Highlights: three vintages of the Cedro do Noval Branco

When it comes to table wines, we tend to think of the Douro as a red wine region, but it’s also making some interesting whites. This is quite a diverse region climatically, largely because of altitude, which ranges from less than 100 m to over 600 m in places. But white wines here are still a bit of a work in progress. I really enjoyed these three vintages of the second wine from Quinta do Noval, though.

Cedro do Noval Branco comes from native Portuguese white varieties grown on the highest terraces at Noval: Viosinho, Gouveio, Rabigato, Fernão Pires, Códega de Larinho, Arinto. The grapes are destemmed and lightly crushed before pressing, and 80% of the blend is fermented in stainless steel. 20% is barrel fermented in small French oak, of which 80% is new – just Viosinho and Gouveio get this treatment, with regular battonage. They stay in barrel for five months before blending. The result is a very refined, expressive example of white Douro, with the oak present but merely adding some support, rather than overpowering. I tried three recent vintages together and was impressed.

Quinta do Noval Cedro do Noval 2019 Douro, Portugal
13.5% alcohol. This is a sophisticated barrel-fermented white with subtle toasty grapefruit notes supplementing the bright but balanced pear, peach and citrus fruit. It’s very textural, and the oak takes a back seat allowing the perfectly proportioned yellow fruit characters to take centre stage. Excellent balance here. 93/100

Quinta do Noval Cedro do Noval 2020 Douro, Portugal
There’s some taut citrus fruit providing a backbone to this appealing barrel-fermented white, with hints of herbs and wood spice as well as lemon, grapefruit and pear. It has good acidity and a brisk, slightly angular personality, but it’s really well constructed. 91/100

Quinta do Noval Cedro do Noval 2021 Douro, Portugal
13% alcohol. Lovely aromatics to this wine, with refined citrus, white peach and pear fruit, leading to a pure palate with very fine spicy oak notes sitting behind refined, pure citrus fruit, with just a touch of peach and apricot richness around the fringes. It’s juicy and linear with some grapefruit character, and reminds me of white Bordeaux in terms of style, which is surprising because that’s a very different region to the Douro. 93/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com