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The new Douro: part 11
The New Douro tasting

London, November 9th 2004  

A fitting end to my series on the New Douro was provided by this tasting. Most of the significant 'new Douro' wines were being shown together for the first time. Here I've concentrated on the estates that I didn't visit on my last Douro trip.  

Barca Velha/Quinta da Leda

Casa Ferreirhinaís Barca Velha deserves respect for being the first top-quality Douro table wine, created for the first time back in 1952. It has also become a bit of a celebrity wine in recent weeks: in February 2005 Jose Mourinho presented Alex Ferguson with a bottle of the 1964, after Ferguson had complained about the quality of wine offered to him by the former on a previous encounter. [For the benefit of the non-footie audience, the former is a Portuguese chap who is the manager of Chelsea, the latter is the manager of Manchester United. Ferguson hasnít yet reported on how he found the wine.]

The wine bearing the Barca Velha label traditionally hailed from the Douro Superior estate that now makes Quinta do Vale Me„o, and has only been released in top vintages. Sogrape, who now own Barca Velha, have shifted its source to the Quinta da Leda, a 105 hectare estate in the same part of the Douro.

While Barca Velha is a very traditional wine in a slightly old-fashioned (if complex and worthy) style, the newer wines from Leda seem to be very skilfully fashioned in a modern mould.

Barca Velha 1983
Open, earthy, spicy nose showing some evolution. A traditional style but very appealing. The palate shows nice structure: it is earthy and quite dense with a minerally streak and firm, spicy tannins. An elegant, mature wine that is full of appeal. Very good/excellent 93/100

Quinta da Leda 2000
The current vintage. Sweet elegant supple ripe red fruits on the nose. The palate is quite dense and rich with smooth red fruits, some elegant soft tannins and some subtle woody notes. An expressive wine. Very good/excellent 92/100

Quinta da Leda 2003
Lovely ripe, supple fruit on the nose, which is forward, open and elegant. The palate is spicy and fresh with good fruit in a forward style. Very good/excellent 92/100

Qinta da Leda 2004 (cask sample)
Very ripe, forward and quite elegant. Great structure and fruit. Quite forward, ripe and supple. A lovely wine.

Altano Reserva

I was a bit disappointed by these wines. The Symingtons, who make fantastic Ports, have lately turned their attention to table wines, but the Altano range has never really lived up to the same sort of standards that the other new Douro producers have attained. However, it should be pointed out that these wines are quite a bit cheaper than most of the others reviewed here.

Altano Reserva 2000
Not a big wine, but quite elegant in a Claret-like sort of way. Expressive savoury nose with an earthy, minerally edge. Chewy, spicy palate with some freshness. Very good+ 87/100

Altano Reserva 2001
Ripe, structured nose is fresh and slightly herby. The palate is structured and quite ripe with good balance, but just a touch dilute. Very good+ 88/100

Altano Reserva 2002
Thin, tight and a bit charmless. Very savoury with a spicy, high-acid edge. Very good+ 85/100

Niepoort

Things are always changing with Dirk Niepoortís wines. While Iíve been impressed with what heís been producing year on year, I always come away thinking that the best is yet to come. Dirk and his winemaker Jorge Borges parted company last year and Dirkís now taking a less interventionist approach in the cellar, making wines more naturally. For 2004, for example, he has used no added yeasts and no enzymes.

The two whites from 2003 are both super wines. The Redoma Branco is a wine that has a great track record for ageing Ė the 1996 tasted blind recently was a dead ringer for a top white Burgundy. These wines offer great potential, also.

