Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Madeira’

The 1869 Lomelino, Boal first sold in 1882

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

The 1869 Lomelino, Boal. Picture taken by Eric Ifune at the Beauty of Bual Tasting (2014).

The global Great Depression and international financial crisis led to difficult years for many Madeira shippers during the early 20th century.  In 1925 Leacock joined forces with Blandy’s to form the Madeira Wine Association (MWA).  Over the next several decades every major Madeira shipper joined the MWA.  Under the MWA management was centralized.  Members continued to sell under their own labels but old stocks of Madeira were brought together for use by all and new vintages were bought collectively.  Thus a shipper’s name could act simply as a brand with the wine itself having come from another member firm.  A recurring question for consumers of old MWA labels then is which firm was the source of the Madeira in the bottle?

The question arose at The Beauty of Bual Tasting (2014) with regards to the 1869 Lomelino, Boal.  Lomelino joined the MWA where its name was eventually used as a brand beginning in the 1930s.  As a result it was suspected that the 1869 Lomelino, Boal served at the tasting did not contain actual Lomelino wine. Just two other 1869 Boal wines are listed in Noel Cossart’s Madeira the Island Vineyard (2011) the Blandy’s and an unknown producer.  The vast majority of the bottles sold appear under the Blandy’s name.

We may never know the actual source of these wines but we now know that beginning in 1882, Lomelino sold an 1869 Boal from Campanario.  We know this because Commander Tarquinio T. da C. Lomelina advertised his wines in the French periodical Revue de Vins et Liquors from 1880 through 1892.[1] Whether the bottle tasted in 2014 is the same wine as that sold 125 years earlier remains a mystery but the possibility exists!

Here is the wine list from 1882, in descending cost, including the prices in French Francs per dozen bottles ex Madeira.

1821 Sancto Martinho 350
1821 Campanario 350
1821 Camara de Lobos 350
1835 Campanario, Malvasia 269
1838 Campanario, Malvasia 230
1838 Campanario, Boal 230
1844 Sancto Martinho 140
1844 Camara de Lobos 140
1848 Campanario, Boal 115
1847 Campanario, Malvasia 115
1848 Camara de Lobos 115
1848 Sancto Martinho 115
1850 Campanario Boal 80
1850 Sancto Martinho 80
1850 Camara de Lobos, Malvasia 80
1865 Camara de Lobos, Boal 70
1870 Monte, Moscatel 70
1851 Campanario, Sercial 70
1851 Sancto Martinho 70
1869 Campanario, Boal 55
1872 Campanario, Malvasia 55
1868 Sancto Martinho 55
1868 Camara de Lobos 55
1870 Quinta da Paz 50
1870 Sancto Martinho 50
1871 Sancto Martinho 45
1871 Quinta da Paz 45
1873 Santo Roque 40
1873 Campanario 40
1876 Camara de Lobos 35
1877 Sancto Antonio 30


[1] Revue des vins et liqueurs et des produits alimentaires pour l’exportation. 1882. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb410434488

“[A] real revelation for France”: Tasting notes for Lomelino Madeira wine at the 1882 Bordeaux International Wine Exhibition

January 17, 2018 2 comments

Lomelino Madeira label with medals from Paris Exposition 1878 and Bordeaux Exposition 1882.

From time to time, bottles of Lomelino Madeira have been tasted at the annual Madeira events organized by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and Roy Hersh, For The Love of Port.  My first experience came at the Bastardo & Moscatel – The Tasting (2017).  Here I tasted the 1858 Tarquinio T. da C. Lomelino, C. de B., Bastardo and 1836 Tarquinio T. da C. Lomelino, Bastardo.

According to Noel Cossart Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) Tarquinio Torquato da Camara Lomelino took over the old firm of Robert Leal and started shipping Madeira under his own name in 1820.  For such an old firm I could not help but wonder if any old tasting notes survive.

Fortunate for us, Lomelino submitted a number of wines at the 1878 Exposition Universelle or third Paris World’s Fair.[1]  It is here that Commander Lomelino won the grand prize for his Madeira wines, an achievement for which he was awarded the Legion of Honor.[2]  He deservedly drew attention to his submissions at the Bordeaux International Wine Exhibition of 1882 at which the Revue des Vins et Liquers  took notes.  Lomelino exhibited wines from the 1802 to the 1877 vintages.  Of these the Revue commented on the following:

1802 Serial – “very dry with an exquisite perfume and delicacy”
1812 Verdelho – “dry and with a superior bouquet”
1824 and 1830 Boal – “medium sweet very agreable and full of body”
1830 Malvasia – “soft mellow delicat, and the most delicious one can imagine”
1844 Martinho – “dry and very fine”
1844 Camara de Lobos – “medium dry, remarkable for their exquisite bouquet”
1848 Boal, Sercial, and Malvasia – “irreproachable”
1868 Camara de Lobos and Sao Martinho – “recommend them selves by their delicate aromas”
1870 Quinta da Paz – “leaves nothing to be desired in the way of perfume and delicacy”

Though a number of these very same Lomelino vintages have appeared at recent auctions, these specific wines themselves have not, preventing the comparison of notes from across the centuries.


[1] –  Revue des vins et liqueurs et des produits alimentaires pour l’exportation. 1882. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb410434488

[2] Lomelino received a Gold Medal and the Island of Madeira received a Diploma of Honor equivalent to the Grand Medal.  See Catalogue officiel : liste des récompenses / Exposition universelle internationale de 1878, à Paris ; Ministère de l’agriculture et du commerce.  1878. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb33385079f

The wicker capsule on the 1880 CVM Malvasia Madeira

January 15, 2018 1 comment

The 1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira served at my Introductory Madeira Tasting was sealed with a decades old wicker capsule.  According to Alex Liddel’s Madeira (1998), wickerwork expanded on the island during the 1870s as a result of the phylloxera.  It is not clear when bottles were first sealed with a wicker capsule but some shippers did use them widely.  The practice faded out by the 1980s.  This particular bottles bear a Junta Nacional do Vinho da Madeira (JNC) paper seal under the capsule so it was applied between 1937 and 1979.

