Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2019: Day 8

8 12 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

We begin week 2 of this Advent blogging saga with a bang, at least if you love Port. I will admit to being rather intimidated by this fortified wine style when I first started learning about wine. I had a vague recollection of trying Port for dessert years ago, long before any explicit attempts to develop an educated palate, and thought it tasted like NyQuil. I’m guessing this was a relatively inexpensive ruby example, one blended to match a particular house style and designed for early drinking. Since those dark times, and with the benefit of a few technical tastings under my belt (a few of those are detailed on this very blog), I’ve become an aficionado of good quality vintage Ports and tawnies. They remain a rare treat, but one much appreciated. I unwrap this bottle, see the phrase “10 Year Old Tawny Port”, and my mind is immediately jubilant with associations of toffee, nuts, and other sundry warm and festive sugarplum tastiness.

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All Ports are made by fermenting grapes (usually red) for a relatively brief period, typically to the point of around 5-6% ABV, at which point a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente is used to arrest the fermentation, boosting the alcohol content but also leaving residual sugar in the wine. At this juncture the “what type of Port am I making” decision tree becomes more complicated, and here our focus must be on tawny Port. These wines are aged in old wooden barrels called pipes, during which time exposure to oxygen and evaporation occur. This oxidation mellows the wine into a golden brown hue over time, and also imparts nutty flavours that distinguish tawnies from ruby and vintage ports. Although vintage tawny Ports do exist (they are called colheitas and are sublime), entry level tawnies are blends of different vintages, with most of the component wines being aged at least 3 years and then combined to yield a desired house style. Above this quality tier are bottles like the present one that carry an indication of age. Note that the age indication is in fact a “target age” based on desired characteristics in the wine: these aged tawnies still represent a blend of several vintages, and the Port house is looking to provide a wine that tastes characteristically like it has been aging for 10 years in barrel, for instance. Sure, some of the wine in the blend is legitimately quite old, but not necessarily all. It might help to think about the designated age as an “average” age, although technically even that is not correct. The basic notion is that a 10 year old tawny should be fruitier and less complex than a 40 year old tawny.

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You might now understand why I found this topic daunting when first learning about it. Despair not, for if these technical details threatened to put you to sleep, a half bottle of 19.5% ABV fortified wine should be just the thing to perk you up. Perhaps more compelling is the story of Porto Quevedo, a relatively small family winery based in the Douro. Historically families such as the Quevedos grew grapes and made wine that was sold  to merchants based in Vila Nova de Gaia, with such wines likely used as blending components by the larger houses. However, in 1986 legislation changed to allow growers and individual wineries to export their wines directly to the retailer. Oscar, a lawyer and notary by trade, first bought vineyards in 1977. After several years of helping his father João to make Port, in 1990 he built his own winery and was finally able to nurture his true passion, with son Oscar Jr. handling the business side of things and soccer-hating daughter Claudia (I hear ya) formerly handling the winemaking (she still helps with blending). The winery has a wonderful website and even a blog that is imbued with a real down-to-earth, non-pretentious human touch, right down to inviting critical commentary on the wines. Challenge accepted.

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Stopper Rating: 1/10 (oh, COME ON!!!)

The Porto Quevedo 10 Year Old Tawny Port is comprised of Touriga Franca (25%), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo; 25%), Touriga Nacional (5%), Tinto Cão (5%), Tinta Barroca (20%), and other grapes (20%; over 100 grapes are sanctioned for Port production, including many rarities). Interestingly, the fermentation is described as “slow”, perhaps relative to other Ports. This is notably brickish in colour for a 10 year old tawny. The nose initially flashes some bright and fruity character, recalling maraschino cherries, raspberry jam, dried apricot, burnt orange peel, and pumpkin pie filling, with some nuttiness (pecans, chestnuts, sesame snap) and caramel that meld into a nice facsimile of Turtles candy. The palate largely echoes this array of aromas but is not purely sweet, with a gritty underlay of graphite, red rubber utility ball, and the ashy white ghosts of charcoal briquettes. With further air over the course of about an hour (hey, it’s a Sunday night, I’m sipping over here!), the palate softens to a more silky fine texture, and further oxidized characters emerge: sultanas/raisin or molasses pie, figs, ginger snaps, and a general deepening of the smooth toffee vibe. I like how this stitches together over time, with the wine showing better if you are patient.

