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JOãO NICOLAU DE ALMEIDA - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Roy Hersh     » Fri Oct 29, 2010 2:30 am

Please [welcome.gif] João Nicolau de Almeida of Ramos-Pinto fame, who will be here to discuss Port & Douro wines and anything remotely related to either. He is a brilliant viticulturist and winemaker and esteemed by his peers. We arranged this last summer and his visit here to :ftlop: has been something I've been looking forward to for months!

Those of us on the Port Harvest Tour had the opportunity to visit with João at Quinta da Ervamoira and we had a fantastic time and tasting with him there, in the wilds of the Douro ... truly one of the remotest working Port and Douro wine Quintas you will ever see.

Come join us in the discussion that will begin here on Sunday (he will answer all questions, beginning on Monday, November 1st) and will be here through Sunday, Nov. 7th. No question is too simple, so please feel free to ask anything you'd like that is "on topic."
Ambition driven by passion, rather than money, is as strong an elixir as is Port. http://www.fortheloveofport.com
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:56 am

Hi Roy

Thanks for your introduction. I am looking forward to participate in this forum. We'll speak all on Monday! Till then have a great weekend!

JNA
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Al B.     » Fri Oct 29, 2010 3:49 pm

João

I'm going to grab the opportunity to be the first person after Roy to welcome you to the Guest's Corner.

I've read with a lot of interest the things which have been written on FTLOP about the single varietal vintage ports which were made in 1983 (I think). I've never had the chance to taste these but I am really interested to know:

1) What made you decide to make these single varietals?
2) Have you made any single varietal ports since 1983?
3) Would you ever consider making sufficient volumes of single varietal port to be able to sell small quantities to strange people like the ones on this forum who would be really interested to learn more about the way in which the different grapes mature?

That's all for now. I'll drop by and post more questions later, but don't want to be too rude and dominate everything right away.

Thanks,

Alex
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Paul_B     » Fri Oct 29, 2010 8:59 pm

Hello Joao,

thanks for taking the time to exchange with us.

I have two questions.

1) Which type of Port do you find most challenging to create?

2) what is your guess at what the Port industry will look like in 100 years? You can speak on any aspect of the industry you want... growers, producers, shippers, regulation, consumers, Villa Nova de Gaia, Douro, cork, etc...etc...

Thanks
Paul
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Derek T.     » Sat Oct 30, 2010 5:49 am

Hi João,

I confess that I had not heard about your single varietals experiment from 1983 until I read this thread :oops:

Until now I had understood that under current legislation it is not permissable to produce and sell port made from single varietals. Is that true? If so, do you think that legislation should be changed?

Derek
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Eric Ifune     » Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:54 pm

Welcome and thank you for participating here! [cheers.gif]

Port is a blend of different varieties; I know that a lot of clonal trials are currently being done with block planting. Do you think this is an improvement over the old field blend plantings? Also, what qualities do you think each variety brings to the final product. I've had fortified wines from California from Portuguese varieties but thought the combined blend was superior to the individual vinified ones. (Although the Touriga National was pretty good!) :D
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Roy Hersh     » Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:04 pm

Hi João,

I am sure we are going to learn a ton from you this week and it is very much appreciated.

For my first question: Do you think that the cork industry is doing enough to decrease the quantity of infected corks that reach their clients in the Port trade? As a follow up ... how big or small do you find this issue (TCA) with the Ports & Douro wines of Ramos-Pinto?

Thanks in advance and I hope you have fun here this week too. :scholar:
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:12 am

Hi everyone, I'll start by Alex who was the first to post questions!

I've tried to sum up the answers. Here they go!

