FTLOP’s award categories for the BEST OF:
- Late Bottled Vintage Port
- Tawny Port
- Colheita Port
- Vintage Port – new release
- Douro white wine
- Douro red wine
- Innovative Marketing
- Career Achievement Award
- Hospitality & Tourism
Listed below are the winning selections of our 2nd ANNUAL FOR THE LOVE OF PORT AWARDS from 2011, in an assortment of “Best of” Port related categories. Congratulations to all the winners!
|LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORT: 2005 QUINTA DO NOVAL|
2005 Quinta do Noval LBV Port – Unfiltered and bottled in 2011. Fragrant fresh carnations, red licorice and raspberry jam with a hint of chocolate to sex up the nose. Dense and succulent, this could easily pass for Vintage Port and between day two and three, the flavor profile really explodes and seems far more balanced, although a drop more acidity would add even more pizzazz. Noval has nailed it in 2005 and this is one of the better LBV’s of the vintage. Boysenberry dominates the palate in an off-dry style with a fabulously long finish and ripe tannins. 93 points – 8/21/11
|TAWNY PORT: QUINTA DA ROMANEIRA 40 YEAR OLD TAWNY|
Quinta da Romaneira 40 Year Old Tawny Port – From the very first whiff, I knew this was going to be something quite special, and it didn’t disappoint. Leading off with orange pekoe tea and joined by aromas of hazelnut, walnut shells and lime zest, the bouquet was dazzling. The palate was every bit the equal, exhibiting great harmony even with a gentle warming sensation in the mid-section. Medium-bodied, but I’d bet my house that had this been open a few more days, it would’ve evolved to be a solid heavy weight. Nonetheless, it was a voluptuous and unctuous tawny, rich and smooth. The acidity was “out of this world” and created quite a buzz around the table, almost Madeira like in its cut. Texturally it was like a beautifully aged Burgundy, filled with layers of complexity and lush butterscotch in the middle and end, with extraordinary persistence on the finish. The Quinta da Romaneira is in a different league than almost any other forty year old Tawny Port, with very few rivals that can deliver at this level. 96 points - 4/25/11
|COLHEITA PORT: 1960 KROHN COLHEITA|
1960 Krohn Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Bottled in 2006. The last time I had this was nearly a decade ago and it did not wow me back then, at least that bottle didn’t. This is a few shades darker than the Kopke 1957; coffee-molasses brown with a golden-amber rim. It delivers a reductive nose of soy and teriyaki sauces, potpourri, toasted almonds and a tangy streak of citrus peel. As breathtaking as an extreme rollercoaster ride, the palate of the 1960 Krohn dazzles with intensity due to the laser focused cutting edge of the acidity. Beyond the cut is a rich, chewy and velvety textured crème brûlée-like profile with chocolate nuttiness, tangerine sweet and sour, and maple syrup drizzled on slowly to add an extra layer that lingers on the profound, delicate finish. This was the winning Port of the entire tasting and a huge surprise at that (at least for me). Sheer elegance in a glass! 97 points - 7/30/11
|VINTAGE PORT: 2009 TAYLOR’S VARGELLAS VINHA VELHA|
2009 Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port – Reticent nose that finally emerged on day two, exploding on the scene with scents of rose petals and spicy notes of pepper, licorice, mint and an undertone of pencil shavings and char. It is a harmonious, voluptuous, and massively fruited Vargellas with provocative tannins and an enormous, long, smooth finish. This old vines Vargellas is a prodigious and hedonistic young Port, and clearly the valedictorian of the 2009 class. It will develop beautifully and still show its youth at age forty! 300 cases were produced. 96+ points - 9/3/11
|DOURO WHITE WINE: 2008 NIEPOORT REDOMA BRANCO RESERVA|
2008 Niepoort Redoma Branco Reserva Douro white wine – Along with 2005, this is my favorite vintage of Niepoort’s Reserva. Others may find past vintages more to their liking but this to me epitomizes the finesse and freshness which Dirk loves his whites (and reds) to deliver. I typically find the Redoma Branco Reserva to elicit similarities to premier cru Meursault and the 2008 definitely heads into that spectrum. Lots of minerality, limestone, along with grapefruit, peach and cantaloupe fruit fragrances that are fantastic as this warmed up in glass. There’s a slight oak influence but far less than previous vintages at the same stage. It was a near-perfect accompaniment to Dungeness crab cakes in terms of the flavors melding and in particular the intensity, nervy edge to the acidity and opulent texture; the latter of which is so rare in such a young white wine unless it’s gone through malolactic fermentation (it hasn’t). I recommend laying this down for 2-4 more years before opening one, as it will be absolutely seamless at that point and should drink beautifully for an additional decade or more. This 2008 is one of the best Douro whites I’ve consumed. 94+ points 10/22/11
