Relics Tasting: “Old? rags are the old!”

by | Apr 8, 2018 | Relics, Wine | 0 comments

On March 17th, Wine4People (W4P) joined at the house of Manuel Brás (MB) for our usual monthly tasting, this time a “Relics Tasting”. Besides Manuel, there were also Paulo Fernando (PF), Rui Brás (RB) and myself, Gil Pinto (GP) – “armed” with the corkscrew, a fundamental instrument, I assure you, to take out old corks.

The gastronomy was in charge of the competent Sofia, Manuel’s wife.

The only rule for the wines in this event was that they would have to be over 15 years old, that is, from 2003 behind. Within this broad criterion, wines could be considered a “relic” for innumerable reasons. Because they are of a particularly advanced age (such as Viúva Gomes, whites or Madeira), because they are a first edition (such as Chryseia, Pan or T), because they have some important relevance in our wine panorama like Fojo), because they are foreign wines already of some age, that can not be drunk every day (like Dofí), because they come from absolutely “niche” regions (like Boullosa and again Viúva Gomes) or even because they are old wines with a brand that was completely unknown to us, but which the producer had the courage and confidence to send to our tasting (like the Visconde). Or maybe even for some other reason …

The W4P’s monthly tastings are usually blind so that the opinion is obviously not influenced by brands, regions, harvest years, etc. However, for this time, we have decided to keep the evidence open. The main reason was that the wine selection criterion was so wide (it could be white or red, table or fortified, be 15 or 55 years old and be from any region, from any country), which we would probably miss in a blind proof and, on the other hand, to spend a little alongside the stories behind each wine, which are indispensable in a tasting of “relics.”

Another important reason why we kept the tasting not blind was that we could choose the order in which we would taste the wines, and it seemed to us that in order to get the most pleasure out of the nectars, it would have to be determined beforehand. And what was the right order? The whites in the beginning and fortifieds in the end: in this there were no great doubts. The sequence of the reds, after the whites and before the fortifications, would no longer be so linear. It seemed well to us: Terras do Sado, Alentejo, Douro, Bairrada, Colares. The biggest difficulty was the Priorat. Finally, a quick test in the beginning located it, by its profile, between the “T” of Terrugem and the Golds.

I consider myself a good lover of old wines and I think a great majority of good wines in Portugal are drunk too early. This has to do with the fact that the wines are launched into the market very young (which is a decision of the producers, which I do not have to discuss or criticize) and the fact that consumers do not have the patience , space or even knowledge to store the wines.

If many bottles are opened too early, it is curious that the opposite also happens: people who keep everything that is wine, even the one that was not born to grow old. When, after a few years of treasured care, certain bottles are opened, great disappointments are made. And this also contributes to the idea put in many consumers that “by the insurance, it is better to drink them all in young, before they spoil …”.

Let us then go to the wines, which we have now begun and the prose is already long:

Conde de Santar

  • Region: Dão
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: White
  • Grape varieties: N/A
  • Year: 1985
  • Producer: Casa de Santar
  • Alcohol content: 12%
  • Price: N/A
  • Rating: GP 16 / PF 16,5 / MB 17 / RB 17

This wine came from Paulo Fernando’s grandfather wine cellar, who kept it in good condition until the wine finally gave the soul to the creator for our tasting. And for a wine not made to age for over 30 years, it was in great shape! The level was good and the cork was in good condition. The color was beautiful, golden straw, bright. On the nose delicate, with discreet lemon peel and hidden honey notes that are gaining preponderance as the wine heats up. It is also noticeable a discreet anizaded with vegetal character, quite interesting. In the mouth it is dry, with good acidity. It lacks perhaps a little intensity, but the balance it presents makes it elegant and seductive. Because of its light and delicate profile, and because of its age, it would be advised not to serve too cold (say at 10-12ºC). Good start!

