We knew this tour would present a unique travel plan for our guests, and for the first time since 2006, the majority of them were active participants of the FTLOP Forum. It meant that our vacation would be enjoyed by people who knew each other pretty well, at least virtually, and along with our first-timers, they’d have the chance to really get to spend some quality time getting to know one another.
I landed in Porto a few days prior to the tour, less than forty-eight hours after finishing off an eighth consecutive year of working my annual two month project. Nothing could make me happier than getting far, far away from that experience and the brutal hours that go along with the territory.
Visiting several countries for a few weeks would be the perfect salve to heal all wounds and erase most of the memories. After the Port Harvest Tour, I met up with good friends in London (from FTLOP & the Port Forum) for a wonderful tasting of 1955 Vintage Ports. After spending some time in the UK, I headed to France with an old friend, Nicos Neocleous, who took us by Chunnel to visit the appellations of Chablis and Burgundy which I had never done before.
Play it back a few weeks, to my arrival in Portugal; as my first two days in country were spent on a reconnaissance mission, hanging out with some friends in Porto. Part of the mission was to spend time exploring Villar d’Allen for the first time, and getting to meet Tomas and Rita Allen, along with his parents who own the property and live on this beautifully appointed park-like estate. The Allen family has an amazing story, which will be told in great detail, after we bring our group there in October (as we don’t want to spoil their adventure). The last part of the mission was to dine anonymously at a few new restaurants to enjoy and evaluate the food, wine list and service and have some new eateries to share on future visits to Porto.
It was wonderful being actively immersed in my favorite city, surrounded by people whose lives and families I care about deeply. Porto remains my home away from home and someday, it shall be my family’s home too.
On Sunday, the tour began in earnest and we had a distinctive inaugural day planned. It was fun to see people meeting one another and their faces lighting up when they realized the individual they were being introduced to, was already a friend. For those reading here who are familiar with our Forum; you’ll know these folks just by our guest’s first names: David, Andy, Frederick, Moses, Glenn, Sandy, and Rune; as well as Ruth, Emmy, Carl, Mike, Joe and Conrad.
After the introductions we had fun running into U2’s Bono and The Edge at our hotel and watching Bono head out to sign autographs for the throngs of fans patiently waiting outside and cheering in the rain. I thought it was pretty cool of him to hang out and sign autographs. I have a feeling that many other rock stars would’ve just jumped in the limo, waved and taken off. After this momentary star gazing incident, it was time for us to depart for our first afternoon into evening. The tour begins!
J. H. Andresen
It has taken me sixteen years to fully blanket Gaia. To the best of my knowledge, with this visit to see J. H. Andresen, I’ve now made it to every Port Lodge and shipper (that I’m aware of) based in Vila Nova de Gaia, whether open to the public or not.
In reality, I’ve only tasted about a dozen bottles of Andresen’s Ports prior to this visit, and discovered this company for the first time in 2002, when Mario Ferreira included them in an IVP (Port Wine Institutue) tasting in Seattle. I remember enjoying their 1985 vintage Port that day, which was quite good, but was even more impressed with their Tawny and Colheita Ports and enjoyed writing about Andresen. It was during this visitation that I first met the current co-owner.
Upon arrival we were met by Carlos Flores dos Santos, Andresen’s General Manager and Alvaro van Zeller, the oenologist/cellarmaster. None of our guests had ever been to this lodge before and the vast majority had never tasted Andresen’s Ports, no less even heard of this little known producer. It was a pleasure to introduce these two gentlemen who warmly welcomed us to Andresen’s facility, which is not open to the public. It is so unassuming and well hidden that I never even knew it existed, but I learned about it by trading emails with Carlos over the years.
J.H. Andresen was founded in 1845 by Jann Heinrich Andresen who later obtained his extraordinary wealth, not through his Port company, but from his vast fleet of steamships. By the middle of WW2, the Andresen family was losing steam and sold the company to Carlos’ grandfather Albino Pereira dos Santos who was a young (44), brilliant Port blender and businessman.
By the time of his sudden death in 1962, exactly two decades after purchasing the company, Albino had grown his Port interests to include the operation of five additional Port houses. A decade earlier he had brought his son, Mario Ruy Flores dos Santos, (Carlos’ father) into the company.
Carlos recounts some stories of his family, getting into the biz and life at Andresen. “Being the fourth generation in our family business, I’ve been hearing about Port wine since I was very young boy. I’ve heard so much that as a teenager, the only thing I was sure about, was that I would not work in my family’s Port business!” “After finishing High School, I decided to study electronic engineering and having completed the third of five years in University, I discovered that what I wanted was something different. “Shortly thereafter, I ended up doing Business & Administration and during the last year of my studies, my father challenged both my sister Manuela and me to start working at Andresen, joining my two elder sisters Margarida and Rosário. This was the year of 1987. It became a very demanding but fantastic challenge to finish our studies while working at Andresen.”