 

The wicker capsule is composed of a partially woven top which covers the opening of the bottle and a single piece, spiral wound around the top of the neck.  The end of the spiral is tucked into itself.  It may be unwound.

Upon unwinding the spiral piece of wicker, you can see how the legs of the top wicker piece lay underneath.

The top piece comes right off revealing a thin paper covering.  It was certainly fragile and a bit stuck to the bottle but I soon peeled all of the pieces off.

The paper JNV seal is revealed covering the opening of the bottle and the cork.  Once I removed the JNV seal I extracted the cork using my Durand.  This bottle was sealed with one of the notoriously short, yet effective, corks.

An introductory Madeira tasting: 1971 Terrantez back to 1880 Malvasia

January 12, 2018 2 comments

This past weekend I hosted a Madeira tasting in answer to requests I have received from my friends.  With a sizeable selection of wines made available to me by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., I settled in on what I consider an introductory tasting.  Over the course of 10 bottles I presented such wines as a recent Historic Series blend, a 19th century Bual solera, Bastardo, Tinta Negra, young Terrantez, and Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres.

I deployed all of my matching stems, some 72 of them, so we tasted the Madeira in two flights of five.  The extra dozen stems were required for Champagne, of course.  Each flight was largely designed to move from drier and more acidic to richer with the ending wine of each flight being old.  The two oldest bottles were decanted five days prior to the tasting then rebottled after one day in the decanter.  The other bottles received similar treatment one to two days ahead of time.

One guest surprised the group with a bottle of 1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira which was inserted into the first flight so we could compare it against the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira.  Thus you will find eleven tasting notes below.

The wines all showed very well with enough variety to encourage comparison.  It is definitely one of the most satisfying tasting I have been to as of late.  Given the loud volume of everyone towards the end of the tasting coupled with their individual comments, they agreed to!  For each flight I presented a short history of the wines which was well received.  I was excited for this tasting to occur, not just to experience the aromas and flavors, but to convey the individual stories of the wines.  Please find these wine histories appear below.  They are far more important than my tasting notes and ratings.

The histories are largely compiled from correspondence with Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and  Ricardo Freitas, Vinhos Barbeito, as well as the private publications of Mannie Berk Terrantez: The Transcendental Terrantez Tasting (2012) and Bastardo & Mostcatel – The Tasting (2017).  I also relied on the books Noel Cossart’s Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) and Alex Liddell’s Madeira (1998).  Of course some bits are of my own research.  The map reproduced above comes from Isole Canarie from Vincenzo Coronelli published in 1697 and available at the David Rumsey Map Collection site.

Flight #1

NV Rare Wine Company, Historic Series Library Company Madeira
Released in 2015 to honor the Library Company of Philadelphia which is the oldest successful library in America, having been founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Henry Hill was a successful Madeira merchant who lived in Philadelphia and also knew Benjamin Franklin. As a partner in the firm Hill, Lamar, & Bisset, he sold Madeira to wealthy Americans including financier Robert Morris, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll and John Hancock, and George Washington. Many of the business letters sent to Henry Hill reside at the Library Company. Bottled 2015.  The honied nose is followed by luscious, honied flavors of fig.  There are both tea and tobacco notes in the end.  This is fully mature now with just a vein of structure apparent in the finish followed by a bit of bracing acidity.  A fine value with flavors clearly evocative of old bottles of Madeira.  ***(*).

1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Pereira D’Oliveira was founded in 1850 as a producer of wines. It operated as a partidista until the mid-1970s when it began to market wines under its own name. Over the years D’Oliveira has acquired other firms thus expanding its stock of old wines. This particular wine was acquired in barrel when D’Oliveira purchased the Adegas do Terreão collection in 2002. Terreão was founded in 1949 by Vasco Loja who also operated as a partidista supplying the major wine companies particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. D’Oliveira keeps their wines in barrel until they are bottled for sale on an annual basis.   This means that different bottlings come from different barrels having seen wood for different durations. Bottled 2017.  A highly aromatic and articulate nose of citrus and tobacco, profound and of unique complexity.  The dense, explosive start has very fine acidity which soon builds to rapier sharpness.  Overall, this is a lighter weight, saline wine with an expansive, lighter finish, and pervasive pungent aftertaste. ****(*).

1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Shipped by David Turner Air Cargo.  Imported by Vineyard Road Inc.  From old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2012.  There is a low-lying, dark nose.  The rounded start transitions to a berry core by the middle.  There is acidity present but it does not finish with much acidic strength.  I found more weight throughout the palate given impression of length but ultimately it is not as exciting nor complex as the 1928.  ***.

NV Henriques & Henriques, Inauguration Wine Madeira
From the back label, “To inaugurate Henriques & Henriques’ new winery in 1994, winemaker Luis Pereira searched the firm’s stocks of old wine to find something truly extraordinary. The wine he chose had been vinified and blended in the 1950s by his mentor Peter Cossart—the father of John Cossart. Though the wine’s origins were uncertain, Pereira believed it to have the character of a great verdelho or bual. It was a wine uniquely worthy of commemorating this important event. Pereira produced 800 bottles which were given to dignitaries attending the inauguration. This left a small amount to age in cask. In October, 2006, 144 bottles were drawn out, and then in April, 2008, the final 168 bottles were drawn out, each time for The Rare Wine Co.” This is the 2006 bottling of which it is numbered 66 of 144.  The nose is robust with mature hints and caramel.  Further investigation reveals articulate and sweet aromas of brown sugar, Christmas spices, and tobacco.  This is a zippy wine with piercing acidity soon coming out then building to the piercing finish.  There are good, sweet and weighty flavors that drape over the tongue with a ripe, orange flavors core, and mineral finish.  This ia very powerful wine with a long, textured aftertaste.  ****(*).

