I have long been suspicious of Late Bottled Vintage Ports. When I first started in the wine trade 14 years ago (I’m older than I look) I tucked into a bottle of LBV with my colleagues after some tasting or other. It took me two days to recover from that hangover. Of course I blamed the Port and not the vast amount of Burgundy that came before it.
Even with a more cautious approach, I always found LBVs too heavy and sullen. Perhaps I was drinking the wrong wines. At any rate, I rarely touched them and certainly never considered ageing them.
But on 6 October I was a guest of AXA Millésimes for the second time in three days. This time it was to try the newly released 2004 Quinta do Noval LBV as well as some older LBV wines back to 1994. Lunch was at Prism Brasserie in the City.
Even Noval itself had rarely considered LBVs worthy of ageing. Christian Seeley explained that he had to buy some bottles of the 1994 from his mother, who liked it so much that she had bought 25 cases. There was no stock left at the Quinta itself.
The pre-2004 LBVs were labelled as “Noval” because many of the grapes were bought-in. The 2004 is made only from Noval’s own vineyards, hence “Quinta do Noval”. All the wines were unfiltered, which is highly unusual for a LBV Port. The whole point of LBV is that it has had longer in wood and doesn’t need decanting, non?
As at the Tokaji tasting, there were several wines to taste before lunch.
The 1994 was OK. It had a “burn” on the finish and was a bit spirity on the whole. It had plenty of life though – no problem to keep this for another ten years.
Although it was a bit woody in the middle, the 1996 was superior to the first wine, with a sweet and fleshy finish.
For me the 2000 was the best of the LBVs here. It was very generous and charming – what good LBV (good Port!) is all about. Its length was far superior to the ’96 and ’94.
The rude tannins of the 2001 were a stark contrast to the previous wine. It wasn’t a declared vintage and it showed.
The 2003 was much better, not dissimilar to the sweet fruit and chocolate flavours of the 2000, albeit with much more burly tannins.
The new 2004 was of course still a juvenile, very sweet and fruity. Its thick, rich fruit was appealing and uber-modern for Port.
A glass of 2009 Quinta da Romaneira rosé was very welcome after those six Ports. It was dry and simple but quite full for a pink ’un – “slightly too alcoholic”, thought Christian.
The Carpaccio of beef with truffle emulsion and shaved Parmesan was delicious – the meat melted in the mouth like a snowflake. It was very good with the Cedro do Noval 2007, the junior table wine of Noval. The nose was very cedary, to my mind recalling Right Bank claret. But there is not a drop of Cabernet or Merlot here – it is 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Roriz and 30% Syrah, the latter “to round out the wine.” A good wine and now à point.
Quinta do Noval 2007 represents “a serious attempt to make great red wine in the Douro”, said Christian. This is a wine that has a Henrician structure – big and rich, ideal for a roasted rump of lamb. Two bottles were sampled. Christian felt that the first was not fresh enough, though nobody else complained. His conscientiousness spurred me to look more closely. Perhaps there was a bit of reduction.
The 2004 was tasted again at the end. It was particularly good with the blue cheeses, showing that some things can’t be improved.