1- When I arrived from Bordeaux in 1976 there was a group of some curious vine-growing man that were worried about the loss of knowledge of quality of each variety.
After the two wars the knowledge of those 80 different varieties had been lost. The Douro Region had been isolated and the evolution was completed stagnated. This group knew, however, that I've been working in microvinification at St. Caprais with Jean Riberau Gayon, Ives Gloryie and some other professors, and they proposed me to study the Douro varieties.
José Rosas, my boss at Ramos Pinto and member of the OIV, was also very concerned about this subject. He wanted to plant the new Quinta named Ervamoira in a modern way knowing exactly what he was planting. With these two big purposes I decided to accept this challenge.
Moreover for me was very strange to understand how they used to plant everything mixed in the vineyard. To me the final result could be either good or bad. With my experiences along this last 34 years in Douro I still think the same. I can either find very good mixed vines and very bad ones. As the vineyards are planted for 30 - 40 years can you imagine the problem if we weren't happy with the result?
As I came from Bordeaux University and as I had a father that made the first Douro wine (Barca Velha), I had the curiosity and will to explore this area.
Therefore, my decision was to study the varieties for Port and also for Douro wine, which was why we decided to plant 4 different experimental fields in the three sub-regions taking into account also the different altitudes.
The group of people that I've mentioned above selected me twelve varieties.
In 1981, we presented at the local University (Vila Real) a study presenting our selection for Port and Douro wines based on five red grape varieties, namely, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, and three white grape varieties - viozinho, rabigato and arinto.
We also argued that it was necessary to study more varieties due to many existing varieties in Douro Region. The ones that have been chosen were suggested to be used in the plantations that were financed by the World Bank at the time.

2 - We made single varietal Ports as an experimental basis in 1983 but the idea was only to get to know the varieties and their ageing process. We don't sell them, we only use them to study their evolution. To me the culture and terroir of Douro Region is a blend. The Region itself is not flat at all. In fact it's dramatically hilly and the microclimate is always changing. So to produce a wine we have to pick already a blend and the ageing process keeps going as a blend, this applies both to Port and to Douro wine. During that process there's a huge human intervention to pass to the wines our personality.

3 - I am not expecting to make single varietal Port wines to sell them. That doesn't express the Terroir and also the IVDP regulation doesn't allow it, which I totally agree. However I've some wines that I will gladly show and discuss them with those who are interested in special tastings to be organized.

Nevertheless, I am sure that we would have plenty to say about these matters on further conversations.
Yours sincerely
João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:26 am

Hi Derek
As I answered to Alex, the legislation still doesn't allow making single varietal Port Wines and, in my opinion, I hope this keep being like this for the reasons I mentioned above.

João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:27 am

Hi Eric,

I think if we know exactly what we are planting and the final quality results we expect we can plant it all mixed. This is a way to adapt to modern times the traditional way of planting and knowing exactly what we are doing. We already have some vineyards planted like that.
Regarding the grape varieties characteristics here's a brief list of what to expect from each of them:

Touriga Nacional is the most complete variety - it's our star! It has a beautiful elegant and fruity and some mineral nose. On the mouth it's full of fresh red fruit, good acidity and soft tannins with a long finish.

Touriga franca is the variety that gives power, structure and volume to the wine.

Tinta roriz is very "macho", vigorous, thick tannins and a good ageing.

Tinta barroca is more feminin, horizontal aromas, smooth and velvety, round and soft tannins.

Tinto cão is light-colored to give some complexity to the aromas of the blend with an elegant way of ageing.

Finally, I truly believe we can always make better with the blend than with single varieties.

João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:28 am

Hi Paul

That's a really though question. The Vintage is very exciting because you have to find the best grapes that most of the times are in limited quantities in order to take advantage of the greatest quality that the Nature can give you.
The tawny is a very unique culture on wine ageing. We have to follow almost in a daily basis the many casks where we age the wines that we have in our cellars. We have to treat them if they are sick, to let them breath if they need, to get them married - which is easy for the young wines and very difficult to the oldest wines. Exactly like ourselves.
Once my father told me "vintage is a wine and tawny is a Port wine". I agree.
Finally, to answer your question Tawny is a huge challenge that started in our ancestors and have passed to ourselves and we'll have to pass it to them next generation. I like that. It's more dependent of the Human Being rather than controlled by Nature and subjected to the year.