|DOURO RED WINE: 2004 QUINTA DO CRASTO VINHA DA PONTE|
2004 Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte Douro Red Wine – Vancouver “Dueling Douro” Wine event. Decanted for nearly four hours, this could have used another five or six hours. OMG! In a stunning lineup of brilliant Quinta do Crasto and Vale Dona Maria reds, this was the ultimate show stopper. The alluring fragrances screamed Douro, with loads of briary red and purple fruits and flowers, along with minerals, tar and a hint of vanilla. The remarkable full body and monumental palate crushing concentration of fruit is literally breathtaking. Loaded with ripe tannin and extract and beautifully integrated acidity, this Vinha da Ponte delivered on all cylinders and even with a short decant, it still managed to best any previous showing I’ve had of this 2004. It’s a hedonistic Douro red wine that will live long and prosper. I’ve never done this before, but this particular bottle absolutely deserves … 97+ points 4/2/11
|HOSPITALITY & TOURISM: VILLAR d’ALLEN|
After a pair of visits to the estate of the Allen family, located just a few kilometers from the heart of Porto, what had the greatest impact on me was the Allen family’s old world sense of welcoming guests. By the end of a long afternoon into evening appointment to Villar d’Allen, I felt as if we were saying goodbye to close relatives after a glorious visit.
The property dates back to 1839 when João Allen bought the property as a summer residence on the outskirts of Porto. On October 15th of that same year, JJ Forrester paid a visit to João and signed the guest book. The medieval architecture of the buildings are photo worthy and the enormous park-like setting with extensive botanic gardens and arboretum replete with a lovely pond and trails encircling the grounds; allows for a relaxing meander.
Once inside the large home, which is owned by José Alberto Allen and his wife, it appears more like a museum, with historic artifacts in every single room, on all walls, in displays and everywhere you look. José is a kind and gentle soul and loves to recount the history of the property and the ancestry of his family, which I will write about in an upcoming article. The wine cellar and the treasures buried down there must be seen to be believed, but I will do it justice soon enough.
When one understands the historic link between the Allen’s antecedents, the Rabello Valente family and the fact that they were directly involved with a few of the ownership cycles of Quinta do Noval, everything starts to fall into place. A must visit for Port historians or casual Port-loving tourists. You will never forget the experience or the warmth shown by the Allen family! By appointment only.
|INNOVATIVE MARKETING: SYMINGTON FAMILY ESTATES|
2011 was a busy year for the marketing department of the Symington Family Estates. Congratulations to Henry Sizaret and his entire team! I am not aware of all their incredible accomplishments from last year, but I can certainly highlight some of them and it is quite an impressive list of achievements:
- Recreated and successfully launched their progressive website: The Vintage Port Site
- Launched new packaging on some of their Ports, including entry level Graham’s Port labels as well as an extraordinary presentation with the Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny Gift Pack
- Released 1970 Graham's and 1963 Warre's from the family's cellar in individual wooden gift boxes
- Commenced a major renovation of the Graham's lodge and constructing a restaurant too
- A boxed gift set directly targeting Chinese New Years and the Asian market
- Presentation of a specially prepared case of Warre’s 1972 “Juibleum” Colhieta presented by Dominic Symington to the Amelienborg Palace in Copenhagen in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Danish Queen’s accession to the throne.