  • 16.5 Valores

Porta de Cavaleiros Reserva Seleccionada

  • Region: Dão
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: White
  • Grape varieties: N/A
  • Year: 1985
  • Producer: Caves São João
  • Alcohol content: 13%
  • Price: N/A
  • Rating: GP 17,5 / PF 17 / MB 16,5 / RB 17,5

The cork looked a bit ruined, but just a little, since the level was flawless. It began sinking with the pincers, but it was possible to retrieve it and remove it with the conventional corkscrew, but not without having partially undone it. The initial scent was unpleasant, which slightly increased the worries: decanter with it! In the glass is also a golden straw, but more closed than the previous one, with some touches of topaz. It breathed while we tasted the Santar, and when he returned to the table, he was much more friendly. Even so, it had unpleasant aromas of fermented straw and boiled apples. Over time in the cup, however, these were fading and the wine finished the tasting at great! The focus on the nose is citrus, with lemon peel, with mineral touches of matchbox and flint on the nose that give it a lot of interest. The citric profile remains in the mouth, very fresh, acidity well alive, crispy, and with good intensity. The end is too long! As with the previous one, too low temperature will hide the most delicate nuances, which give it some complexity. As a reference in this tasting, the importance of decanting to give the wine time to breathe whenever it presents more unpleasant aromas (that does not oxidize, of course: it does not disappear with the breath), be it red or white. I know many tables of “experts” in which this wine would have been declared dead and gone directly sink down without having been given the opportunity to reveal itself. What they would have lost …

  • 17 Valores

Visconde de Alcácer

  • Region: Terras do Sado
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varieties: Aragonês, Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira
  • Year: 2003
  • Producer: Herdade da Barrosinha
  • Alcohol content: N/D
  • Price: N/D
  • Rating: GP 17 / PF 17 / MB 16,5 / RB 16,5

This wine was completely unknown to us all, so the expectations were not high nor low: we had no expectations at all. The only thing that made me more hopeful was that the bottle was kindly provided by the producer specifically for this tasting. He would know what he was sending … And, in fact, it was a beautiful surprise, this wine. Grenade color not too deep. The nose does not hide a touch of Brett, but at a level that did not offend me, and that is also not enough to hide the notes of ripe red and plum fruit. In the mouth it is dry, with green tannins, not in great quantity. It has a vegetable and spicy touch, where black pepper prevails. It also has a mineral character, which suggests that the vines are in proximity to the sea and / or planted in sandy soils. Very well!

  • 17 Valores

“T” – Quinta da Terrugem 1999

  • Region: Alentejo
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varieties: Aragonês, Trincadeira
  • Year: 1999
  • Producer: Quinta da Terrugem
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • Price: N/D
  • Rating: GP 18 / PF 18 / MB 18 / RB 18

In 1999, Michel Rolland and Francisco Antunes made 14,531 bottles of this wine, in the first edition, created to become an icon of the Alentejo. Michel Rolland was already familiar with the region, notably through his famous partnership with the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation for the elaboration of another iconic Alentejo wine, Pêra-Manca. Like any icon, it was an expensive wine at the time. € 50 was already well bought. Today, it is difficult to find and the references available (30-40 € per bottle in auction estimate, for example) are outdated. As for me, I bought it for a trifle in a unique opportunity and, by decorum, I will not say exactly the price I paid for a few dozen bottles …. The level was at the base of the neck, but the cork was still competent, though narrowly. The color was already a little open, showing grenades with a brick glaze. The nose is very interesting and complex, with red background fruit, but with coffee and spices (cinnamon) to give complexity. Maybe a touch of volatile acidity? In the mouth, there are notes of red fruit and black plum, well framed by vegetable nuances (black tea) probably coming from the 10% of Trincadeira grape varietal that constitutes the lot. The tannins are still alive and persist in a long, spicy finish. This is the classic Alentejo in all its splendor! Although I still have a few years to live, I think that it is now in a good phase of consumption and that it will not gain much more from the guard. Although it is “only” 14% alcoholic, it is noticeable in the mouth, so keep in mind the temperature (I would say that it should not go too high to 18ºC). It was, consensually, one of the best wines in evidence.

