On Thursday 7th of September, for the first time in ten years, a tasting of the current vintage release for Port wines was hosted in Dublin. The event was taking place in the Merrion hotel and was organised by Barbara Boyle MW and Ben Mason from Mason Wine company.
The first part of the event was dedicated to the impact of service temperature of Port. Barbara Boyle has completed her research paper for the MW exam by researching this topic in depth, working closely with the sensory research lab in UCC, Cork.
As explained by Barbara, temperature is a very important factor in how we perceive Port. Not only it affects the perception of aromas and flavours, the intensity of aromas and flavours but also the taste of Port (sweetness, sourness and bitterness) and its mouthfeel (astringency, body and alcohol).
The research was conducted on two styles of Port : Niepoort Reserve Ruby and Niepoort 10 years old tawny. Each of the Port were analysed at different temperatures : 10, 13, 16 and 19 degrees Celsius.
Some of the conclusions drawn from this studies are the following :
- The decrease in temperature between 19 and 10 degrees decreases the perception of aromas by 20% and flavours by 10%. Because tawny style is more intense aromatically to start with, it remains more intense than a Ruby style when served at a lower temperature.
- Temperature does not have any impact on the perception of sweetness
- Decreasing temperature increases the perception of acidity from a temperature of 13 degrees and lower.
- Decreasing temperature increases astringency and decreases the perception of alcohol.
As a conclusion, the optimum service temperature for a Ruby style is somewhere between 13 and 16 degrees. The optimum service temperature for a Tawny style is somewhere between 10 and 13 degrees. If you want to maintain aromas and flavours, it is important to not go below 10 degrees.
I think that these results are fascinating and I would love to them used in restaurants as a point of reference. It is still common practice to serve Port directly from a shelf, at room temperature and unfortunately this is damaging the image and enjoyment of Port by perpetuating the idea and perception that Port is a warming, rich, wintery drink only. I truly believe that if an emphasis was put on serving Port wines a the right temperature and in the right glassware, the versatility, drinkability and enjoyment of Port could be far more wide spread. Let’s hope that these results will be widely communicated and used by sommeliers to educate consumers.
The second of part of the event was dedicated to the tasting of the 2015 vintage. I have listed and commented below my favourite Port wines of the tasting.
2015 Vintage in the Douro Valley:
The winter which preceded the 2015 harvest was unusually dry and remained dry until spring. However the month of October and November 2014 were particularly wet and allowed for the replenishing of deep water reserves which was crucial for the water supplies in 2015. The hot and dry weather conditions of 2015 allowed for a small and very healthy harvest. The crop was one of the best in years with very little raisining which meant that the grapes were at optimum ripeness.
The Flatgate Partnership:
This flight of Port was commented by Chris Forbe, representing the Flatgate Partnership, company owning Croft, Fonseca and Taylor’s. The company has decided not to declare 2015 as a vintage Port but to focus on the production of Single Vintage Quinta. For them 2015 is very accessible vintage and has given wines which will be able to develop for 20-30 years but not for 50-60 years hence their decision not to blend nor declare a vintage.
Croft, Quinta da Roeda, 2015 (87/100)
Very deep purple. The nose is delicate, perfumed with floral aromas of lavender , hibiscus and wisteria. Red berries and a touch herbal (wild thyme). The palate is sweet, balanced by a refreshing acidity. It is smooth and very elegant with a great purity of fruit and a beautiful core of dark minerality. The structure is lean and focused with ripe and gentle tannins. Integrated alcohol. A savoury twist on the finish and a blue fruit and herbal aftertaste .Really enjoyable from now .
Guimarens, Fonseca Bicentenary 1815-2015 (90/100)
Blend made from a blend of grapes from 3 properties but destined to behave like a Single Quinta wine. Opaque purple. Nose is deep, rich with aromas of cooked raspberries and blackberries, robust herbs (rosemary, thyme), blue fruit and a pebbly dark minerality. The palate is sweet, full-bodied, fleshy and firm but balanced by a marked acidity. The structure is broad and imposing . The mid-palate reveals plenty of brambly fruits. The tannins are firm and chewy. The minerality is austere and dark. High alcohol warms the finish. Needs 4 to 5 years to become more accessible.
Quinta de Vargellas, Taylor’s 2015 (94/100)
Deep purple colour. The nose is clean, of medium intensity, spice focused with some aromas of ginger, cardamom, and black pepper. After aeration the nose gains in complexity and reveals some notes of citrus peel, fresh almonds, rose and lavender and some herbal nuances. The palate is sweet, smooth with a plump, pulpous character balanced by a high level of vibrant acidity. High intensity of flavours. High level of ripe, fine-grained yet firm tannins with well integrated alcohol. The finish is suave and lingers on floral and citrus flavours. This is a beautiful balanced, perfumed and super classy Port wine which can be enjoyed from now and for the next 40 years.
This tasting was commented by Paulo Silva, representing the house of Niepoort. Niepoort was created in 1842 by a Deutsch family. For over a century, the company was buying Port wines already made and was shipping them. Since 1987, with the involvement of Dirk Niepoort, the family’s philosophy has totally changed and today Niepoort is making its own Port wines. Their property, Vale Mendiz was purchased in 2003 and is situated in the Cima Corgo region at 300-400 metres above sea level. Since 2003, Nicholas Delaforce has been the Port winemaker for Niepoort.
For Niepoort, 2015 is one of the greatest vintage of the century and one of their best to date.
Bioma Vinha Velha Vintage 2015 (90/100)
Bioma is an organic single vineyard. Deep purple colour. The nose is clean, youthful, with still some fermentation-like aromas : isoamyl-acetate (banana), vanilla, black pepper. The palate is sweet, balanced by a high, salivating acidity . The structure is relatively lean and tight. High level of firm, chewy tannins, Currently it is a wine with plenty of contrasts, that needs time to find its balance and harmony but with a great potential for ageing.
Niepoort 2015 (94/100)
This Port wine is a blend made of wines coming from the Bioma vineyard (40%) and high altitude vineyards (600m).
Deep purple colour. The nose is clean, pure, delicate yet complex : balsamic notes, stones fruits (vine peaches), floral (lavender, violet), orange and a touch yeasty. The palate is medium-sweet, full-bodied, powerful and balanced by a high level of refreshing acidity. It showcases a superb concentration without heaviness. The tannins are fine-grained and tight. Currently the style is pretty austere yet demonstrates finesse. Very good potential for ageing.
Thank you to Barbara and Ben for organising such an interesting tasting and to the different houses of Port for taking part in this event and for showcasing their wines.
Let’s keep Tasting, Discovering and Sharing !