The Tasting Panel magazine

January/February 2015

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102  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2015 TASTINGS R ui Falcão, famed Portuguese wine critic, greeted his 25 guests at the Vinhos do Porto master class at the Willard-Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., with a bit of an admonishment: "Please let me start by saying that Port wine is from the Douro Valley, so it is not a type or style of wine; it is a wine that comes from one region within Portugal." This serious tone was quickly dispelled by Falcão's humorous overview of the things that make Port wine unique. Portugal rivals Italy when it comes to the number of indigenous grapes grown, with well over 250 varieties. More than 70 of these are used in the production of Port, and it is not unusual for there to be up to 40 different types in a single bottling. "If you are thinking by now that we are crazy in Portugal, you are right!" Falcão adds, "And to be even crazier, each varietal has multiple names throughout the various regions of Portugal." In the Master Class tasting, Falcão led the select group of journalists and trade through a selection of eight wines, designed to show both the three major types of Port wine—ruby, tawny and white—but also a variety of ages, dating from 2007 at the youngest and 1952 at the most mature. White Port, made from white varieties, is sometimes dismissed as a cheaper, lower-quality offering. However, with care given to the blend and the winemaking, it was shown to be very age-worthy. The Dalva 1971 Golden White bottling from C. Da Silva, with surprisingly crisp acidity backed by flavors of apricots, golden raisins and pineapple, was perhaps the biggest surprise for the assembled tasters. A trio of vintage Ports represented the ruby selections. First was a Sandeman Vintage 2007, from a year when the Douro Valley saw unchar- acteristically mild weather, lending a fresh elegance to the powerful and young cassis and plum fruit. Ramos Pinto Vintage 1983 was an example of a wine that humbled many wine critics, Falcão included, who declared the 1985 to be the better vintage. Over time, many of the 1985s fell flat, but the 1983 Portos are still going strong. Vintage Port rewards time in the cellar, and the Warre's 1970 exemplified why the most patient Port drinkers reap the benefits of this virtue. The fresh fruit of its younger years has evolved into a complex mélange of spice, fig, almond, flint and even hints of cured bacon. Three wines were colheita selections, or tawny ports that are vintage-dated and aged for a minimum of seven years in cask. Colheitas commonly see aging beyond the minimum seven years in barrel, and the same cask may produce bottlings at different points in its evolution. Poças Colheita 1992, bottled in 2014, had a brown sugar sweetness and complex flavors of candied fruits, cloves and white chocolate. In Taylor's Single Harvest 1964, bottled in 2014, the oxidative nature of tawny Port really shows, with nutty notes of walnut and hazelnut elegantly mingling with caramel, milk chocolate and figs. Burmester Colheita 1952, bottled in 2014, was perhaps the highlight of the tasting. Remarkable acidity, borne in flavors of orange marmalade, yellow plum and candied lemon peel, gave this wine a surprising freshness—the com- plexity making a lasting impression. One wine that stood out was the Niepoort Garrafeira 1977, which spent five years in cask, and aged in large glass demijohns from 1982 to 2013. Masculine and powerful flavors of evergreen, dark chocolate pot de crème and walnut dance with more feminine aromas of plum, cherry and brandy. It was a luxurious pleasure to sip. The walk-around tasting following the Master Class had more delights from the Douro to enjoy, including wines from Sogevinus, Sogrape Vinhos and Symington Family Estates. According to Manuel de Novaes Cabral, President of the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, the U.S. is the most important market outside of Europe, with sales bringing in over 30 million euros in revenue for Portugal. It is Cabral's hope that these tastings, coordinated with THE TASTING PANEL in three cities—New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.—will inspire attend- ees to become "ambassadors of Port wine and the Douro region." PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTO & DOURO INTERNATIONAL Ports of Entry by David D. Denton, CWE, CSS, IBWE PORTO & DOURO INTERNATIONAL'S WINE TASTING AND MASTER CLASS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

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