1971 D’Oliveira, Terrantez Madeira
Terrantez, long regarded as the finest variety in Madeira, was largely wiped out of existence with the phylloxera of the 1870s.  Being low-yielding and difficult to grow, it was not replanted.  In 1921 it was considered “extinct or almost extinct.”  The situation had hardly improved by 2004 as there was less than one hectare of vines in existence.  This scarce wine was acquired in barrel when the Adegas do Terreão collection was purchased in 2002. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2017.  A complex nose of fruit, marmalade, and sweet aromas.  In the mouth is a controlled start, vibrant middle, and sweet kick at the end.  The mouth feel reminds me of marshmallow combining sweetness and airy weight into one sensation.  This is a gentle, young wine of elegant strength and seamless integration.  ****.

1845 Cossart Gordon, Bual Solera Madeira
The 1845 Bual became a solera in 1875 in response to the shortage of wine following the Phylloxera epidemic. It eventually became the first Cossart centenary wine marking the anniversary of the founding of Cossart Gordon in 1745. After Cossart, Gordon joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1953, the soleras in wood were moved to stores at Rua Sao Francisco and no longer topped off. There were many bottlings of this solera both in Madeira, with red and black text, and in England. This bottling is by Evans Marshall & Co. who became Cossart’s agents in London in 1956. Bottled after 1956.  A very mature nose still with some bottle stink.  The sweet start soon focuses on flavors of sweet black tea with wood notes in the middle, and flavors of sweet cinnamon and baking spices in the textured finish.  This is the most advanced wine of all with a mellow nature and slight separation of acidity and residual sugar.  It becomes  vinous in the aftertaste with a hint of acidity.  ***.

Flight #2

NV Unknown, Padre Madeira [da Silva Collection] 
The oldest known dated bottles of Madeira once belonged to Braheem Abdo Kassab who famously initialed his wax seals with BAK.  This Padre wine was in bottle for a long time, discovered in the laundry room of the home of a Kassab relative on the island. This is believed to be all Tinta Negra from the early 20th century.  Approximately three dozen bottles were aired in demijohn for a few months then rebottled. Bottled 2016.  The pungent, sweeter nose steps out of the glass with aromas reminding me of old Madeira.  There is a round, weighty, vinous start with ripe orange citrus flavors, good acidity, and grip.  The middle is assertive and the finish powerful with hints of dense fruit, I suspect this wine needs further time for integration.  ***.

NV Barbeito, Bastardo 50-year-old Avo Mario Madeira
Barbeito was founded in 1946 which is today run by third-generation, Ricardo Diogo Vasconcelos de Freitas. Bastardo was completely extinct in Madeira until 2004 when Ricardo convinced a farmer to plant it.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of vines.  This wine is an homage to Ricardo’s grandfather and is a blend of Bastardo wines Ricardo made in 2007 and 2009.  These are the first two successful harvests for there was bad weather in 2008.  At the time, there was no living memory on how to make the wine so Ricardo set out on his own.  He mixed these wines with some old Bastardo in demijohn that belonged to the Favilla family and 36 bottles of old Tinta Negra from 1950 that was bottled in 1997.  The 50 year old category was only introduced in 2015.  Bottled 2017 of which it is #326 of 550.  A sweet and floral nose is similarly followed by a sweet, gentle start.  Of good flavor, it mixes herbs and cedar box in an easy to drink manner.  The balance is impeccable making it compelling to drink.  ****.

1929 D’Oliveira, Tinta Negra Medium Sweet Madeira
Dated bottles of Madeira from the late 1920s through early 1930s are scarce.  The effects of the Great Depression was felt on an international scale and locally it wreaked havoc on Madeira.  The Portuguese Minister of Finance sought to mitigate the effects on Portugal by centralizing the importation and milling of grain in January 1931. The price of bread and other common goods quickly rose as a result. A few months later a revolt on the island of Madeira took place with control of the island temporarily seized from the government.  The spread of the European financial crisis coupled with the political instability on Madeira impacted the banks on Madeira the same year of the revolt.  By the end of the year banks suspended all payments and in the course of restructuring the banking system in 1932, many private banks failed.  This is the period when the influence of the partidista rose.  These merchants purchased wine at vintage then sold it off to shippers as they needed it.  It is likely that during these financially difficult times much Madeira was sold off for ready money rather than kept around as single vintage lots tying up capital.  This wine is from old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2016.  With ripe aromas this wine offers attractive aromas of age which I look for in older bottles.  There is a weighty, round, dense start with good body and juicy acidity.  The flavors are more mature with moderately sweet bakings spices, strong acidity, and some brown sugar in the finish.  The strength of the acidity builts into the finish leaving a piercing citric edge.  ****.

1986 Barbeito, Malvasia Faja dos Padres Madeira
Malvasia encompasses several different grapes with Malvasia Candida the most sought after. It is a difficult grape to grow and prefers particular locations. One of these locations is Faja dos Padres which was originally cultivated by the Jesuits centuries ago. Located on the south side of the Island it lies at the bottom of a 900 foot cliff which, until recently, was only accessible by boat. For centuries, this site was considered as producing the best Malvasia Candida wines. The Malvasia Candida was nearly wiped out by phylloxera in the 1870s.  When the site was sold in 1919 it was believed that no Malvasia Candida vines existed. But in 1940 a single Malvasia Candida vine was found surviving at Faja dos Padres. It was cloned then planted at Torre. In 1979 the same vine was cloned again then planted at Faja dos Padres. An additional vineyard of 0.4 ha was eventually established. This is the first commercial bottling of Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres since 1921. It was raised in 800 liter casks aged by the canteiro method. Bottled 2012 of which it is #172 of 654.  The nose is young and fruit with complexity from wet tobacco.  The wines is young and rounded with clearly defined sweet black tea flavors.  There is a delicacy to the wine that makes it stand apart, with delicate berry fruit and a fresh finish.  With impeccable balance this wine highlights the flavors of Malvasia.  ****.