Niepoort Redoma Branco 2003
Rich, toasty nose is quite intense and very full, with a bit of minerality. The palate is rich textured and full with lots of fruit and good intensity. Nutty, minerally finish: potentially fantastic. Very good/excellent 92/100

Niepoort Redoma Branco Reserva 2003
Complex, elegant, intense nose is rich, toasty, smooth and very fine. The palate is smooth and concentrated  with a creamy, mineralic edge. Fantastic effort. Very good/excellent 94/100

Now the reds. Vertente is a fresh, fruity style but with a bit of Douro seriousness to it. Itís considerably cheaper than Redoma and Batuta, but still no snip at £14 in the UK. However, on this showing (Iíve rated it marginally higher than I have in the past), it may be worth it. Batuta 2001 is a wine Iíve had several times now, and is a very exciting effort that Iím just beginning to understand. I reckon this is Dirkís best yet, and Iím reasonably confident that this will be a stunning wine in a decadeís time. 2002 Charme is very different in style: suave, elegant and stylish Ė a surprise from this difficult vintage. 2001 Redoma wasn't tasted here, but it's the best Redoma yet in my humble opinion. 

Niepoort Vertente 2001
This is beginning to show really well. Vivid dark, spicy, fruity nose. The palate shows lovely savoury berry and black fruits with good acid and a minerally edge. Very good/excellent 90/100

Niepoort Batuta 2001
Very dark intense, spicy chocolatey nose. Very fine, with complex spicy red and black fruits, although it isnít fruit dominated. The palate is concentrated, chewy and dense with very firm but fine texture, and some wood in the background. Great acidity. This is a remarkable wine with a long future ahead of it. I wouldnít open it for a decade. Excellent 95/100

Niepoort Charme 2002
Sweet elegant ripe fruits dominate the nose of this rather enigmatic wine, which Dirk makes in more of a Burgundy mould compared with the rather structured, Bordeaux-like Batuta. Itís very fine and surprisingly accessible for a young wine. The palate is full yet smooth with seamless spicy red fruits backed up by sweet oak. Very accessible but with some seriousness. If you have some, Iíd monitor its progress over the coming years to see how it is developing. Very good/excellent 93/100

Lavradores de Feitoria

This innovative project brings together 15 different estates in a joint marketing and winemaking effort. As well as the blended wines (under the TrÍs Bagos label), some of the individual estate wines are bottled separately if they are particularly successful. Good value for money here.

TrÍs Bagos Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Tras os Montes
Sauvignon from the Douro? Yes Ė it comes from 15 year old vines at Casa Mateus, which is located near Vila Real in a rather cool subregion. One third is fermented and matured in oak, the rest in stainless steel. Itís a very successful effort. Aromatic, grassy nose with an appealing herby character and almost a smoky edge. The palate is reasonably complex with dense fruit, good concentration and nice acidity. Very good/excellent 91/100

TrÍs Bagos 2002
Bright, fruity nose leading to a fresh palate with good fruit and a nice spicy structure. Very drinkable. Very good+ 87/100

TrÍs Bagos Grande Escolha 2001
The nose is bright and fresh with spicy, tarry red and black fruits. Lovely density and structure on the palate with expressive red and black fruits, and some minerality. Nice. Very good+ 89/100

Quinta da Terra Feita de Cima/Poeira

Jorge Moreiraís Poeria has already been covered in depth on wineanorak, but here I had a chance to try the first three vintages side-by-side. 2001 is fantastic and will age very well; after an initial flourish itís beginning to close down. 2002 is a bit tougher, will probably live longest of the three, and despite the tricky vintage is a very serious wine, 2003 is the most approachable and will be the one to drink first.

Poeira 2001 (from magnum)
Closing down a little. The nose shows elegant fresh fruit with a lovely mineral structure on the palate: chewy and dense. Very good/excellent 93/100

Poeira 2002
Dense, spicy and full on the nose. Taut and quite complex. The palate shows great concentration and structure with some smooth but very firm tannins. Slightly earthy, minerally undercurrent and good acidity. Elegant with fantastic potential. Excellent 95/100

Poeira 2003 (cask sample of a blend made a week earlier; slightly oxidised)
Rich with lovely fruit, but still fresh and elegant, with good acidity. Will likely be approachable sooner and perhaps not as long lived. Potentially excellent.

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