Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle WA, Oct 25, 2016
Article by Glenn Elliott © December 2016
The Association of Port Wine Companies - AEVP - is a private non-profit organization that was established in January, 1975, with headquarters in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. Its main purpose is to represent and protect the interests of its members, and to promote and protect the industry as a whole for Port, Douro wines, and other wine products from the Douro Demarcated Region.
One of many efforts that the AEVP puts forth on behalf of its members is to hold trade events around the world to further the image of Port and Douro wines. One such event was held in Seattle at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, and I was thrilled to be able to attend.
The list of wineries at the event was impressive - Blackett Port Wine, Bulas Family Estates, C. da Silva, Jorge Rosas Vinhos, Niepoort, Porto Réccua Vinhos, Quinta de Ventozelo, Ramos Pinto, Rozès, Sogevinus, and Sogrape Vinhos. Readers of this newsletter will be familiar with many of those names, but perhaps not all of them. One of AEVP’s missions is to promote smaller, independent wineries, and they are encouraged to participate in events such as this one.
As you can see, the event was held in a light and airy room – I would say nearly perfect conditions for evaluating Port and Douro wines. Each participating winery had a station large enough for 2-3 hosts, which was also large enough to service 8-10 attendees simultaneously. Since it was a trade event it was not crowded, which gave everyone time to talk with each winery’s event staff as desired.
The event advertised over 80 different Ports and Douro wines, and I think that was conservative. Most of the stations were serving 8-10 different wines (Port and Douro wines combined), and a couple of them had 12 or more. This did make it challenging to sample all of the offerings because the event was only 3 hours long. That’s why I don’t have proper tasting notes for even just the Port. Instead, I offer my highlights. Treat these as snapshots or brief impressions. I have focused on Tawny and White Port here, but most stations also had a selection of Ruby Port, LBV Port, and/or Vintage Port.
10 Year Old Tawny (bottled 2016)
Color: Great tawny color for a 10-year old – it looks like a younger 20-year old. Notably, it doesn’t look like a light ruby as is often the case with 10-year old Tawny Ports.
Nose: Not much to note. One might react with “vaguely pleasant” or “smells like a tawny Port”.
Taste: Mellow and pleasant entry. Smooth. Very easy to drink. In some ways it seems like there’s not a lot to it, but I think that’s because it looks more like a 20-year old. Decidedly creamier texture than most other 10-year olds, and not at all confused. Very clearly a tawny Port and not some tawny/ruby hybrid. My understanding is that Niepoort ages its Ports intended for 10-year old blends in pipes (instead of toneis or balseiros) which is part of the reason that it shows more tawny characteristics. Historically this has been one of a small handful of 10-year olds that I actually enjoy, and this example continues that trend.
Blackett - Quinta de Brunheda
10 Year Old Tawny (bottled 2016)
Color: Much lighter than a normal 10-year old, almost to the point of being honey colored. There’s no red left in the color, but there is considerable orange. Doesn’t look at all like what you’d expect from a standard 10-year old. By appearance this could even be a (much older) aged white Port.
Nose: Pretty normal, tawny-like nose. Some alcohol that stands out.
Taste: Tastes like a younger, lighter, 20-year old. It has a much more normal tawny profile than a typical 10-year old. Some light caramel, possibly macadamia nuts, and some pecan. An excellent daily drinker for a Tawny lover. According to the host the average age is probably 13-14 years, but it impresses as 17-18 years old. Other than the light color, it looks and tastes like a 20. One to look for, as the QPR could be excellent depending on the MSRP.
30 Year Old Tawny (bottled 2016)
Color: About what you’d expect from the dark end of 20-year olds, but not as dark as what you’d normally expect from a 30-year old. Some red and dark orange highlights. All of the Blackett Tawnies have been lighter in color to varying degrees.
Nose: Some unfortunately prominent alcohol, but then also caramel, tangerine, and mango. Some light but rich sugary note as well, similar to confectioner’s sugar but richer.
Taste: Relatively full-bodied with what feels almost like tannic grip. Powerful, almost bracing acidity. There’s also a lot of sugar, but it can’t quite keep up with the acidity so the overall impression comes off as slightly drier than it really is. It’s bordering on Madeira-like levels of acidity. Some good, rich, brown sugar. Also some blood orange and maple syrup. Very complex.
C. da Silva
C. da Silva’s station was branded Dalva, and they had a very nice selection of Ports to sample. I’ve selected two to highlight, but this was one of the larger stations. Their 40-year old Dry White Port was intriguing and very different, but I felt that the 2007 White Colheita would be more interesting to more Port lovers. Also the 1985 Colheita was fantastic, but simply out-classed by the 1971 Golden White Colheita.
2007 Dalva White Colheita
Color: Very colored for such a young white Port – almost like 10-year old Tawny. As a white you’d expect something this color to be a 30 or 40-year old.
Nose: Pretty closed, so not much showing.
Palate: Tastes a lot like a tawny Colheita. On the drier side of sweet Ports (it’s not a dry white Port). Very good acidity; well-balanced. It’s missing the tropical flavors that I often find in white Ports – it really is very much like a standard tawny Colheita. Exceptional quality – QPR will depend on the price point. Very drinkable; could become a daily drinker/cellar defender.
1971 Golden White Colheita (bottled 2014)
Color: Dark honey color, a little bit of tawny
Nose: Fairly muted, possibly some paraffin. Fairly normal for an older white Port.