1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira
Founded in 1870, CVM was eventually associated with Justino Henriques. The company was closed in 1984 and much of the stock was sold off. This bottle bears a paper Junta Nacional do Vinho seal underneath the wicker capsule. The JNV seal would have been applied between 1937 and 1979.  The nose is slightly pungent with sweet, yellow citrus.  There is a gravelly start of brown sugar, wood box, and flavors of age.  The wine is completely balanced with no hard edges.  Backed by residual sugar this is dense and even racy in the finish with a hint of spiciness to perk up the long, gentle, sweet aftertaste.  ****.

Two particularly fine wines from 2017

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

For my favorite wines of 2017 I chose two bottles that are of particularly fine flavor.  The first wine stood out during the Madeira at Liberty Hall tasting held by Mannie Berk on April 23, 2017.  It is the second time I have tasted an excellent Acciaioly Madeira.  The Acciaioly history is oft repeated being an old Florentine family having descended from the Dukes of Burgundy.  When they arrived at Madeira during the early 16th century they are said to have introduced the Malvasia vine to the island.  Accordingly to Mannie Berk, when the last Acciaioly passed away in 1979, his wines were divided into two lots.  The second lot went to his sons who consigned them to Christie’s in London.  Some 135 lots of Accaiaioly Madeira were auctioned off in 1989 including more than 14 dozen bottles of the 1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho one of which we tasted.  It was an exciting wine during the tasting and when I was able to enjoy a small glass from the leftovers I felt it was a wine I could have drunk all night long.

1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho
Shipped by Reid Wines.  Imported by Vieux Vins.  A proper nose that is pungent with herbs. In the mouth this is sweet with grip, lovely balance and presence. The wine builds in flavor through the middle as marmalade flavors come out which linger through the aftertaste leaving sweet notes in the mouth. The acidity weaves in and out. Top-notch. ****(*)

For my second bottle, I naturally include an old red wine, this time from Italy of which I have tried to drink from with more attention this year.  The vine in Piedmont dates back to the Roman times.  The great Alto-Piemonte producer Antonio Vallana pays tribute to this history with their Campi Raudii label.  It is in Northern Piedmont that the Romans suffered one of their greatest military losses in 105 BC to invading Germanic tribes.  Nearly 100,000 Roman troops perished.  Four years later, in 101 BC, Consul Caius Marius defeated these tribes at Campi Raudii.  This decisive battle ensured peace in the region and accordingl to legend, allowed the cultivation of vineyards.

The decades of the 1950s and 1960s are held to be the best for Vallana.  The Wasserman’s attribute some of this to the inclusion of Aglianico from Basilicata.  They also hold that the Campi Raudii and Traversagna are the best wines.  Mannie Berk shares this same view which is why we drank a bottle together at a small table in an Indian restaurant.  It was no less than the 1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale which he had imported and laid down long ago based on the green strip label.  Double-decanted to separate off the sediment it was at its glorious, nearly perfect peak when we sat down.  The few old bottles of Vallana that I have tried bear remarkable body and a certain sweaty, sweet concentration.  All the elements came to bear in our bottle and no doubt inspired a blur of conversation.

1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  A light to medium bricking garnet color.  The nose is deep with sweet fruits and damp soil.  The sweet, concentrated flavors are immediately complex.  Notes of old leather mix in the racy and flavorful wine that swirls through the mouth.  Animale like earthiness exists through the aftertaste where it picks up a touch of attractive pungency and sweatiness.  It wraps up with fresh acidity. ***** Now but will last.

Eric Ifune’s most interesting fortified wines of 2017

December 26, 2017 2 comments

Eric Ifune’s love of fortified wines once again comes through in his third annual post of his favorite wines of the year.

Once again, I’m naming my most interesting fortified wines of this year, 2017. Not necessarily the best, but the most interesting. They are listed chronologically.

Bastardo and Moscatel Madeira in New York

1875 Shortridge-Lawton Bastardo
Tasted at a large tasting of Bastardo and Moscatel Madeira in New York. This was the best wine of the tasting. Shortridge-Lawton was an old shipper founded in the mid-18th century. It is now a minor label of the Madeira Wine Company. This wine was bottled by the MWC for the Sherry-Lehman shop in the 1970’s.

Bastardo, a red skinned variety, almost completely disappeared from the island due to Phylloxera. A few growers have replanted a bit. I believe there’s now about half a hectare grown currently.

Red-copper green in color. Aromas of lemons and a bit of musk. On the palate, very rich and mouth filling. More citrus flavors. Excellent acidity and very, very long. Much better than both Blandy’s and Cossart-Gordon’s 1875 Bastardos at the same tasting.

50 year old blends

A new category of indicated age wines was approved for Madeira a couple of years ago. This is the 50 year old category. Several producers have now released 50 year old blends. I managed to taste a few on the island this past spring. Given the extensive aging needed for quality Madeira, this is an exciting new category.

Justino’s 50 year old Terrantez.
Bottled Feb. 24, 2017.
Terrantez is my favorite variety on Madeira. Still relatively rare, it’s gaining in plantings. Copper-bronze in color. Smoky, nutty, and tangy aromas with limes and a hint of VA. Rich and concentrated on the palate. A proper old Terrantez with a hint of bitterness at the end. Long and balanced.