  • 18 Valores

Finca Dofí 1998

  • Region: Priorat
  • Pais: Spain
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varieties: Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
  • Year: 1998
  • Producer: Alvaro Palacios
  • Alcohol content: 13.7%
  • Price: 75€
  • Rating: GP 18 / PF 17,5 / MB 17,5 / RB 17

Alvaro Palacios is one of the main producers of Priorat, in Catalonia, and of Spain in general. Its most renowned wine, L’Ermita, is recognized all over the world and reaches stratospheric prices. This Finca Dofí is the second of the hierarchy and is also a wine of signed parchments. I had this bottle on my guard (it was offered to me a few years ago by a great Spanish friend, an extraordinary wine connoisseur: Nacho, from Valencia), and not being able to prove a Dofi with 20 years, why not take it to our relics tasting event and internationalize the event? No sooner said than done. Waxed stopper, flawless. In color, it features a charged, dark, shiny, thick garnet in the glass. The nose is very austere, with mildew initially. If at first it is strange, it quickly fades, and the mold gives way to old wood, wood, mushrooms. Also a hint of spice (cinnamon, again). In the mouth it is dry, intense but balanced, elegant, with well polished tannins but still in quantity. It still seems to have a good few years to go: if I had more bottles I would not run to open just yet. Less consensual, the remaining diners did not appreciate this wine as much as I did.

  • 17.5 Valores

Fojo 2000

  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varieties: N/D
  • Year: 2000
  • Producer: Quinta do Fojo
  • Alcohol content: 14%
  • Price: 75€
  • Rating: GP 17,5 / PF 17,5 / MB 17,5 / RB 17

This Fojo was recently (2014) relaunched in the market, in a very small quantity (only 600 bottles) and became famous for being the first Portuguese wine to get a score of 97 points awarded by Mark Squires (eRobertParker.com ). I do not know if any other Portuguese wine got such a distinction later, because I am not a frequent follower of evaluations by foreign critics of Portuguese wines. Nothing to say about the cork. It presents a garnet color, very slight for a wine made of old vine of the Douro, even if already with 18 years of age. If the color surprises, already in the nose this wine is “Douro in your face”! With the notes of Tinta Barroca grape varietal to dominate (red fruit in the form of cherry, raspberry, gooseberry and some aniseed, licorice, reminiscent of the nose of some Vintage Port or LBV’s), also presents vegetal profile (Esteva). In the mouth, it presents itself with the focus again on the ripe red fruit, with long and sweet, mineral and elegant finish. The tannins are still very green, in such a way that the wine looks still young! Although I do not follow the opinions of foreign critics, as I have already mentioned, I have read that of Mark Squires, which I obviously advise (can be read at www.quintadofojo.pt), and where it is said that wine can be drunk until 2030. I would say (* ahem! *) If the wine won in such a thunderous way (yes, I think it is not yet at the point to drink!) The first 18 years – the most difficult – then the window of consumption will not safely close in next 12, and will have many more years (decades?) ahead! I was very pleased with it on the first impression. However, when I returned there on a quick second round of the wines for a final note, unlike the others, he had dropped his arms and lost some of the liveliness and freshness, as well as that direct profile of Douro.

  • 17.5 Valores

Chryseia 2000

  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão
  • Year: 2000
  • Producer: Prats & Symington
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • Price: 100€
  • Rating: GP 17,5 / PF 18 / MB 18 / RB 17,5

Speaking of relics: the first edition of the icon of the Douro Chryseia, anyone? In my research I learned that “chryseia” means “golden” in Greek, in an allusion to the valley from which it comes. Impeccable stopper. Like the predecessor, it does not have a very deep color, although it is a bit more painted. In this second Douro wine the focus shifts to forest fruit such as raspberry and blueberry. On the nose is a bit disconcerting, with notes of tar along with the fruit. But what attracts the most attention is its green profile, with green and aggressive tannins, to give an idea that has not yet reached the ideal point of consumption. It seems that the wine has not yet been freed from the Herculean structure that encloses it. Note that in the realization of this first edition no concessions were made, it is a brutal wine! Such is the strength of the tannins, which Rui said that seems to be a wine of early harvest and vinified with pedicel, with which I agreed whole and immediately. But I went to study and even was not the case: the harvest began on September 13th and ended on October 5th! In the technical sheet there is also no mention of stings, only “maceration by reassembly and controlled temperature (28 to 30ºC)”. It seems that we deceive ourselves, Rui, nor does it seem our thing … heheh. Out of jokes, this is a wine with many years of life ahead, which in my opinion will still benefit from another good years in the bottle. When they will be ready? I have no idea.

