Wednesday Wines – Episode 187 – Quinta do Noval Portfolio Tasting

I recently missed an important wine tasting. I was overseas, and while these things happen, I knew it was a big one, so I was delighted when AXA Millésimes supremo Christian Seely kindly recreated it for a couple of lucky souls. I was so pleased he did because it was a stunning line in the sand for his terrific Quinta do Noval estate.  Here are the wines. Some are on the market now, and the others are coming soon. Make a diary date, I imagine, for early next year, and track down my high scorers without fail – they are all on their way over here!  

WHITES

2021 Cedro do Noval, Vinho Branco, Douro DOC, Portugal (£22.50, www.bbr.com). 

While I am a massive fan of the work Noval has done on their white wine project, and I wrote up the 2019 vintage of this wine in my MoneyWeek column three years ago, I cannot believe the steepening of the curve that has happened between the 2019 and this 2021. 2021 Cedro is floral, bright, balanced and delicate on the nose with a depth of fruit, initially hidden from view, that is both beguiling and unexpected. The oak regime here is a mild 20% of new barrels for six months, and it cradles the Viosinho, Gouveio, Arinto, Códego de Larinho and Ravigato blend with admirable sensitivity. I like it a LOT. It’s a gold medal wine; of that, there is no doubt. Please track it down. Berry Bros. has stock, and it makes entry-level Premier Cru Chablis look like it should never have been bottled. But, and this is a big but, 2022 Cedro do Noval Vinho Branco is an absolute showstopper. OK, it won half a point more in my notes, but, as you know, I think scores are for pedants, and serious wine-tasting notes are all-important. It is not the introduction of Fernão Pires into this head-spinning blend that has elevated this wine to ridiculously high levels, but the shorter period (5 months) in 80% stainless steel and, 16% new oak and 4% second fill oak that has allowed every single element of all six white grape varieties to shine. This is a zesty, chalky, lemony, honed, pretty, rigid and devastatingly attractive white wine. It is already the twenty-quid white wine to beat in 2024. I cannot bear it if you do not track this wine down. It is sublime.  

2021 Quinta do Noval, Reserva Vinho Branco, Douro DOC, Portugal (currently, only available in the on-trade).

The QdN Reserva white wine is a very different proposition to Cedro. It is the Grand Cru to Cedro’s Village. It probably works out at twice the price, or perhaps a little more, but restaurants gobble it up before indie merchants have a chance to list it, so it is hard to determine an accurate price. Of course, sommeliers know that whatever happens, this wine is the same shape, size and complexity of any silly-priced white Burgundy and at a fraction of the price, it is somewhat of a trade secret in our business, hand sold to those lucky enough to have won the trust from our elite restaurateurs. Regardless, 2021 Reserva Branco is drawn from only 2ha at the top of the Quinta, and it is made from 60% Viosinho and 40% Gouveio. The oak budget is hefty – 50% new French barriques, and it shows. This is one helluva a beautiful wine. The blossom notes – name a tree they are all here – are thrilling, and the finish is arrestingly crisp and attenuated. I like this wine a lot, and as main course whites go, it has found a unique paddock of flavour in which to frollick. But, and this will happen a little in this post, 2022 Quinta do Noval, Reserva Vinho Branco is even more brilliant. This time, the blend is 52% Gouveio and 48% Viosinho, and the new oak has diminished to 43% new for six months. What a difference it makes – the fruit expression seems even more vital, and with a 13% alcohol level (1% lower than in 2021), this is a mega-controlled and utterly mesmerising wine. Slender but impossibly deep and regal, crunchy and alert, and minutes long, this is the finest white wine I have ever tasted from the Douro Valley, and it ought to send a flare into the cosmos for all to see.

REDS

2020 Cedro do Noval, Vinho Tinto, Vinho Regional Duriense, Portugal (£22.50, www.bbr.com; £24.50, www.ampswinemerchants.co.uk).

This wine makes me reasonably excited, but I am still glued to my chair. It is meaty, bold, commanding and more concentrated than expected. There is more wine in the glass than you might expect for twenty quid, but it seems wild and more than a little reckless. By contrast, 2021 Cedro do Noval Vinho Tinto is fresher, leggier and more dynamic than the 2020. Its recipe is similar, but it seems more detailed. The cunning addition of Syrah to the local mob of red heroes brings a haunting aura of familiarity. Still, after that, this is a Douro red of the future, and I have no doubt it will continue to finesse its delivery over many years to come.  

2019 Quinta do Noval, Reserva, Douro DOC, Portugal (£54.00, www.tanners-wines.co.uk).

Spice, herbs, power and punch, there is so much to admire here, yet it comes with too much velocity and impact. It leaves the palate knocked about and weary; however, 2020 Quinta do Noval Reserva is the greatest red to have emerged to date from this ever-tinkering estate. The percentage of new oak has been diminished from 50% to 40%, and, like the whites, it allows the elemental forces from the earth and fruit to be heard. This is a sensationally refined wine for what is, to all intents and purposes, a full-bodied red wine. The control and delivery are sotto voce. The depth of fruit is Mariana-Trench-like. This is a gorgeous wine, and the tannins are already honed and civilised. All I can think of as I write this note is just how exciting the future is for this remarkable wine, given the sheer quality of this 2020 vintage. 