Henriques & Henriques 50 year old Tinta Negra
Bottled Sept. 2016.
The same legislation which allowed for 50 year old wines also permitted the Tinta Negra (formerly TInta Negra Mole) variety to be listed on labels. This wine originally belonged to Joao Eugenio Perreira, a grower in Camera dos Lobos. Beautiful bright gold copper. Irridescent. Complex aromas of smoke, wood, and leather. A sweet (doce) style of TN, with great balancing acidity. Very long with lemons and limes on the finish.

Barbeito 50 year old Bastardo
Not officially labeled at the time of tasting.  550 bottles will be produced. This wine will be named in honor of Ricardo Frietas’s grandfather. Barbeito has been experimenting a lot with Bastardo lately. From both Ricardo’s grandfather’s stocks and from the Favilla family stocks. Irridescent gold-green with a hint of rose. Spicy and floral with smells reminicent of roses. Medium sweet (Meio Doce). Very complex with beautiful balance.

Blandy’s 50 year old Malmsey
Bottled 2016.
400 liters produced. A blend of multiple vintages: 1952, 1964, 1974, 1975, 1978. Bronze, red, gold in color. Beefy and citric aromas. Perfect balance for me. Great concentration and richness. Smoky with tangerines on the palate. Very long.

32 Vintages of D’Oliveiras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1875 D’Oliveira’s Malvasia
Old JNV (Junta Nacional) seal, in bottle before 1979 (Seen in far right).

I was fortunate to attend a large tasting at D’Oliveiras with over 32 Vintage and age indicated wines. This wine showed a dark bronze color with a green-gold rim. Huge aromatics with smoke, musk, soy, limes, lemons, pralines, and dried fruits. Dense and rich in the mouth. Quite sweet but not overly so. Great balancing acidity. Accompanied with a long citric, meaty finish.



1850 D’Oliveira’s Verdelho. Bottled 2016.

D’Oliveras’s keeps their wine in cask until bottled to order. Thus, this wine was in cask for almost 166 years! Luis D’Oliverira is shown presenting his wine to the right. Very dark bronze color with a copper green rim. Hugely concentrated, as can be expected for a wine in cask so long. Smoky, spicy, citric with toasted nuts and a hint of VA. Sweet due to the extreme concentration but with huge, huge balancing acidity also concentrated. Flavors of limes, tangerines, brown sugar. Very, very long.

The Marquis de Pombal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grounds and cellar of the Marquis de Pombal estate

Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquis of Pombal and 1st Count of Oeiras, was one of the most important figures in Portuguese history. He was the Prime Minister in the mid-16th century. His statue is in Lisbon in Pombal Square. He rebuilt Lisbon after the disastrous 1755 earthquake and repulsed Spanish invasion. He also reformed the government along enlightenment lines and demarcated the Douro wine region, the first demarcation in the wine world. His estate is near the town of Oeiras, just outside of Lisbon and the vineyards he planted formed the basis of Carcavelos. Carcavelos was once a very famous Portuguese fortified wine, rivaling Madeira. However, because it is close to Lisbon, it has been swallowed up by urban sprawl. At one time it was virtually extinct, however a few years ago, some viticulturists brought it back. It’s stronghold is it’s original one, the Pombal estate. It’s now owned by the local government. There’s a couple of smaller outside vineyards, but they are threatened. There is a total of 25 hectares of Carcavelos, 12.5 belong to the Pombal estate. A 5 hectare vineyard is just outside the estate, but it’s for sale at a price which would preclude viticulture. The grape varieties are mainly white with a few red. Arinto, Boal, Galego Dourado, Negra Mole, Trincadeira and Torneiro. Villa Oeiras is the company producing wine from the old Pombal estate. They use the old estate cellars. They also have a facility in the old Pombal stables where the wines are fermented. I had a fascinating visit earlier this year. The wines are fortified with a 77% aguardiente which is locally produced. One huge difference from other fortified wines is the use of new 225 liter oak barrels. They are doing many experiments with different barrels from different sources and woods, French and even a Portuguese sourced oak. Different toast levels as well. I had a chance to taste the same wine brought up in different oak barrels and the difference was marked. The new oak gives a tropical fruit and coconut quality to the wines which is not unattractive. Highly unusual and distinctive wines.

2004 Villa Oeiras Carcavelos
11 years in oak. 17.5 % alcohol by volume.
Burnished bronze, gold, green color. On the nose, nuts, oak, tropical fruits, honey, and coconut. Velvety mouthfeel. Sweet, tropical fruit flavors. Good acid balance with a long, saline finish.

Villa Oeiras 20 year old Carcavelos
Average age of 20 years.
Bronze gold green in appearance. Looks similar to an old Verdelho Madeira. Oaky, coconuts on nose. On the palate, sweet with almond skins and dried citrus fruits. More coconuts and tropical fruit. Nice acidity and great balance. Very long.

A trio of old Colheita Port

Quinta do Noval 1968 Colheita Port.
Bottled 2016.
Sitting and relaxing on the waterfront in Vila Nova de Gaia. Wanting something good to imbibe, got a half bottle of this from the Noval shop. I’ve had this before, but bottled several years earlier. Now, it’s become even more superb. Full tawny, gold, green. On the nose, nutty, spicy with caramel, limes, and tangerines. On the palate, enormous complexity with flavors of limes, oranges, cinnamon, apricots. Very rich and long.

Quinta do Noval 1937 Colheita Port
Bottled 2008.
At a large multiday tasting of Ports in Seattle. Bright cola colored with hint of green at rim. Complex nose with smoke, dried fruits, nut skins, and pralines. Full and rich on the palate. Intense with great balance. Very long and sweet. Very complete wine.