2. - That's even a tougher question!! Currently, the world is changing very fast and we understand less and less what is going to happen. The fact of having the globalization we have to adapt the Port Wine to the "planet" which is a serious challenge. Anyway, I think that more and more people like and seek high quality and specific products from specific terroirs. That's our case. So Port Wine has been selling mostly in occidental part but there's still the other half of the world to show this lovely drink.
These last years in Douro Region, it has been happening a transition from the traditional to the modern process of winemaking and a young generation is already working and living in Douro, which makes a big difference regarding the reality that existed some years ago. The region in "fermenting" and it's just like a volcano of 80 different local varieties to be explored.
Unfortunately, to the small viticulteurs this transition has been very difficult to while successful to the others. Our urgent need is to create a market for Douro and Port wines.
Regarding the legislations they are stabilized but we are working to adapt them to the modern times. The shippers became divided mainly in five big groups: Symington Family, Taylor's, Sogrape, Sogevinus and Gran Cruz. Besides. And then there are other shippers as Ramos Pinto, whose strategy is based on unique brands with own-production. Others, such as Niepoort, Poças, Andresen, Noval, Rozés, etc, are also independent shippers who produce their wines using either with their own grapes and other grapes they buy to viticulteurs. Finally there are the Quintas established in Douro that are improving the quality of Port and creating a new image of Port wine.
I think the shippers will continue to have their Port Wine cellars in Gaia but regarding the Douro wine the process is moving to the Region.
Regarding the cork, I do believe that we'll keep using it in the future taking into account the huge progress and evolution in the cork industry.

All the best
João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:29 am

Hi Roy,

I am quite happy to be sitting with a nice glass of Port while I try to answer to your questions!!!

As I've mentioned the cork industry is developing a lot and faster and the producers are treating the cork immediately after taking it from the tree, in the region, in order to sterilize all the micro-organisms and to prevent further problems. What happened before was that the cork used to be placed in local region without the necessary hygienic conditions and only later on this cork was carried to Porto to be transformed. That was the old process. However, this has been changing and the improvement of quality is notorious and we hope it keeps evolving to achieve high quality levels. Unfortunately, it's still not possible to have a total control over cork but I know that the whole industry is working hard to investigate these problems.

Cheers!
João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Rune EG     » Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:30 am

Hi Joao!
It was a pleasure meeting you at Ervamoira last month as part of the FTLOP Harvest Tour. I have two questions.

Ramos Pinto has for abt 20 years been owned by Roederer group, and as far as I know, Ramos Pinto is their only investment in Portugal. It could be that my question is considered to be of the strategic nature, which possibly makes it difficult for you to answer openly, but I will ask my 1st question anyway:

We are seeing a steady consolidation of the port producers, and like in most other businesses I guess it will continue where there will even bigger groups than today. Is Roederer considering further expansion in Douro / Portugal by either developing new quintas and/or considering to buy port producers that are having "rooms for improvements"? Or will you concentrate all developments in the quintas that you are already controlling?

My 2nd question is related to the fast moving development of Douro wines, where the quality has reached high levels in a relatively short time. What is the split port / Douro wines at Ramos Pinto today, and what would you estimate it to be in 5 years time? And also similar information abt Douro in general, in order to get an idea abt your developments compared to the area. No accuracy needed on the figures, just your impression / estimate.

Best regards
Rune
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Glenn E.     » Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:48 pm

Hello João,

Like Rune, I had the pleasure of meeting you at Quinta da Ervamoira last month during the FTLOP Harvest Tour. I enjoyed touring the museum and learning more about the history of the archaeological park, and of course the Ports were fantastic. Your 20-year old is my favorite Port in that category, and the bottle you had open for us showed beautifully.

The entire Douro region is rugged and difficult terrain, but the visitor's center at Ervamoira is particularly remote. In addition, it is situated within the Coa Valley Archaeological Park. What difficulties do you face due to Ervamoira's remote location, and are you further restricted in any way by being inside the Park?