2019 Quinta do Noval, Terroir Series Vinha da Marka, Douro DOC, Portugal (£180.00, www.tanners-wines.co.uk).

The Terroir Series is an unusual scion of the Noval portfolio, and it focusses on unique plots of land on their estate. The pricing is fruity, to say the least, and I prefer this cuvée to the other one (Vinhas do Passadouro). Still, from a straightforward flavour point of view, I can certainly see that there is something to be gained from isolating this fruit and augmenting its individuality. This wine is made from vines planted in the ‘30s, and there are more than 30 different traditional varieties in this Field Blend. It is rewarded with 80% new barriques for 12 months and there is no doubt that this is an eminent red with a powerful acid line that should allow it to age gracefully. Despite the amount of new oak used here, the black fruit and liquorice notes hold fast, and there is freshness throughout. I am keen to see how this wine evolves, and I anticipate a gradual unfurling of flavours, so there is no need to rush in. Has Mr. Seely played a blinder here? It is a gamble, but he has a strong track record, so I would not bet against this wine becoming a supremely classy piece of work.

PORTS     

    

2009 Quinta do Noval, Colheita Tawny Port, POrtugal (£130.00, magnum, www.thewinesociety.com). 

I will not write this wine up here, because it has made my MoneyWeek Christmas Special, which will be published on the 8th of December. Needless to say, I absolutely adore this wine. I have written up the magnums because they are so sexy, but you can buy bottles of this terrific Tawny from, too – bottle size, £62.65, www.sandhamswine.co.uk.

2012 Quinta do Noval, Colheita Tawny Port, Portugal

This was a ‘first taste’ opportunity to assess how this 11-year-old Colheita was faring, and I was surprised to see that it is already drinking beautifully and, to my taste, it is already at its peak. Glorious salted caramel, redcurrant and fig notes bound around the palate and the bright acidity keeps it all sane. It is more fluid and less challenging than the mighty 2009, but this does not mean it will fall over soon. It was bottled this year, so perhaps the immediacy is a first flush of enthusiasm before closing shop and hibernating for a period, but it doesn’t seem like it. Time will tell, but this is another stunning vintage Tawny from QdN.

2021 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port, Portugal (£390.00 for six bottles En Primeur, www.laywheeler.com).

Only 1000 cases were made of this wine, representing just 3% of production. This spectacular vintage Port is packed with rose petals, chocolate fondant and velvety black fruit. While the palate is ripe, full, expressive, and incredibly charming, the finish has serious finesse. A gradual diminuendo of flavour signals a wine with immense class, and it takes a good couple of minutes for this wine to leave the stage. The tannins are ultra-fine and beautifully ordered, and while they gently grip the finish, they do not interrupt the performance. This is a stunning wine, and the En Primeur price seems incredibly fair for a wine bound to last 40 years (and more)!

2021 Quinta do Noval, Nacional Vintage Port, Portugal 

I was so pleased to taste the 2021 Vintage Port before launching this mind-blowing Nacional into my olfactory system. The very first scribblings in my notebook were not letters but numbers. 20/20.  This is one of the finest, if not the finest, young vintage Ports I have ever tasted. It is a vinous submarine – huge, dark, silent, menacing, perfectly designed and insanely powerful. It is deep-diving, fabulously intense and seemingly everlasting. The calibre of fruit is like nothing I have ever tasted, and the length, oh, the length. The flavour has been saved to my hard drive, so I can open the file whenever I want to relive this wine’s glory.  

A postscript – CHATEAU SUDUIRAUT 

2022 Lions de Suduiraut, Blanc Sec, Bordeaux, France (£23.00, www.cambridgewine.com). 

The Suduiraut dry white wines improve every year and have taken up some of the slack from a downturn in interest in traditional Sauternes.  I tasted four wines, starting with the energetic 2022 Lions, a wine bursting with salty limes and fresh herbs crammed into the glass. It is 54% Semillon and 46% Sauvignon Blanc, and half sees older oak for mid-palate traction. This is easily the finest young Lions to date, and it challenges Loire whites with its zestiness and energy.  2021 Château Suduiraut, Grand Vin Vieilles Vignes Blanc Sec is the second vintage of this wine, made from 68% Semillon and 32% Sauvignon Blanc. The oak is 30% new this time, and considerable class is on display here. Drinking well with presence and structure in the glass, it is ever so slightly eclipsed by the terrific 2022 Château Suduiraut, Grand Vin Vieilles Vignes Blanc Sec. More expressive, refreshing, and intense, but not heavier than the 2021, this is a top-of-the-tree style, and sommeliers ought to take note because this is probably going to be a £50 wine, and it offers so much joy and sophistication. By contrast, 2020 Château Suduiraut, Pur Sémillon is a much deeper and more powerful creation. It comes from one parcel of 64-year-old vines, and while it is fascinating, it has yet to turn the corner into deliciousness. I imagine it will start to bloom in a couple of years, but I have no idea when it will reach its peak! This is a conundrum of a wine wrapped up in an enigma!  

FIN