Taste: Explodes in the mouth, incredibly complex. Great balance between the acidity and sugars. Marvelous. Medium sweet. Hints of various tropical fruits – banana, mango, possibly pineapple, but these are layered on top of more normal tawny flavors. Phenomenal. Not a ’52, but very very good. Stellar. I always felt the ’63 was lacking compared to the ’52, but the ’71 can stand on its own and lives up to the famed “Golden White” name.
Sogevinus was another one of the larger stations, with the full line of Kopke White Ports, numerous tawnies, and a couple of rubies. The Colheitas went back as far as a 1941 Kopke.
Porto Rocha Three Centuries
FTLOP members are likely familiar with this name, but not this Port. This is an all-new bottling containing a younger blend (50-60 years) than the original. The new bottle is symmetrical (vs the older “sail” shape) and tapers all the way to the base. The MSRP is the same as the older bottling, and it is still a 500 ml bottle.
Color: Dark tawny, not quite brown.
Nose: Reasonably typical for an old tawny blend. Mahogany or another darker aromatic wood.
Taste: Very rich, very full. Almost creamy. Well-balanced acidity and sugar, but still powerful. This feels like a lighter, more lively blend than the old one
1978 Kopke Colheita (bottled 2016)
A preview, as it were, of the 40-year anniversary coming in 2018. Sogevinus has been releasing tawny Ports for these anniversaries regularly.
Color: Clear, deep tawny color, but it doesn’t really look its age. More like a 20-year old than a 40-year old. Very clean in the glass.
Nose: Some very light VA, but otherwise a typical 40-year old nose.
Taste: Very rich, much more balanced between the acidity and sugars than a typical Kopke. Powerful. Very nice sipping wine that would pair well with a gouda or white cheddar.
George Sandeman was the host at the Sogrape station and we had a nice discussion about blends as I tasted through the 10 through 40 lineup. I’ve chosen to highlight their 20 Year Old Tawny Port because in the past I’ve found it to be too acidic for my taste, though still recognizably a top-tier 20-year old. George says that the blend hasn’t changed at all, but for me it has become mellower and better balanced.
NV Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Color: A little more red than normal, but otherwise a pretty standard 20-year old look.
Nose: (no note taken)
Taste: Very rich, very solid, and nicely mellow. Not overtly acidic as I’ve found it to be in the past. This bottling compares well to the Ferreira Duque de Braganca. It is still has that bright Sandeman profile, but it’s now balanced by sufficient sugar to keep the acidity in check. Lots of citrus notes – sweet orange, faint tangerine, and blood orange all come to mind.
On the 2014 Port Harvest Tour we were introduced to the new packaging for Ramos Pinto’s lines. While sampling them, I felt that the blend for their 20-year old had changed. The Ramos Pinto 20 had been my favorite 20 for a number of years, but in the new RP20 packaging there was something different. I was eager to try it again, here, to see if that might have been an off impression.
NV “RP20” 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Color: Medium to medium dark tawny. Red-orange highlights.
Nose: (no note taken)
Taste: Smooth, rich, and mellow. Good acidity matched by good sweetness gives a much more familiar to me profile. The dried apricots, caramel, butterscotch, and pecan are back. I can’t say for certain that it’s the same as the older-style bottles, but it at least gives me that impression. I can go back to including RP20 on my list for people looking for recommendations!
Trade tastings are certainly a different beast. Realistically, you need a plan going in or you’ll never get everything done that you’d intended to do. In my case, focusing on Tawny Port allowed me to get through without too much difficulty. I also used a voice recorder app on my phone to take notes instead of trying to find somewhere I could write in a TN notebook.
One thing that stood out to me at this event was that while the bigger names may have a wider variety of offerings to share at their stations, the smaller names can match them quality-wise. The Ports from smaller operations like Blackett and Bulas were comfortably at home amongst the offerings from the larger corporations such as Sogevinus, Sogrape, and Rozes.
Ultimately, the Port industry needs buzz in order to grow. These events organized by the AEVP help spread the word within related industries.
http://AEVP website: http://www.aevp.pt/EN
AEVP provided the following information about the organization and its members.
AEVP currently has 15 Members which account for:
- € 341 million of Port Wine trade
- 92% sales volume of Port Wine
- 94% sales volume of Premium Port Wine
- € 62 million of Douro Wine trade
- 30% sales volume of Douro Wine
- 20% of the vineyard area of the Douro Demarcated Region
The Douro Demarcated Region is the 3rd oldest appellation in the world (after Chianti and Tokaj), and has:
- 250,000 hectares of total area (roughly 620,000 acres)
- 44,000 ha of Vineyard (109,000 acres), or roughly 20% of all vineyards in Portugal
- 39,600 ha of Vineyard (98,000 acres) entitled to PDO Douro
- 32,000 ha of Vineyard (79,000 acres) entitled to PDO Porto
- 24,000 producers
- Production of 1.4 million hl (37 million gallons), or roughly 23% of all wine production in Portugal
Sales of Wines with PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) from the Douro Demarcated Region are:
- €510.7 million of Trade
- €359.9 million of Exports
- 76% of Portuguese Wine Exports with PDO
- 63% of Portuguese Wine Exports with PDO and PGI
- 50% of Portuguese Wine Exports