- Excellent blog and a significant ongoing presence using social media; e.g. Graham’s FB page
- Sponsored the Concurso dos Saltos (An international equestrian jumping event) in Porto
|CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Francisco “Vito” Olazabal|
Cut from a very different cloth, but with some of the same admirable qualities that define some of the world’s great leaders; this year’s Career Achievement Award goes to Francisco Javier de Olazabal; selected for his decades of influence on the history and prosperity of the Douro region and its greatest resources, Port and Douro wine.
Mr. Olazabal is a rare breed in the Port trade today. An erudite Portuguese statesman, with an abundance of vitality, Vito remains actively involved in guiding his family’s Quinta do Vale Meão. This gentle man has held nearly every possible position in the Port business over the past 45+ years that he’s been directly involved. When Zev Robinson filmed an interview segment with Vito last year, I listened intently to his every word as he recounted what it was like growing up in the Douro region decades before there was television, or even electricity in the valley. His wonderful stories painted a vivid picture of what it must have been like back then and he offered colorful details which enriched the experience of our guests who enjoyed Vito’s storytelling as they sipped Vale Meão’s Port.
I first met Mr. Olazabal in 2003, having approached him draped in my black robe at the Palácio da Bolsa, with George Sandeman at his left flank. The oath I took and tastevin placed around my neck by Vito that day, (as he was Chancellor of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto) forever changed my life, two decades after first falling head over heels for Port wine.
This award is a testament to Mr. Olazabal, whose prolific achievements you will get to read, simply and humbly, in his own words. His reply to my questions were sent back recently, by his daughter Luisa (thank you again!), who did not let on to why I was asking them. His duly generous spirit and ultra sharp mind is not only apparent when in his presence; but as you will glean from his answers, Vito has the extraordinary ability to relay his life’s experiences while kindly responding to what must have seemed like just another detailed interview.
Francisco Javier de Olazabal, during his term as Chancellor of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto
Photograph by kind permission of Jorge Castro
Info on the Confraria can be found on the website of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto.
1. How (and at what age) did you realize your life was destined to be shaped by Port/Douro wine?
Since my birth, I was privileged to live in a wine environment. Both my father, Jaime de Olazabal and my grandfather, Ramon, were Directors and shareholders of Ferreira. My paternal grand-mother Maria Luisa Ferreira de Mendoça, shared with a sister the ownership of Quinta do Vale Meão. On my mother’s side, my great-grandfather José Maria Rebello Valente owned Quinta do Noval, and was a port shipper. Later on, the brand Rebello Valente was acquired by Robertson which used it to name their Vintage Port. Curiously, that brand now belongs to Sandeman and therefore, Sogrape!
On this side of the family, my great-grandfather, Afonso Cabral was the owner of Quinta do Cachão and Quinta do Paço do Monsul, which still belongs to some of his descendants. It was there and by his knowledgeable and loving hand that I had my first and unforgettable contact with the Douro. So, when I graduated Oporto University with a degree in Economics, my choice was already made and in 1968, I married Maria Luisa Rosas Nicolau de Almeida, (Zinha) daughter of Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, who was Chief Oenologist of Ferreira for 62 years. As a matter of fact I feel that I didn’t choose wine – it was wine that chose me!
Francisco & Zinha Olazabal
2. Beyond your parents, who was the greatest mentor or influence in your career?
It’s difficult for me to select one single person as the greatest mentor or influence in my career. I must start by mentioning my father, who used to say that the best education resulted from the example. Truth be told, he had a great influence on me and on all his collaborators through his intelligence, dedication and extreme honesty.
