Tuesday morning was spent walking down through the vineyards to the purpose built warehouse. It is interesting to note that Noval is the only producer who store their ports up in the Douro, the rest sticking with tradition and storing in Vila Nova de Gaia. A simple point but again, perhaps another little tick to perfection - surely it’s better to be closer to the Quinta? This warehouse is where the old Tawnies are housed and there were mumblings of the lesser spotted 1937 Colheita still available (however I’m still working on that one!) I snooped about as much as I could but sadly I was denied access to the darkest cobwebbed corners and behind locked gates… I confess that “are you really sure you do not have library stock to offer?” was one question that blurted out of my mouth continually.
The night before I had made the (deliberately casual) comment that it seemed a shame not to have tasted the 2011 vintage - so off to the tasting room we went for yet another treat:
2011 Quinta do Noval
97 Pts BI– Ah ha! What a treat to re-visit this vintage for Quinta do Noval - and they have absolutely smashed it. Refined subtle aromas combined with great richness and purity of forest fruits, raspberry and clove spice. Harmonious and velvety, balanced and delicious. This is superb! Believe the hype around the 2011 vintage, it is exceptional.
The 2012 and 2013 were also poured again, and both were a joy to try, reflecting the previous evening’s notes.
Then we were also fortunate enough to tuck into a couple of older vintages of Nacional. When in Rome...
2001 Quinta do Noval Nacional
97 Pts BI- Really pronounced, perfumed aromas - initially it made me think of a Barolo in its prime. There is such concentration and depth here and I really do believe you could keep pulling out descriptors for hours and hours. What strikes you are its vinous complexity, elegance and refinement. This has many, many extra dimensions to the Noval vintages and has the most persistent finish. I thought this was absolutely lovely and would be bowled over to have some in my cellar.
1999 Quinta do Noval Nacional
95 Pts BI- I’m now starting to see a theme with the Nacional ‘style’. To me, perhaps not to others, it has a ‘tea’ like elegance and minerality with complexity and concentration in abundance. This is beautifully balanced and a persistent finish.
I’ve thought a lot about these two bottles of Nacional. I cannot help but think – given how good these were, and how completely expressive of the magical Nacional ‘style’, how utterly mind-expanding would more illustrious vintages be? To me it is proof that if you have the ways and means, Nacional is simply a wine you should buy on every single release. It is truly on a different level.
So what have I learnt?
Quite apart from the ‘pack’, Quinta do Noval sees itself very much as a single vineyard Quinta with Nacional coming from 2ha at the very epicentre of the estate - almost like a vineyard within a vineyard. Their production is tiny compared to the rest (think Burgundy rather than Bordeaux), and the future is very, very bright.
As we have alluded to in recent offerings, these Ports are at the very top of the qualitative tree; the renaissance was kick started in 1993 when the estate came under the stewardship of Christian Seely (of bow tie fame) after having been purchased by the insurance group AXA. Make no mistake – this was amassive turning point in the modern history of the region and arguably the beginnings of the rejuvenation of Port. Attention to detail is high and Christian Seely is very clear in his path to perfection. Regardless of what others are doing he is very much at home in declaring vintages when others do not, based on the quality in the vineyard - even if the volume available is tiny.
The trilogy of recent vintages of Noval vintage are excellent - of that there is no doubt - and if you can get your hands on older bottles you will see just how great these ports can be. Most recently we’ve drunk a fantastic 1970 and an utterly brilliant 1966. Refinement, elegance and charm are words that spring to mind and when I turn to Nacional; it’s a kaleidoscope of flavours and depths. It has the capacity to age for a very long time and whenever the opportunity arises, I recommend you buy it!
Noval vintage and Nacional are made in small quantities regardless of vintage and they really do not hold significant reserves at the Quinta. We recently sold out of their 2003 and I am constantly struggling to find any back vintages to offer. 2011 has long gone, 2012 is rapidly diminishing and the 2013 will follow suit. If you do not have these in your cellars you are missing out... but this is not an investment proposition, this is a strong suggestion that you should invest in your own cellar. Many years from now I am hopeful that some of you reading this will think back and say “thank goodness I purchased this… I just wish I had taken more!”
I was a fan and now I will be forever. Thank you to my hosts, to Ana Carvalho, to Christian Seely and thanks to the magic of Quinta do Noval. I salute you all!