88+ points





Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 23

23 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

I was hoping there would be a fortified wine somewhere in this calendar. Eureka, and it is a Port. I do not hate Sherry, but I LOVE Port. Making Port involves adding grape spirit to stop fermentation of (usually) red wine just before its midpoint, usually two or three days into the process when about 5-6% alcohol has been produced. Enough spirit is added to bring the alcohol level up to around 20%, halting the fermentation and leaving residual sugar in the wine. I am also excited to see some of Dirk van Der Niepoort’s work represented. These labels remind me of vintage soda bottles. More importantly, Dirk is an eccentric, dynamic, and highly animated wine producer who is known for innovation, and for saying (as well as doing) certain things that might enrage the more traditionally-minded, even as he never forgets his family’s five generation history of making wines in the Douro Valley. Before launching into what will be my last Advent entry for this particular calendar, some background information about Tawny Port is in order.

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High quality tawny Ports (or “aged tawnies”) typically rest in partially unfilled wooden barrels for at least six years, the wine exposed to oxygen so as to become browned and mellow before bottling. This is how such wines acquire certain classic aroma and flavour descriptors, including nuts or toffee. In this case oxidation is not a wine-making fault but rather a deliberate tool used to produce a particular style. However, so-called tawny Ports run a gamut from these sometimes venerable wines made from grapes all harvested in a single vintage (dubbed “Colheitas”) or average-aged across multiple vintages (10/20/30/40 Year Tawnies) all the way down to light-coloured waifs that have seen scarcely more aging time than their ruby counterparts, made with less ripe (and hence less darkly coloured) grapes from the cooler Baixo Corgo subregion of the Douro Valley or subjected to other winemaking techniques to keep the colour pale. The present wine would seem to fall roughly in the middle of this continuum: this has seen some genuine barrel aging, but less than that typically seen for an “aged tawny”. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Limited Edition Port

9 01 2018

Happy New Year!  Pop & Pour returns after a lengthy and dearly needed post-Wine-and-Whisky-Advent break with a bottle that would have graced this page last year but for the 49 other calendar-based things that had to do so in December instead.  Rest assured that the delay is no commentary on what’s in the bottle.  2017 would have been a preferable year to write up Taylor Fladgate’s 325th Anniversary special-release Tawny Port, if for no other reason than that it was the actual year of the 325th anniversary in question, thanks to Taylor’s founding way back in 1692.  Thankfully, the juice is just as delicious in 2018, and there are still a number of stores in town that have stock remaining (though this Limited Edition is sold out at the import agent level, so act fast if you want some!).

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Happy (belated) anniversary, Taylor Fladgate!  We’re back!!

Unlike most fancy commemorative releases from leading lights in the world of wine, Taylor Fladgate has done something daring and remarkable and borderline audacious with this celebratory flask:  it has made it accessible to the drinking audience at large.  Rather than building this one-off Tawny from ultra-rarified sources and then pricing it into the stratosphere (which it could easily have done, and quite successfully), it instead opted to take the top component lots of wines otherwise destined for its 10 through 40 Year Tawny lineup, blend them to about a 15 Year average, then age them together for 18 months so that it could release this (utterly spectacular looking) bottle at a shade below $50 retail.  Taylor intended this to be celebratory and drinkable at large, a monument for the masses, a conversation piece rather than a museum piece.  If this does not instantly become the next birthday gift you want to buy for the wine lover in your life, I worry for you. Read the rest of this entry »








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