Obrigado!
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Derek T.     » Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:36 pm

João,

Thank you for the answers to our questions.

In the past couple of years there have been two new styles of port launched: pink/rose port and white with an indication of age. Can you please give us your thoughts on these new styles and tell us where you think they will be in relation to the more traditional styles in 10 years from now? In other words, are they just current fashion or are they here for the long-term?

Derek
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Roy Hersh     » Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:03 am

Muito obrigado João,

I am wondering if there is still much in the way of pilheiros used in the vineyard terraces, the old socalcos anymore, or if that is mostly from olden days? Only a true viticultural expert would know the historical aspect of this and the reason why I've waited to ask YOU.

By the way, do you have any idea of how pilheiros originally got started, or better yet ... where? [shrug.gif]

I promise that any questions I ask you the rest of the week, [beg.gif] will certainly be easier.
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Moses Botbol     » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:24 am

João:

I sat next to you at our visit on the Harvest tour. It was a great line up of port and my first RP magnum! Ramos Pinto was one of the first brands of Port I ever bought and has always been close to my heart. I have some questions for you:

1. Since Roderer ownership of RP, what has been the biggest change they've made? Is there anything in retrospect you were disagreement with that worked better than you expected? Did they make decisions that you still disagree with?

2. Will RP ever make a high-end product like Taylor's Vinha Velha or Scion?

3. What qualities do you think the consumer sees in Ramos Pinto that draws the consumer to your products vs. the competitors?

4. Ramos Pinto has had a long association with advertising art going back 100 years. Has Ramos Pinto considered art based bottle labels like Mouton?

5. Has Roderer considered doing a sparkling wine from the Douro?

6. The carrot soup we were served was incredible! Is there a recipe you can share?
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:30 am

Hi Rune,

Regarding your question, I don't think Roederer is considering further expansion in Douro or even to buy any other Port producers. Roederer bought Ramos Pinto because of its own production strategy. As you may know, their philosophy for the whole group is both limited and own production.
We had been investing in the vineyards for the last years and nowadays we have 300 ha planted that satisfy our needs in terms of production. The idea is to make the wine as much as possible in the vineyards, which is why we have been doing and investing in research.
Besides having our own vineyards, we have been investing in a new vinification center where we have an excellent technical team and its leading to the evolution that we believe it must be in quality and not in quantity.
Regarding your 2nd question, at Ramos Pinto we are bottling 1.400. 000 bottles of Port and 1.100. 000 of Douro wine. Our strategy for the future is to bottle half Port and half Douro wine. Concerning Douro dry wines, in general I think that Port still has room to develop but it will be Douro dry wine that is going suffer a considerable increase over the next few years (I hope so!).

Cheers
João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:32 am

Dear Glenn

I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the visit to Quinta de Ervamoira and also that you appreciate our 20 year-old tawny (which I also like very much).
To reach Quinta de Ervamoira is very difficult, but that is what makes things more exciting. When you start from the beginning in a place where there's nothing and afterwards you can look at the results of your beliefs producing very good wines (not to say, excellent wines!) and that compensates all your efforts.
Quinta de Ervamoira makes part of the Archeological Park of the Côa Valley and we take their recommendations very seriously. In fact, we have several partnerships with them. Inside Quinta de Ervamoira there's exclusive engravings and next year we are planning to set up an exposition to explain them to the public that may be able to visit them.

All the best
João
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Re: João Nicolau de Almeida - November's Guest Corner Host

Postby Joao Nicolau » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:34 am

Hi Derek,
As regards the pink / rose Port I think it's a wine to be drunk as younger as possible to enjoy the fruity flavor because I don't think it's a wine that will age for a longtime. On the other hand, the white Port with an indication of age, I think it's a wine that can age very well and it's a category of Port that existed long before.
It's true this creates more categories of Port but that is the whole complexity of the world of Port!

All the best
João
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