“We’ve passed through all of the various sectors of the company, starting with work in the cellars, then at the office, doing ‘whatever all others avoided doing’ as were my father’s knowledgeable words. While Manuela concentrated her work mainly in management, in 1992 I became responsible at first for a couple of export markets, and two years later for the entire sales of the company. Then in 1994, we were invited to join my father in the administration of Andresen. When my father decided to retire in 2009, the generational transition had been completed in such a smooth way, that both Manuela and I only realized it then.”
“So nowadays J.H. Andresen is being run by Manuela and myself, and owned by my mother, my two elder sisters, Manuela and myself – 100% family owned. The Andresen name comes from the founder, Jann Heinrich Andresen, a Danish that later took the Portuguese citizenship. The company has been acquired during World War Two, in 1942, by my grandfather who already owned five other small Port houses. Later on, during the early part of the nineties, all of the other small companies were merged and the whole business concentrated under the Andresen name. We do not own vineyards, but in recent years we established a long term agreement with Quinta das Aranhas.”
“We actually take the entirety of the Aranhas production, resulting of the two Quintas -- Aranhas and Lages, containing 40 hectares of A vineyards total, situated in the Torto valley, in Ervedosa (Pesqueira) – very near Cristiano’s Vale Dona Maria. Since then, all of our Ports are vinified there under Alvaro’s control. Of course we buy grapes from other properties as well, so we can complete our production needs.”
Carlos is a very kind and humble man and none of us knew that upon our meeting him that day; his father had just passed away. He hid this very well from us and made sure we all had a fantastic time and it was an enormous pleasure to see the innards of the Andresen property and walk through the cellars. His father was smiling down on Carlos that day, proud of how he and his immediate family have continued to grow the business.
The half dozen key export markets for JH Andresen are: Norway, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the UK and USA.
Andresen is imported into the USA, but I am not sure why they’re next to invisible except on the East coast, where they are merely difficult to find. From a discussion before we arrived, I was surprised to hear that most of our guest’s expectations were seemingly rather low, but from what I could discern, few had any knowledge of the incredible wood-aged Ports that this house is known for. Any of the preconceptions they came in with were blown out of the water by the time we departed, many hours later.
After a very thorough and educational tour we were brought into a fantastic barrel storage facility in which our tasting had been arranged. It was quite a site and the lineup was ambitious to say the least. JH Andresen is best known for their Colheita and Tawny Ports, not their vintage Ports, yet we started with the 2005 LBV and also tried their 2007 and 2008 Vintage selections and a 1997 added to provide some perspective.
Our group quickly changed their mind and knowing that the Vintage Ports was just the opening salvo, they were now thrilled with what they had just experienced. The best was yet to come. We tasted our way through several aged Tawny Ports and by the time we had the 40 year old Tawny, our guests were clamoring to learn where they could buy Andresen in Canada, Norway and the USA. It was fun to watch their discoveries.
Next we began a serious Colheita tasting and our guests were in awe of the extraordinary quality, even of the youngest member of the lineup, the 1997 which started us on the path back through history. The 1970 was one of the group favorites, the 1937 won friends and influenced people ... especially since one member of our group was born that year and had never experienced a birth year Port prior to this. We had several other bottles to enjoy and the oldest Port we had the opportunity to try, was the very rare and extraordinary 1910 Andresen which was bottled two days earlier, specifically for our group's arrival. It was an amazing experience and none of us in attendance will ever forget these absolutely mind blowing Ports.
This was the "official" first visit of our tour and after most guests had visited Port lodges in Gaia for a day or two on their own, they had a much clearer picture of what they had in store for the upcoming week on the FTLOP Port Harvest Tour. The stark difference was most definitely apparent.
Ports tasted: (notes to follow)
- 2005 J. H. Andresen LBV Port
- 2007 J. H. Andresen Vintage Port
- 1997 J. H. Andresen Vintage Port
- n/v J. H. Andresen 10 Year Old White Port
- n/v J. H. Andresen 20 Year Old White Port
- n/v J. H. Andresen 20 Year Old Tawny Port
- n/v J. H. Andresen 40 Year Old Tawny Port
- 2008 J. H. Andresen Vintage Port
- 1997 J. H. Andresen Colheita Port
- 1980 J. H. Andresen Colheita Port
- 1970 J. H. Andresen Colheita Port
- 1937 J. H. Andresen Colheita Port
- 1910 J. H. Andresen Colheita Port
Our sincere thanks to Carlos and Alvaro for their generosity with their time and their stunning Ports!
