine peel, honeydew melon, Granny Smith apples and crunchy white peach pastille. A seductive, complex, opulent nose that combines wonderfully expressive fragrant, crystalline fruits with intense stony, dusty granitic minerality. The palate is texturally finely embroidered featuring incredible crystalline purity, impressive clarity and noteworthy attention to detail. But underlying it all is a profound sense of liquid minerality and textured precision. A small production wine so track it down if you can.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

(UK Agent: Raymond Reynolds)

Quinta do Vale Meao – Stealing the Barca Velha Crown As the Most Sought After Premium Producer in the Douro…

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+

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Unicorn Slain… The Niepoort Projectos Chardonnay Vinho Regional Tras Os Montes 2003, 13 Abv. Portugal

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)

Dirk Niepoort’s Spectacular Redoma Branco Reserva 2015…

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. 

Sophia Bergqvist of Quinta de la Rosa with Dirk Niepoort

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)