wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


A weekend in Porto

I recently spent a weekend in Porto with Douro winemaker Dirk Niepoort. A number of us were gathered to celebrate his 40th, and for most of us the wines we had over these three days represented the best part of a year's worth of drinking experiences all crammed into a weekend. I took notes on almost everything, and I'm reproducing them here for the sake of the record. In this first part, I've written up the wines tasted on the first day. (Part 2, Saturday, is here; part 3, Sunday lunch is here; and part 4, Sunday evening is here).

We began with lunch on Friday 12th March, at a wonderful fish restaurant hidden away near the dock area. With our sea bass, shrimps and barnacles, the five gathered so far had two wines - a gentle start.

Schneider Kirchenstück Riesling Trocken 2001 Pfalz, Germany
Markus Schneider, the winemaker was with us. Quite full and rich with nice spicy, rounded character, ripe fruit and a hint of residual sugar (3.2 g/l). Tasty stuff with good concentration in quite a rich style. Very good/excellent 91/100

Domaine Leroy Puligny Montrachet Les Folatières 1997 Burgundy
One of the most profound and fullest flavoured white Burgundies I’ve had in a long time. Sensational. Deep yellow–gold colour. Broad nose with lovely crisp lemony notes at one end and intense, broad nutty toastiness at the other with just a hint of cabbagey complexity. The toasty palate shows great concentration and complexity. Excellent 96/100

Then, before dinner at Dirk's house, a small tasting down in his cellar.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2001 Pauillac, Bordeaux
Quite a classic Claret nose with some restrained dark fruits backed up with chalky, green cedary notes. The palate is firm, tight and structured with firm tannins. Youthful and tight. Very good/excellent 91/100

Niepoort Batuta 2001 Douro
Perfumed chocolatey, spicy nose with some roasted notes and taut dark fruits. There’s a lovely tight, rounded spicy structure to the palate which has more of that roasted edge and a spicy finish. Dense, taut and concentrated this is a young wine with a lot of potential. Refreshingly this is only 12.8% alcohol. Very good/excellent 94/100

Niepoort Batuta 2000 Douro
Tight herby nose is a little shy. The palate is dense, taut, spicy and herby with great concentration of fruit and a firm structure, together with vibrant acidity. It’s got great structure but presently it is at a bit of an awkward stage in its development. Very good/excellent 91/100

Niepoort Batuta 1999 Douro
A little shy on the nose initially, this opens out to show ripe red and black fruits with a savoury spicy edge. The palate shows chewy, spicy fruit with great structure and super balance. Lots of personality here. Good acidity underlying the vivid fruit. Very good/excellent 93/100

There’s great potential for development for all three Batuta's, although the 2000 is for me a little behind the other two in terms of absolute quality.

Then we turned to some elderly Germans. The first, a 1959 Riesling Spatelese from Gillot in the Rheinhessen hadn’t made it to the party, and tasted of a blend of Oloroso sherry and Madeira. The others all had some interest.

Egon Mauer Eltviller Sonnenberg Riesling Auslese 1964 Rheingau
Spicy, enticing rounded nose with bright grapefruit and lime, together with a sweet fudgy caramel character in the background. There’s some petrol here, too. The palate has lovely lively acidity and a rich texture. Drinking well now with a nice spicy finish. Quite a bit of botrytis. Very good/excellent 92/100

Driegiebelhaus Grover Engelberg Riesling 1947 Mosel Saar Ruwer
Yellow–gold colour. Waxy, limey nose is gently spicy. The palate is lively with good acid and an interesting waxy character. The high acidity has kept this very fresh. Very good/excellent 90/100

Adam Trautwein Muller Thurgau Niersteiner Fritzenhölle 1969 Rheinhessen
Orange gold colour. Striking, rather weird nose of sweet herbs and caramel with waxy undertones. Unusual herby, waxy palate. Odd but interesting. Very good 83/100

Wilhelm Faust Riesling Piesporter Günterslay 1964 Mosel Saar Ruwer
Bright limey nose is fresh. High acid palate is youthful tasting, but while this is enjoyable it’s a little simpler than you’d expect from a 40 year old wine. Very good+ 88/100

Dinner was a splendid multicourse array with some 20 invitees, including merchants, winemakers, wine writers and an American couple who happened to be passing through.