C. da Silva
We stopped by late on Sunday night … to say hello to Gonçalo Devesas and introduce our group. As a participant on our Forum, Gonçalo knew most of our guests by name and was kind enough to open the shop for us. It was like a homecoming for many in our company, seeing the Gaia waterfront for the very first time and getting to meet someone they knew well from online.
Gonçalo was very generous with us, even though it was getting a bit late. First he opened up both 10 and 20 year old White Ports and he followed that up with a really beautiful 1967 “Rui Paula” Colheita bottling. I’ve grown to love this particular Port and can’t get enough of it. We then tried the 1963 Golden White which will replace the 1952 when it becomes extinct. For anybody visiting the area this is one place you really should visit if you enjoy unique flavor profiles and Ports that you’ll never see outside of Portugal.
It was obvious that people were getting tired and this was only the first day, so we thanked Gonçalo and headed back for some shut eye. I could still taste that 1967 all the way back to our hotel.
On Monday morning, after a relaxing breakfast, we prepared for the day’s explorations and our first stop brought returned our guests to Vila Nova de Gaia once again, for a brief tour of the Cálem Port Lodge. Cálem was founded in 1859 by Antonio Alves Cálem, but it was not until 1870 that he bottled their first Vintage Port.
The two quintas owned by Sogevinus are: Quinta do Arnozelo which has 26 contiguous hectares of Touriga Nacional grapes in the vineyard and Kopke’s Quinta São Luiz. We saw some cool collectibles including their largest Balseiro in the Lodge which held 60,200 liters. We were told that their barrels are used for about a full century and that the oak comes from Portugal, although new ones are from American or French oak.
Part of the Sogevinus group as well, we then walked over to see their Kopke operation and went upstairs for a rather special tasting. Fernando Oliveira, the talented master blender for the company, met us and presented a fine selection of wood-aged Ports spanning 8 decades. This would not be your ordinary Port tasting and some of our guests were still getting used to the idea of drinking these wood-aged beauties, having been weaned on LBV and Vintage Ports.
But first we started off trying the Kopke 2008 Vintage Port from Quinta São Luiz. Overall, the group was very pleased with the quality of this Port and I could tell they were raring to get into the Colheita tasting mode.
The lineup consisted of mostly Burmester w/ a mix of Kopke thrown in for good measure. Fernando provided a lot of information about each particular Port. He also discussed some of the finer nuances of blending wood-aged Ports. My tasting notes did not make it into this newsletter, but will be shared in the next one.
Here are the wines we tried, clearly showing great depth but also each was from a different decade.
- 2000 Burmester Colheita
- 1997 Kopke Colheita
- 1989 Kopke Colheita
- 1978 Burmester Colheita
- 1963 Burmester Colheita
- 1957 Kopke Colheita
- 1940 Burmester Colheita
- 1937 Kopke Colheita
This was a pretty phenomenal lineup with many favorites, both young and old. By the end, everyone was hungry and we bid a fond adieu to Fernando and walked down to the Gaia’s cais (river front) where we had an enjoyable casual lunch at Ar de Rio Restaurant.
After lunch, we walked back up the hill to experience the old Niepoort Lodge, which is one of the more colorful armazems in Gaia. We were warmly greeted by Jose Rodrigo Nogueira who joined the Niepoort team in 2006. Rodrigo’s father Jose is the master blender for the Niepoort family. Rodrigo is the 5th generation of Nogueira family members to work with the Niepoort family and he will eventually take over as master blender when his father retires at some point.
Rodrigo took us throughout the Lodge explaining about the centuries old demijohns that were created for the Niepoort’s and it was amazing to see the vast holdings of wines in these extraordinary glass vessels. Niepoort is the only company that I know of that uses this technique for storing Port wine. We also saw where bottling had taken place in the old days and also went into the cozy office too, where all five generations of Niepoort have worked.
We then sat down for a tasting which began with some very basic Ruby Dum & Tawny Dee, Ports that were certainly different and our group was amused. Afterwards, we also tasted a 10 year old White Port, 2005 LBV, 1986 Colheita, 10 year old Tawny, and a Port I had never seen before, Niepoort’s 1981 LBV that was added by Rodrigo ... actually a de-classified VP from this non-vintage year. Next in our lineup were both the 2007 classic VP and the Pisca which rounded out the lineup. Rodrigo had done a solid job in explaining the wines to us and also letting us know about many projects that Dirk is involved with.
Walking through this extensive cellar is really very impressive and should be seen at least once!
We then headed to Shis where we had a delicious dinner with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a fun day into night, overall. The following morning we were going to be heading up to the Douro, so the majority of the group went to bed at a reasonable hour, while some stayed up to drink more Port, smoke cigars and discuss the day’s events. My tasting notes will appear in the next newsletter.