  • 18 Valores

Vinha Pan 1995

  • Region: Bairrada
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varietal: Baga
  • Year: 1995
  • Producer: Luís Pato
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • Price: N/A
  • Rating: GP 18 / PF 17,5 / MB 18 / RB 16,5

Brought by Paulo, who managed to find it in a Reliquary (read “Garrafeira”) in Bairro Alto, in Lisbon, it is also the first edition of an iconic wine from an unavoidable producer in the region of Bairrada. This was one of the 6800 bottles launched into the market 23 years ago. I do not know if 1995 was a particularly good year in Bairrada, but I have grateful memories of a Bágeiras from the same year that I drank a few years ago and enjoyed very much, in such a way that it was one of the wines that contributed in an indelible way to the my interest in wines with some age. No problems with the cork. The color presents the normal signs of evolution for a wine over 20 years old, nothing that was not expected. This wine is BAGA in its most noble and pure state! Note the notes of cedar (it is gaining prominence over time), pine, forest, wet land, mushrooms. Still very well structured, with very strong tannins, it will last for at least a good 10 years. For me, it was an extraordinary experience to be able to sample this charming Berry! It was probably my favorite red wine.

  • 17.5 Valores

Viúva Gomes 1965

  • Region: Colares
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Red
  • Grape varietal: Ramisco
  • Year: 1965
  • Producer: Adega Viúva Gomes
  • Alcohol content: 11%
  • Price: 85€
  • Rating: GP 17 / PF 18,5 / MB 18 / RB 16

At last the time came for the most respectful old gentleman of our race. Older than any of the diners at the table (which is to say little) or any other of the wines present. And no, it was not a fortified: it was a Ramisco de Colares! That we were kindly given by José Baeta on a recent visit to the Cellar. Like any wine with an extraordinarily creased character, this was not consensual. For some, it was at the level of the best; for others, it was the least pleased. Great, show character! It was not the ones I especially appreciated, despite the overwhelming respect that 53 years of life in a table wine imposes on a mere mortal who does not know if he will ever attain that age … No problem with the cork. The color is surprisingly deep for such an old Ramisco. The pungent volatile acidity is, in my opinion, the main imbalance of the wine, it is in the limit. Besides, this is a fantastic experience: the salinity is absolutely incredible and unique; to accompany there are balsamic notes (pine resin) and exotic woods. The tannins are soft (finally, after more than 50 years!) And accompany the palate in its long finish. A wine that is far from indifferent and therefore far from being dead.

  • 17.5 Valores

Carcavelos Casa Manoel Boullosa 1991

  • Region: Lisboa
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Fortified
  • Grape varieties: N/A
  • Year: 1991
  • Producer: Quinta dos Pesos
  • Alcohol content: 20%
  • Price: 19€
  • Rating: GP 17,5 / PF 18 / MB 18 / RB 17,5

In a test of relics could not miss a Carcavelos, surely the smallest DOC of Portugal and one of the smallest in the World! Relative – poor not !, previously unknown – of the family of the national fortifications, has lived in the shadow of monsters (also extraordinary) like Ports, Madeiras and Moscatéis. The Carcavelos wine was patronized by the Marquis of Pombal, one of the main producers to date; however, it was only in 1908 that the region was demarcated. It came to be exported all over the world, its fame exacerbated by the shortage of Port wine during the French invasions of the Iberian Peninsula, but several consecutive catastrophes almost managed to erase definitively the wine of Carcavelos from the face of the earth. Only a few (few) vineyards survived first to powdery mildew, then to phylloxera, and finally to the terrible real estate speculation that was established on the lands of the municipalities of Oeiras and Cascais. There are recommended vine varieties, with a minimum recommended participation of 75% of the final lot and authorized vine varieties, with a maximum authorized participation of 25%. Of these, the star is the Golden Muscatel, which is practically only planted here. But I digress too much: let’s go to the wine. In color, it comes with a beautiful amber. The nose impresses the surprisingly fresh tropical fruit, with tertiary notes of resins making, for reference, some woods. In the mouth is very intense, with great sweetness (notes of honey at the end), which is very well balanced by the excellent acidity. It is also very complex, with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom being noted. Another characteristic that I appreciated a lot was the mineral notes of gunpowder and iodine, revealing the influence of the Atlantic, right next to it. He accompanied beautifully the dessert of Serica Pastry Bread Rala, Évora, one of the best Alentejo (this time without the famous jelly-pruned Elvas plum, which would probably clash with the wine). This Carcavelos is rare, it does not require particularly difficult to guard and has a very difficult to beat quality / price ratio in terms of fortifications. I strongly advise you to buy it. I already got supplies!