Then I had the good fortune of sharing the responsibility of running Ferreira together with men of great quality; first my father-in-law Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, who joined Ferreira in the same year as my father and worked there for 62 years (this must be a world record!). He was a brilliant oenologist and a great humorist, who taught me amongst other things that if you don’t feel pleasure in making your wines they will not please the consumer! My cousins Jorge Ferreira and Mário Flores, followed by Guilherme Alvares Ribeiro and Alvaro Ferreira and more recently, during the Sogrape period, Fernando and Salvador Guedes, Gastão Lopes and Joaquim Cabral Menezes.
From outside my wine circle, I owe a lot to Artur Santos Silva. We have been friends since our youth. He was the best Law student at Coimbra University, and besides his short but successful stint as Treasury Secretary of State, Artur followed an outstanding banking career as the founder and promoter of BPI, the first privatized bank, following the bloodless revolution of April 25th1974.
In 1979, I introduced Artur to my father, who was deeply impressed by his intelligence, his refined stature and his moral standing. We had the good sense to encourage him to become the Chairman of the Shareholders' Meeting at Ferreira. In that esteemed position he provided me with invaluable assistance on so many occasions, that ever since then, I seek out his profound wisdom and friendship every time I have a difficult problem to face. Besides being Chairman of BPI, Artur was recently elected Chairman of the gigantic Gulbenkian Foundation. I refer to him as “my guardian angel”.
3. Can you please give a basic “timeline” from your entry into the Port business, throughout your career path, mentioning the positions you have held during these years?
- 1966 – Managing Director of Sociedade dos Vinhos do Porto Constantino, a Ferreira subsidiary, and assistant Director of Ferreira
- 1982 – Succeeded my Father, Jaime de Olazabal, as President of Ferreira
- 1987 – Further to the takeover of Ferreira by Sogrape, I was reelected as its President.
- 1989 – President of Sogrape Distribuição, a company created to distribute the whole range of Sogrape wines in the domestic market.
- 1990 – Elected as member of the Board of Sogrape Vinhos de Portugal S.A.
- 1994 – Together with my children I purchased 62% of Quinta do Vale Meão from my cousins, thus becoming sole proprietors
- 1998 – I renounced my posts in the Sogrape Group in order to develop my own project at Vale Meão. The first DOC Douro wines were launched – Quinta do Vale Meão and Meandro – both from the 1999 vintage. Our first Vintage Port was the 2000.
I have also served in several wine institutions:
- 1974 to 1979; 1991 – 1992 member of the Board of Directors of the Associação de Exportadores de Vinho do Porto, founded in 1974; between 1992 and 1994, President of the Board.
- 2001 to 2009 – “Chancellor” ( Chairman) of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto.
- 1999 to 2004 – President of The Oporto Golf Club, the oldest club in the Iberian Peninsula; founded in 1890 by the British Port Wine shippers.
- In 2004, I received from President of Republic, Jorge Sampaio, the degree of “Grande Official” of the Order of Agricultural Merit.
- In 2011 the Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD) granted me the title of ”Doutor Honoris Causa”
4. Running a company as enormous and multifaceted as Ferreira, and later Quinta do Vale do Meão; how were you able to maintain balance between time spent with family and business?
I’m trying to compensate for a moderate but undeniable negligence towards my family during the Ferreira years, by now having most of them as my partners and collaborators!
5. Which unforgettable moments can you share from your years as Chancellor of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto?
The revamping of the Ceremony of the Annual Enthronization, which now involves walking through the Old Oporto streets in procession from the Palácio da Bolsa to the Old Customs House, at which takes place a gala dinner followed by a ball. I believe these changes gave a better visibility and brilliance to this event.
The Confraria do Vinho do Porto is presumably the Wine Brotherhood which has the biggest number of Government Leaders and Chiefs of State as its honorary members (Cancelários). I was happy to enthronize 11 of them during my mandate, although I cannot compete in that field with my predecessor and friend António Filipe who enthronized 21 of them in one day - during the Iberian-American Summit Conference held in Oporto, (The King of Spain and Fidel Castro were amongst them)
José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission and former Prime Minister of Portugal.