Lavradores de Feitoria Três Bagos Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Tras os Montes
Intense grassy, grapefruit and gooseberry nose leads to a palate showing crisp, fresh fruit. Very lively and modern, this is a good wine but it could have come from anywhere. Tasted again two days later there’s a lovely herbiness emerging – bear in mind that this wine had only been bottled a couple of weeks before. So perhaps I was being a little hard on this. Very good+ 88/100

Sauzet Montrachet 1995 (magnum)
From the world’s most famous white wine vineyard and a serious producer, expectations were high for this. It showed very well, but perhaps a few more years age are required for it to perform to its potential. It displays a tight nose is refined with nutty, lemony notes. The palate is elegant with taut, nutty character and complex herb and mineral notes. Rounded, concentrated and minerally this is a precious wine. Very good/excellent 94/100

Elio Altare Vigna Larigi  Barbera 1990
Lovely spicy, chewy red with high acidity and a tarry edge to the fruit. Striking herby, full flavoured style with an appealing earthiness. Very good/excellent 90/100

Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Tradition 2001 Langenlois, Austria
I was very impressed by this GV, made in a traditional style that aims to replicate the way the wine would have been made 100 years ago. Fresh, crisp grassy nose leads to a fascinating palate that is rich textured with amazing rich white pepper character and a rich texture. Striking stuff and quite lovely. Very good/excellent 93/100

Antoine Dépagneux Volnay 1959
Old Burgundy can be variable, but this one, from a Rhône negociant, is showing beautifully. Mature herby, spicy, earthy nose with complex leathery notes. The palate shows lovely elegant, spicy fruit with some earthiness. Amazingly youthful and with real life to it. Very good/excellent 92/100

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Echezeaux 2000
Initially this was tasted blind and I was blown away by it. At first sniff I was led to the Rhône, but it quickly became clear that it was a serious Burgundy. Lovely perfumed nose is fresh and intense with some spiciness, a hint of animal character and vivid aromas of red fruits. The palate has a lovely spicy structure. Very elegant with a wonderful freshness to the vibrant fruit. Breathtaking effort that’s drinking very well now. Excellent 96/100

La Mission Haut Brion 1998 Graves Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux
Tasted blind. Lovely spicy, structured wine in Bordeaux style. Ripe but very structured showing powerful yet smooth tannins. A concentrated, nicely structured wine with impeccable balance. Impressive stuff. Very good/excellent 94/100

For pudding we nipped over the the atmospheric Niepoort lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, where a group of Norweigans were waiting for us. Don't ask me what the connection was, but they were friendly and polite, and we were treated to a remarkable array of Ports.

First we started off with Niepoort Vintage 1983, which was nice with lovely complexity. Then we moved on to a 1964 Garrafeira, which was spicy and complex with great appeal. A 30 Year Old Tawny bottled in 2004 was mellow and spicy with lively acidity and a lovely spicy finish. I then started taking proper notes again when the 1948 Garrafeira came out.

Niepoort 1948 Garrafeira (bottled 1952, decanted in 1973)
Intense, smooth, spicy and deep with wonderfully intense, well balanced spicy fruit. Rich and full with lovely rich fruity, spicy complexity and good acidity. Great balance to this special wine. Excellent 95/100

Niepoort 1863 Colheita
The oldest port at Niepoort. This is wood matured and has spent all its life in cask. It’s a very dark colour and has an amazing intense, spicy, woody nose. The palate is explosively concentrated with massively rich, intense spicy flavours and high acidity. Just a sip fills the mouth and it has a long very spicy aftertaste. There are none of the off notes often found with very old wines. Quite an odd experience tasting something so old. Excellent 98/100

Niepoort Secundum 2001
Now for something new. This is a very deep vivid purple colour. It has a lovely, assertive, overtly fruity nose with a liquoricey edge. The palate shows lovely fresh fruit and good tannic structure. Very tannin, not terribly sweet and quite ‘winey’ with all that intense fruit. I like this a lot. Very good/excellent 92/100

Niepoort Vintage 1931
Bottled in 1935. This is remarkable. Very deep coloured, it is intensely spicy with soft, slightly herby fruit. Rounded, rich and spicy on the palate, this doesn’t taste at all tired despite its age. It’s drinking beautifully. Excellent 96/100

Part 2, Saturday, is here.

Back to top