  • 18 Valores

Cossart Gordon Sercial 1971

  • Region: Madeira
  • Country: Portugal
  • Type: Fortified
  • Grape varietial: Sercial
  • Year: 1971
  • Producer: Madeira Wine Company
  • Alcohol content: 19%
  • Price: 170€
  • Rating: GP 18,5 / PF 18,5 / MB 18,5 / RB 18

For the end was the one that was, consensually, the best wine of the relics tasting. The bottle, brought by Paulo, was not in the program and was the only one that came covered to the table. While we were already in the fortifieds, and being a wine brought by Paul, the possibilities of being a Madeira were strong. And as soon as the cork was removed (difficult operation, even with the tweezers), it was enough to put the nose to the bottleneck to be more convinced that it was a noble example of the best wine in the World. It could only be, and it was! We tried to guess the grape varietal, and we still went to Terrantez because of its dry, tropical profile, but we did not suspect it was a Sercial. Nor do we dare try to identify the year of the harvest, but it would not be impossible to guess, since 1971 is the year of Paul’s birth. In the glass was cloudy amber, with a topaz background. In its tropical profile it has notes of delicious fruit, autochthonous of the island of Madeira that I identify thanks to my Madeiran ancestry and that brings me grateful memories of my childhood. Missing reference to what is delicious fruit (which I advise you to try once you move to Madeira), you can substitute for notes of papaya, which Paul very well identified. In the mouth, it is extraordinarily tense, with great intensity and impressive structure. In addition to the tropical fruit, in the long end, the nuts predominate, in a mineral composition of iodine and phosphorus box, very well framed by the incredible acidity. What a great ending!

  • 18.5 Valores

CONCLUSIONS:
My first conclusion is that it is a privilege for me to be the spokesperson for the W4P of this fantastic meeting! It was an extraordinary tasting in which we did not have to be subjected to mishaps that often happen in this context, where one or more bottles were not in condition: all the wines were on a brilliant plateau! The next conclusion is that we have a country absolutely unmatched in the wine landscape, from the point of view of variability (from the mainstream Douro, Dão and Alentejo to the charming “niche” wines such as Colares, Carcavelos or Madeira) or from the view of the longevity (here, the Madeira are unbeatable and the aging capacity of the Colares is amazing!). A third conclusion is that this was not a proof of “old wines”: rather a test of “wines with age.” Because “old? rags are old”! … In fact, some of them, particularly the Douros, presented themselves too young, despite their respectable age. Amazing!…
And what, after all, were the victors? There are many answers. The winner of all the winners was, by consensus, Madeira – an extraordinary relic! In the whites, the Cavaleiros was the preferred, although the Santar appeared in good form. Regarding the reds the decision was more difficult, but the discussion is also more interesting. Let’s see: if we look at the preferred red wine of each of the tasters, Pan Vine was the one that collected more personal preferences (for me and Manuel); however, if we take into account the average final classification, the “T” of Quinta de Terrugem was the best (we all attributed 18 values); finally, the wine that singularly snatched the highest note among all notes, was the Colares, in which the Paul, seduced by its charms, attributed a respectable 18.5 values!

Only in extraordinary proof of * true relics * could our senses be challenged in this way! bravo!

G.P.
Wine4people, March 24th, 2018

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