We often talk about port wine as if it were one single type of wine. But there is world of difference between, for example, an aged tawny and a vintage port. No news perhaps but it is worth pointing out again.
A tawny is aged for a long time in oak barrels and becomes “oxidized”, smooth and nutty in style. A vintage is bottled after two years in barrel and then have a long life ahead of it in the bottle. It preserves its fresh and fruity character long and often feels young even after 10-20 years.
A small wine tasting between Christmas and New Year showed just that.
I tasted four wines blind.
It turned out to be three port wines and a dark horse, all of them quite exclusive and unique. The two tawnies I recognized. But the third wine was harder to guess and the fourth very different.
Sandeman 40 Years Old Tawny
The first wine was a Sandeman 40 years old tawny, a fantastic wine. Magnificent. Beautiful, very light amber colour. Mature and complex aromas of orange, raisins, dried apricots. Warm, nutty and smooth in taste with a lingering and a bit buttery aftertaste. An elegant wine you do not forget in a hurry (117 € from the producer).
Sandeman is one of the most famous Port wine houses, in part thanks to the advertising figure Sandeman’s Don, the mysterious man with the black cape and the wide-brimmed hat. Advertising has always been important for Sandeman, founded by Scotsman George Sandeman in 1790. As early as 1905 they began to advertise in newspapers and they were quick to start with TV commercials in the 1960s. Today the house is owned by the big Portuguese wine company Sogrape
If you do not finish a whole bottle of tawny in one evening it is not a problem. Because they are already oxidized they keep well in the opened bottle, at least for a month and probably longer.
Kopke 375, 1940 Colheita Port Special Edition
Wine number two was also very special and unique. This wine arrived in the mail, a sample. In a small envelope because it was a small bottle. Small, but valuable. It was a Colheita, thus a vintage tawny, from 1940. A wine that has spent 73 years in a 580 liter oak barrel. And every tawny lover knows that this means a wine with elegance, character, complexity…
The port wine house Kopke is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year with the launch of this very special wine in an extremely limited quantity. The house is releasing 375 numbered bottles (@ 75cl) and the price is 680 euro per bottle.
In 1940 World War II had just started. But it was also the year that Kopke was officially recognized as the oldest port house.
And did I like it? Yes! The color is light brown. The nose has some freshness, although very mature and nutty. The taste is smooth, less sweet than you would expect, aromas of dried fruit, tobacco, and orange. A complex and elegant wine. To be drunk on its own, after dinner.
Both tawnies were outstanding, but I felt that there was a little bit more intensity in the 40 year version, at least this day.
Calem Quinta da Foz Vintage Porto 1975
Wine number three was more difficult to guess. With its bright red, but very light colour it looked much younger than the previous two wines. There was fresh fruit on the nose and the wine seemed quite youthful. The body was fairly light in style, more elegant than powerful. The taste did not feel as sweet as you would expect from a port. A stylish wine.
And this was a vintage port 1975 from the Portuguese wine house Calem. 1975 is considered as a medium year. The quality is good but because the wines are fairly light in style, they should not be kept longer. Drink them now despite the youthful fruit. Indicative price today 110-130 €.
You can even keep a vintage port for some time if you do not finish the bottle. But you should drink it a bit sooner than the tawny. A vintage should be treated more like any red wine, but because it is sweet and stronger in alcohol it does keep longer.
Read more about the Calem port house in this article.
Tintilla de Rota de Finca Moncloa 2011, Vinto Tinto Dulce Tradicional, Jerez de la Frontera
When I got to the fourth glass, I had some problems. Was this also a port wine? No, it did not feel sufficiently strong in alcohol. And it was not. Instead, it was a Spanish wine from Jerez, the sherry region. The grape is called tintilla de rota, a new acquaintance at least for me.
This purple red, dark, sweet wine comes from the big sherry firm Gonzales Byass (known for its excellent fino Tio Pepe). But Tintilla de Rota de Finca Moncloa 2011 is not a sherry but a wine with 14.5% of alcohol, very lightly fortified and made from sun-dried grapes. It has been stored for 18 months in French oak barrels.
The result is a very fruity compact wine with extremely intense aromas. The nose is amazing and the taste is incredibly sweet. I think that the sweetness is a bit too overwhelming though. This is a wine to be drunk in small sips and combined with a sweet dessert. It has 375 grams of residual sugar (sugar contents in the wine) per litre which is exceptionally high. It is sold in numbered bottles of 50 cl and the retail price is 50 €. The number of bottles is very limited. (Also a sample bottle.)
In the 1800s, Gonzales Byass made a sweet wine from the grape tintilla de rota. It was at the time widely planted in the area around the city of Cadiz. But during the 1900s it disappeared almost completely, and with this wine Gonzales Byass wants to save it from completely disappearing from the region. In 2002 they planted three hectares.
Tintilla the Rota the Finca Moncloa 2011 has been made in the same way as in the 1800s. The grapes were harvested overripe and then received further maturation by lying in the sun for 3-4 days.
When you drink this kind of wines, and I am thinking particularly about the older ones, part of the pleasure is thinking back. What how was it 40 years ago? What happened in 1975? What was life like in 1940, during World War II?
Then wine is certainly much more than just a drink.
Port is only one of the joys of the Douro Valley. You can experience the port wines and the delicious table wines as well as the Portuguese gastronomy on a wine and food tour to the Douro Valley with BKWine. Book now for May!
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