1957 Kopke Colheita Port
Bottled 2015
Also in Seattle. Dark tawny colored. Musk and brown sugar aromas. Lots of concentration on the palate. Not real sweet. Dried fruits and citrus. Nutty. Great complexity of flavors. Lots of depth and very, very long. Better than the Kopke 1937 and that’s saying something.

A tasting of 1997 Vintage Porrts

I was fortunate to attend a large tasting of 1997 Vintage Ports to celebate their 20 year anniversary. 30 different Vintages served blind.

1997 Croft Quinta da Roeda
Very, very dark. Really young looking. Purple all the way to the rim. Sweet and plummy. Still primary. Aromas of bing cherries. Rich and velvety mouthfeel. Lots of tannins still. Lots of primary fruit. Really long. Needs lots of time to peak.

1997 Fonseca
Dark, just beginning to lighten at the rim. Still rich and primary aromas. On the palate, tannic with lots of grip. Very primary plummy fruit. Almost painfully young.

1997 Calem
Very dark purple all the way to the rim. Very spicy and primary aromas. In the mouth, rich and very primary. Very tannic but everything in balance. Lots of depth and length.

1997 Ramos Pinto
Dense impenetrable dark purple. “Black as Egypt’s night” was the old term. Nose somewhat reticent but plums and spices. On the palate, tight and tannic. Black fruits. Great depth and concentration.

A retrospective of 1977 Vintage Port

I also had the good fortune to attend a 40 year retrospective of the famous 1977 Vintage Ports. 13 wines tasted blind. At this age, lots of variability.

1977 Sandeman
Deep red color. Going rose-tawny at rim. Spicy aromas with strawberries and violets. Just starting to turn secondary. Velvety mouthfeel. Sweet but with great balance and vibrant acidity. Great intensity. Quite long.

1977 Gould Campbell
This has long been considered an overachiever for the vintage by Port aficionados. Still impenetrable dark purple color. Very floral nose with citric fruits and violets. On the palate, sweet with lovely, juicy plummy fruit. Not real intense but beautiful balance. Not the most complex, but very satisfying.

1977 Taylors
This was the best wine of the tasting. There’s a lot of bottle variation, but this one was spot on. Just starting to go tawny colored at the rim. Spicy cherries and citrus on the nose. Rich, velvety mouthfeel. Great intensity. Sweet and plummy. Very long and satisfying. Vibrant and youthful.

A tasting of Rioja from the great 1964 Vintage

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment


The 1964 vintage in Rioja, considered the greatest of the 20th century, was not met with any fanfare in America nor in England.  It was not because the top wines, only bottled in the 1970s and released as late as 1980, were unavailable to taste.  Throughout the 1960s Rioja was still viewed as the best wine of Spain but it was the opinion, as expressed by Ronald Avery, that in the hierarchy of wines Rioja was equivalent to “a decent little claret”.  As such Rioja only received attention as an alternative inexpensive wine.

This was not always the case.  Between the World Wars the Bodegas Paternina Rioja Riserva cost as much as Chateau Lafite in America.  When Bordeaux prices soared in America during the early 1970s, attention turned back to Rioja.  Still viewed as the “less sophisticated cousin of Bordeaux” low prices meant the wines of Rioja became imported in increasingly larger quantities.  In 1976, nearly three dozen Rioja producers hired a public relations firm in America.  Success must have been achieved for the next year Frank J. Prial wrote in The New York Times that “Red Rioja Wine Is Excellent”.

There was widespread coverage of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Rioja vintage.  Decanter magazine found it a vintage to drink soon with some wines tired but the best wines are “still fruity and intense”.  I decided to host my own tasting based on my positive experience with several different bottles shared by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co.,  and my recent CVNE Viña Real and Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva from 1976-1964 tasting.  This past weekend I gathered a group to explore nine different wines from seven different producers.  This is no small feat for there were just over two dozen producers who bottled the 1964 vintage.

We departed from our usual Champagne start to one of very old German wines.  At the CVNE tasting, the Rieslingfeier event and scarcity of old vintages was of topic which prompted one very generous guest to share three 100+ year old wines as well as a bottle from the 1964 vintage.  This unprecedented vertical of the vintages 1964, 1915, 1905, and 1898 are all Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese from Weingut Franz Karl Schmitt.

These four bottles were purchased at the Sotheby’s auction of the Don Stott cellar.  Our generous guest has drunk wine with Don Stott so with knowledge of the cellar and the uniqueness of the opportunity, the wines were acquired.

Weingut Franz Karl Schmitt was founded in 1549 and has been in family possession ever since those days.  It was in 1900 that Franz-Karl Schmitt, grandfather of the current owner, produced the first trockenbeerenauslese in Rheinhessen from the Flaschenhahl vineyard in Hipping.  The four bottles we tasted bear variations in name: Franz Karl Schmitt, Hermann Franz Schmitt, and Hermannshof.  They are all from the same winery bearing new labels and corks.  The later marked with Herrmannshof Neuverkorkt 1998.

The label on the oldest bottle from 1898 does not indicate the grape.  Nierstein is home to Sylvaner and in 1910 only 15% of it was planted with Riesling.  It is possible this is a blend of Riesling and Sylvaner which echoes a comment Michael Broadbent made about the 1921 Niersteiner Hermannshof TBA.  I should also point out this bottle is a Cabinetwein indicating a special wine historically kept in a separate part of the cellar.

The wines were served one at a time out of purposefully procured small wine glasses.  This gave us the collective opportunity to taste the wines within minutes of the bottle being opened and individually decide if we wanted to keep the wine around any longer.