6. During your lifetime, what is the single greatest change you’ve witnessed in the Douro Valley?
I believe that the generation which includes my son Francisco, Enologists and Agricultural Engineers that decided to come to the Douro after graduating at the University of Trás-os- Montes e Alto Douro and also at the Biotechnology School of Oporto University gave a tremendous push to the international recognition of the Douro region as the source of wines of great quality and character. It is a fact that they have been more focused in dry wines, because Port was a more mature market dominated by long-established brands. But I feel that they are increasingly attracted by Port
7. What are a few of the achievements you are most proud of in your career?
During the Ferreira years, I was directly involved in the decision, (during the 1970’s) to abandon bulk shipments and concentrate efforts on selling our Ports under our own brands and bottling them in Portugal. This was not an easy task since the import duties in most countries penalized bottle imports. We managed however, to persuade our distributors to partner with us in these efforts, and the move turned out to be a great success.
At the same time, we decided to invest in the domestic market with an aggressive marketing campaign – we were the first company to advertise on television! Besides reinforcing Ferreira’s brand leadership, I believe we greatly contributed to the explosion in domestic consumption.
In a different register, becoming the sole owner of Quinta do Vale Meão was the realization of a lifelong dream. My father had only owned a 6.25% share in Meão, and we were five children. In my father’s generation there were 16 owners. So for more than twenty years, until 1994, I kept buying shares from my relatives, when finally the remaining 6 co-proprietors decided to propose that I buy their 62% share. I almost lost my breath.
I am also proud that I was retained as President of Ferreira by Sogrape after the take-over, and then, being invited to join the Sogrape board three years later. I am deeply grateful to the Guedes family, not only for that, but also for having managed the integration of Ferreira into their group while showing the utmost respect for the people and core values of our company.
8. Would you please share some of the most memorable Port wines you’ve tasted from your own company, as well as those of your competitors?
Ferreira Garrafeira 1815 and 1847 (the latter of which is from Moscatel grapes). The 1983 Ferreira Vintage Port; 1931 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port; 1970 Taylor; 1994 Graham’s, and some of the Niepoort Colheitas. May I add, without looking too partial, the 2000 Quinta do Vale Meão Vintage Port?
9. Looking into a crystal ball at the future, what do you foresee to be the most significant development in Port and/or the Douro in the coming generation?
I think that we must adapt ourselves to the probable decline of the markets where Port is basically drunk as an aperitif, and therefore, to a general decrease in export volumes. This should be compensated by a more concentrated and sustained effort in promoting the premium Port categories in order to increase the average prices, and also by focusing efforts on promoting and improving the image of Douro wine throughout the world. Additionally, this evolution should be complemented and supported by attracting the right type of tourists to the Douro valley and to Oporto.
10. As a direct descendant of Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira, how reassuring is it to know that her property, and now yours, Quinta do Vale Meão, will continue on to your children and to theirs someday?
Since he was a young boy, my son Francisco (Xito) always intended to become an oenologist. His desire to bring his family to live in Vale Meão was vital to our decision of developing the project to produce our own wines. Some years later, my daughter Luisa, who had benefited from a good training in the wine trade by working for 8 years at Rozés/Vranken/Pommery, decided to accept my invitation to join our company. My other son, Jaime works in a bank, but he loves the Quinta as well and goes there very often with his friends to go hunting and fishing. And my wife Zinha plays the fundamental role of making sure that all of our numerous guests keep good memories of their visit to the Quinta.
So I feel that my great-great-grandmother, Antónia Adelaide Ferreira had a vision of the future and was thinking about us when she decided, against the will of some of her closest collaborators, to buy a big area of barren land and transform it into Vale Meão.
Therefore, I have good reason to trust that my descendants will happily carry on this long standing family tradition!