Another in the exploration series from Wineseeker in Wellington; they pick a region and invite keen punters to dive deep into understanding and appreciating those regional wines. The wine of the night was Port.
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine made in the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal. There are over a hundred varieties of grapes that can be used to make Port, but only five are widely produced and used. Those five are: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tempranillo, Trouiga Francesa and Touriga National.
Similar to Champagne, wine made in the same style as Port outside the Duoro Valley can not be called Port.
The night opened with a warning to have alternative travel arrangements made for getting home as the higher than normal alcohol content would render us all unable to drive. The average port has 19-21% alc/vol compared to 11-14% for New World table wines.
We were then taken through a bit of history on the region, and filled in on facts, such as the Port trade was once dominated by the British – due to the wars with France they needed to secure their wines from Portugal, hence the very non-Portuguese names on the labels of most Port.
We started with the fresh ruby Ports all the way through to the aged vintage Ports. My top of the night was the Churchill 10 year, but I expect in a different setting the Dows Ruby and the Churchill 20 year would oust it.
Dow’s Fine Ruby RRP$48
The Dow’s Fine Ruby is quite fresh and bright. Ruby ports don’t tend to improve with age and are best drunk young. A clear, pale ruby colour with rich aromas of cherries, blackberries and fruit mince pies. The wine is luscious and juicy with plenty of vanilla, cassis and more mince pies – all very red and fresh. High, sharp alcohol, full-bodied with a full flavour intensity and a medium finish.
Krohn ‘Rio Torto’ Reserva Ruby RRP$54
The alcohol is far more prominent on the reserva with just a slight burning sensation and not much fruit. Medium bodied with notes of sweet-spiced Christmas pudding topped with cinnamon and pure cacao but over it all the alcohol is still rather obvious and distracting through to a medium, bitter finish. The cacao in the wine was emphasized nicely when paired with a rich chocolate brownie. So although it wasn’t my favourite, I wouldn’t totally discount it.
Dow’s Fine Tawny RRP$48
The Fine Tawny is clear pale purple in colour that browns to the rim. Aromas of apple skins, red plums and minced fruit blended with the slight mustiness of fermentation. The wine spent two years in barrel before being assessed for quality. There’s high alcohol and a full body with fresh notes of spiced pears, nutty almond flesh and caramel. In the line-up the wine is rather smooth and smoother than the ones that have come before it.
Krohn Colheita 1991 RRP$90
This is a wine I labelled as a thinking wine, it’s a wine you want to take you time with. Tasting it in a social setting had its challenges in trying to find the details. Always the way with interesting wine – a richly textured wine saturated with bitter orange rind and a sweet hit of cinnamon. High sweetness, with a harsh, sharp alcohol and a rich nuttiness on the finish.
Krohn Colheita 2001 RRP$75
Patience is rewarded with this one as it really grows on you. It starts off really quite subtle, a big swirl reveals red fruit, raspberries and an array of spices including cloves, spice, cinnamon and nutmeg. The wine is rather rich with a full body and plenty of texture. On the palate there’s prunes and a sweet nuttiness, the same high alcohol and high sweetness and a lovely creamy texture.
Churchills 10 year Tawny RRP$90
As we get into the tawnies, we get deeper rust colours. For the night, this was tops – as it was well complemented by the social atmosphere of the evening. The nose is richly aromatic with notes of Christmas pudding, cloves in an orange rind, ginger and cinnamon. The alcohol is smooth with well integrated fresh red fruits. The fruitiness is not as prominent but there’s still a touch of fresh red fruits well integrated with a smooth alcohol, medium alcohol, low acidity and high sweetness. On the palate there’s plenty of flavours of dark chocolate oranges and a huge amount of walnuts on the long finish.
Churchills 20 year Tawny RRP$130
The second thinking wine of the night. People were raving about this one on the evening, I was looking for a way to turn the volume way, way down on the background hub-bub. On the first go, the wine had a definite density about it, full bodied, smooth, high alcohol, high sweetness and low acid. The alcohol is well integrated, it’s not as obvious as in some of the other wines from the night. It’s a terribly interesting wine. I was fortunate enough to take a glass home with me for a further tasting. Trying it again at home I confirmed my suspicion, it is an excellent wine for a cold night with friends and conversation. From my two lots of notes, the wine has a very pale, burnt orange colour, on the nose there’s strawberry, plum and prunes, coffee and cocoa with a touch of florals. There’s a rich and creamy texture with lots of mealy character and walnuts on the palate. It’s a complex wine that changes each time you try it. It’s still rather sweet but with more savouriness and spice then overtly fruity or sugary. The finish, again, delivers a wallop of walnuts.
Krohn Vintage 2003 RRP$92
We finished the evening with a bit of something different. The 2003, a Vintage port, the king of ports – is made only in exceptional years and this one at 20-years-old is still a baby – that was built for the long run. 2003 is one of relatively few years to be considered outstanding, 1997 though, is still considered by many as the one to beat. In this aged wine, the nose has aromas of baked plums and stewed prunes qualities to it, on the palate that becomes dark chocolate and burnt coffee beans and a touch of smokiness. A real treat to wrap up the evening