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The Douro wine revolution
Part 3: In Porto

On arriving in Porto, I headed out to the suburb of Freixo, to Dirk Niepoortís parentsí apartment (his own house is currently being renovated Ė a rather grand and long-term project by the sound of things). Itís a pleasant part of town, and the spacious third-floor apartment had views of the Douro. Dirk had gathered an interesting crowd of wine people: the guest list included Jorge Moriera (winemaker at Real Compania Velha), TomŠs Roquette (Quinta do Crasto), Ray Isle (US wine journalist) and Fernando Melo (Portuguese wine journalist). n
The view over the Douro from Porto old town
As well as a multicourse menu prepared expertly by Dirk, we tasted 11 wines, all served blind. Most of these came from Dirkís own cellar, although others of us also made the odd contribution. It was an interesting, enjoyable evening, and Ray and I didnít get back to the hotel we were staying at until the early hours.

Dirk in full flow
n Wine 1 Deep gold colour. This has an amazing, very unusual complex nose of sweet lime cordial, with some floral elements. The palate is very soft and lush with rich texture and quite low acidity. Initially comes across as quite sweet. A really interesting wine, Iím completely unsure as to its identity: my guess is an old Mosel Riesling Auslese. Very good/excellent. Itís actually Paul Blanck GewŁrztraminer Furstentum 1983 Reserve Exceptionelle, Alsace  

Wine 2 Deep yellow/gold colour. Quite a rich oatmealy, butterscotch-edged nose with a spicy character. Very rich palate with a nutty, full texture. Quite mature, this is quite a complex white Burgundy, but thatís as close as I can get. Very good+ Itís Comtes Lafon Mersault GenevriŤres 1er Cru 1990, Burgundy

Wine 3 Yellow/gold colour. Rich, toasty nose with some oak evident. Quite a tight minerally palate with good acid and a toasty, lemony edge. Nice minerality here and good concentration, but not quite all together. Very good+ Itís Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles 1993, Burgundy  

Wine 4 This is a lovely old Pinot Noir. Quite tight, spicy leathery/earthy nose. The palate has lovely balance, good acidity and sweet herby characters along with firm, dry tannins. Quite evolved. Very good/excellent. Itís Leroy Savigny Les Beaune ĎLes SerpentiŤresí 1979, Burgundy  

Inside the Niepoort Lodge

Wine 5 Deep coloured. Intriguing spicy, earthy, slightly meaty nose with rich, sweet medicinal elements. The palate is quite wild, initially showing quite a severe medicinal nature with lots of tannic structure. In the glass it opens out to show rich spicy, balsamic complexity. Quite brilliant, in a robust sort of way. Excellent. Itís Scarpa Barbaresco ĎI tetti di Nieveí 1978, Piedmont, Italy

Wine 6 [A slightly more humble offering, this is one of the wines I brought along, so for me it wasnít blind. The same applies to wine number 7] Deep coloured. Really rich forward nose of green olives and meaty berry fruits. Palate is rich, full and very savoury. Firm tannins.  Very good/excellent. Itís Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage 1998, Northern RhŰne, France  

Wine 7 Lovely focused nose of spice, herbs and just a touch of animal-like character. Warm and spicy. The concentrated palate is leathery and spicy with plenty of firm tannin. Youthful. Lovely stuff with a bright future ahead of it. Archetypal Bandol. Excellent. Itís Domaine Grosí Norť Bandol 1998, Provence, France

Wine 8 Deep coloured. Really attractive nose of rich, herby cherry fruit with a liquoricey edge. The palate is rich and quite modern with a bit of spicy wood and nice acidity. An interesting, forward interpretation of Pinot Noir. Very good+ Itís Chelalem Pinot Noir ĎRioní Reserve 1999, Oregon, USA  


Wine 9 Quite mature, with a leathery, herby nose. Beginning to dry out a bit on the palate. Mature, leathery, savoury and tight: showing some age. Itís Quinta do Mouro 1996, Alentejo

Wine 10 Not served blind, this is Jorge Moreiraís own wine, Poeira. Itís the inaugural vintage, 2001, and it comes from a 4 ha vineyard at his property Terrafeita de Cima in the Douro. Itís a cask sample; altogether some 10 000 bottles will be produced. Deep coloured, this is a lovely rich, spicy wine with good concentration. It shows a good deal of elegance with its herby complexity and firm, spicy tannins. Impressive stuff.

Wine 11 By this time my note-taking capacity was falling off. We finished with 1990 Quinta do Vesuvio port. All I noted was that this was quite well structured still. What do you expect? 

n The following morning Ray and I met Dirk for breakfast and then, after watching Brazil play Turkey in the world cup, we headed over to the Niepoort lodge at Vila Nova de Gaia. Itís a remarkable place, reeking of history and full of atmosphere. Lots of old barrels and cobwebs, but fascinating. We didnít taste much here, and after a quick nose around there was time to grab a quick lunch (barnacles and shrimps in a seafood bar) before Dirk put me on the train for the Douro.  

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