All of the wines are in much better shape than I expected.  The 1898 Franz Karl Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese Cabinetwein, Rheinhessen  with honied aromas and medium body, quickly recalibrated my expectations.  There is pure pleasure here.  Delicacy came in the form of the 1905 Hermann Franz Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen which did soon fade to reveal piercing acidity in the finish.  The 1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen is unequivocally great from the nose to the pure marmalade flavors, minerals, and unctuous, glycerin filled body.  At 102 years of age, the higher residual sugar and acidity will ensure many more years of pleasure.  In fact, the dregs of the bottle drank well at the end of the evening.

With respect to the three oldest bottles, vintage variation aside, there is a sense of continuity in flavor from herbs and apricots.  In returning to the wines I was left with the feeling that the 1898 and 1905 were made using similar methods whereas the 1915 was made by a different hand.  However, vintages do matter which accounts for the unctuous 1915 and round, racy 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr Und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen.  These wines deserve a closer historical look so I will write a follow up post in the near future.

We cleansed our palates with the textured NV Grands Comptoirs Champenois, Champagne Brut Comte de Vic.  This is a late 1980s to early 1990s release with fully mature flavors, yeast, and never-ending texture.  I found it best on the second night, once again highlighting that a non-vintage Champagne may deserve careful aging.

Fate finally caught up with me for four of our 1964 Rioja bottles were affected by TCA leaving five to be enjoyed.  All of these wines were double-decanted before being served in flights of three.  The most surprising wine is the 1964 Campo Viejo, Rioja which is the basic wine made just one year after the founding of the winery.  In fact Campo Viejo switched facilities in 1965.  This wine still reveals ripe fruit mixed with spices made possible by the comparatively short time spent in oak.

My favorites include the 1964 Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Gran Reserva, the 1964 Gomez Cruzado, Honorable, Rioja Gran Reserva , and the 1964 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Monty, Rioja.  Incredibly, the Monte Real appears to still be developing due to youthful focus.  The Gomez Cruzado never lost all of its bottle stink but in the mouth it is crisp with wood notes and certainly a wine to try again.  I found the Montecillo, the only all Tempranillo wine we tasted, the roundest.

These particular wines show the success achieved with Tempranillo based blends based on old, dry-farmed, bush vines raised with the traditional method of long oak aging.  This method of winemaking developed in the 19th century based on Bordeaux techniques and adopted to what was best for Rioja.   They are not fragile when exposed to air and all have a good spine of acidity which allows them live on.  The tasting also reminds us that there are no guarantees with old bottles.

Please find my tasting notes below.  You will notice a larger than usual number of dinner wine notes at the end.  The Madeira collector Bob Stern, whom I first met several years ago, was in town and able to join.  He has taken his passion one step further and is now importing Madeira from H. M. Borges. Thus he could present an array of samples for us to taste.

I could not have organized this tasting without Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., offering me his precious bottles of Rioja.  I must also thank our generous guest who, in sharing his German wines, ensured a once in a lifetime experience to taste three German wines older than one century.


A German Start

1898 Franz Karl Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Auslese Cabinetwein, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.  Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  A very clear, tawny amber color.  The nose is touched by boytrtis with honied aromas, fresh herbs, and tea.  The flavors are drier than expected, of medium body, and of sharp yet focused acidity.  The body speaks of remarkable condition as tangy, lemon citrus flavors come out in the middle, all of it persisting through the long finish.  ***(*) Now.

1905 Hermann Franz Schmitt, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.  Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.   Recorked in 1998. New labels.  A very clear, lighter tawny amber with a touch more yellow.  There is a botrytis touch as well but this is the most delicate wine of the quartet of old Germans.  It too is dry with fresh and bright acidity, herbs, and a savory, short finish.  It dries out quicker revealing piercing acidity in the end. ** Now.

1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.   Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  The darkest being tawny in color.  This still smells great.  In the mouth it is unctuous and mineral infused with plenty of forward body.  Flavors of apricot and peach mix with orange marmalade.  This is a good wine with round, glycerin body.  **** Now – 2027.

1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr Und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars.   Tagged The Don Stott Cellar.  Recorked in 1998. New labels.  Of yellow straw the color is the lightest and the nose the most subtle.  One is not prepared for the much sweeter and rounded flavors in this unctuous wine.  There is still ripe fruit, fine tea notes, and a racy character. **** Now – 2027.


Palate Cleansing Champagne

NV Grands Comptoirs Champenois, Champagne Brut Comte de Vic
Imported by The RareWine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  A very clear amber color.  It is best on the second day. There are very fine, strong bubbles which quickly form a mousse that adds ripe texture to the start.  Flavors of ripe white then yellow fruit mix with yeast and mature notes.  With air ripe spices come out in the watering finish. ***(*) Now but will last.


1964 Rioja

1964 Bilbainas, Clarete Fino, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1901 by Santiago Ugarte, the son of a wine negociant, during the Rioja phylloxera epidemic.  The main winery was built at Barrio de la Estacion in Haro.  This wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo and 35% Garnacha that spent 9-10 years in American oak barrels.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Bilbainas, Vendimia Especial, Rioja Reserva 
One of the top wines this wine is a blend of70% Tempranillo and 30% Garnacha sourced from the Zaco vineyard.  It spent 18 months in large wooden vats then 6-8 (or 9-10) years in American oak barrels.  This is a bright wine with tart red fruit and a grippy nature.  The wine is still youthful but the leather notes speak of age.  *** Now but will last.

1964 Bilbainas, Vina Pomal, Rioja Reserva Especial 
This label has existed for over 100 years and always featured fruit from the Vina Pomal vineyard between the Ebro and Tiron rivers.  Apparently Winston Church drank it regularly.  It is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo, Graciano, and Viura.  It spent 1 year in tank followed by 6-7 years in American oak barriques.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Campo Viejo, Rioja 
Founded in 1963, Camp Viejo moved from Rioja Baja to an industrial part of Logrono in 1965.  The Crianza is typically a blend of mostly 80% Tempranillo followed by 20% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.  It spent 18 months in large vats followed by 30 months in American oak barriques.  A fine nose makes way to a fruity start that is still ripe and flavored by spices in the finish.  The relatively short aging in wood results in this wine having the most fruit out of all tasted.  Perhaps not the most complex flavors the wine is, nevertheless, a fine drink with finely textured, ripe flavors.  *** Now – 2022.

1964 Franco-Espanolas, Excelsos, Rioja Gran Reserva 
Bodegas Franco-Espanolas history begins in 1890 when Frederick Anglade Saurat came to Logrono from Bordeaux.  Once his vineyards were in full production he founded the Bodegas, with Spanish capital, in 1901.  The Excelsos is the top gran reserve released only in the best vintages.  This rare wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo that spent 18 months in large wooden vats and 6-7 years in American oak barrels.  It was released in 1980.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Gomez Cruzado, Honorable, Rioja Gran Reserva 
Founded in 1886.  This is a blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo and Graciano.  This is fermented and raised in large wooden vats for 24 months followed by aging for 5 years in old American oak barrels.  It was bottled in 1972.  Quite stinky at first then a transition to an attractive funk.  However it is clean in the mouth where there are very lively flavors, crisp fruit, and wood shavings.  A delight in the mouth.  If I am picky, the finish is a little short.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

1964 Bodegas Montecillo, Vina Monty, Rioja 
Founded in 1870, Bodegas Montecillo is one of the oldest firms in Rioja. The Vina Monty is the top wine.  Produced solely from Tempranillo it spent 6 to 12 months in large wooden vats then 48 months in American oak barrels.  The 1964 vintage was produced at the old winery pre-dating the Osborne acquisition of 1973.  A good nose of fruit and mixed herbs.  There is round, red fruit, bright acidity, and a fine wood note. ***(*) Now – 2022.

1964 Frederico  Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1898, Frederico Paternina owns no vineyards. This is a blend of 70% Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano.   This Gran Reserva spent up to six years in American oak barrels and other volumes.  TCA.  Not Rated.

1964 Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Founded in 1890.  A blend of mostly 70% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, 5% Garnacha, 2% Graciano, and 3% Viura and Malvasia.  It spent 12 to 18 months in large wooden tanks then aged for 4.5 to 6 years in American oak casks and other sizes.  Part of the fruit underwent carbonic maceration.  A touch musty at first but cleans up to reveal aromas of broth.  The bright flavors of cranberry are fresh and grippy.  The wine is driven by acidity.  This is the most youthful wine of them all, still focused and on the upslope of development. ***(*) Now – 2025.


Dinner Wines

1970 LAN, Lanciano Rioja
Founded in 1970. This wine is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo that spent 18 months in tank and 2 years in American oak casks.  Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Quite comforting with a combination of wood box notes, mature yet freshly delivered red fruit, and garrigue.  The flavors become meaty with air.  There is moderate weight and though the tannins are largely resolved a bit of structure comes out in the finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.

1978 Torres, Gran Coronas, Penedes Reserva
Imported by Chateau & Estates.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 18 months in American oak casks.  It was bottled in 1980. Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a tart, assertive start that is infused with some funk.  The wine soon becomes weightier with prominent acidity, green pepper notes, and tons of grip.  Quite fun to drink.  *** Now but will last.

2007 Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators.  Alcohol 15%. This lively red wine is bright in flavor and poised for many years of development.  I particularly like the fine mixture of Christmas spices which add complexity to the red fruit. A real treat, I wish I had tasted it some more. **** Now – 2027.

NV Rare Wine Co, Henriques & Henriques Imperial Reserve Malmsey
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This Madeira is a blend of old stocks of Malmsey from Henriques & Henriques. Mannie created the blend with John Cossart shortly before he passed away. It was released in honor of John Cossart in 2008.  Alcohol 20%.  There are pungent aromas of orange marmalade.  In the mouth is a rounded, dense start followed by powerful pungent flavors and racy residual sugar.  Supporting this is acidity to match.  The wine is incensed with Christmas spices. I imagine this will slowly develop for a few more decades.  ****.

1990 H. M. Borges, Sercial
Imported by Next Chapter Wines & Spirits.  Alcohol 20%.  An amber-tawny color.  Slightly pungent on the nose it is off to a round start that immediately unleashes piercing acidity.  There is lovely body weight which adds tension to this acidity driven wine.  Complexity comes from baking spices.  ****.

NV H. M. Borges, 15 year old Verdelho
Imported by Next Chapter Wines & Spirits.  Alcohol 19%.  There is a low-lying, deep nose.  In the mouth are taut orange citrus flavor and round body with piercing, laser sharp acidity.  Sweet and tense.  Good future potential.  ***.

2005 H. M. Borges, Tina Negra Colheita
Alcohol 20%.  Bottled in 2017. A very good, deep nose.  A racy, weighty start brings ripe flavors and sweetness in this round, tense wine.  A cherry middle makes way to a sweeter finish.  Good stuff. ***(*).

1998 H.M. Borges, Malmsey Colheita
This wine was aged in casks for over 8 years.  Bottled in 2006/7. Alcohol 19%.  A touch of satisfying pungency on the nose.  In this mouth this is a powerful wine with fruit, nuts, and piercing acidity. ***.

1995 H. M. Borges, Bual Colheita
This wine was aged in oak casks for at least 5 years.  Alcohol 19%.  A pungent, piercing nose.  In the mouth are spicy flavors delivered as a tense core.  Notes of evergreen and Christmas spices add complexity before the textured finish. ***(*).