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Travel Journal of the Association des Sommeliers de Nice Côte d'Azur Provence to Porto



If "First Growth" existed in PortoAn independent house since its foundation by Job Beardsley in 1692, Taylor's is one of the most renowned producers with its serious vintages, yet possessing an ethereal finesse at Quinta de Vargellas, alongside a breathtaking range of Tawnies: the classic 10 years, the refined 20 years, a 30 years, reaching its peak with the highly sought-after 40 years or the rare novelty of 50 years. Innovation has always been the company's signature – the first dry white Porto, Chip Dry, launched in 1934, the first unfiltered commercial LBV, the first SQV. The 2003 Vintage remains youthful, floral with Esteva, cherry, plum, spices, and tobacco, with an almost mineral-like reduction. Luxurious, with a spicy, fleshy, and velvety core, its firm tannins, freshness, give it an ethereal and floral vein. Quinta da Vargellas 2015 – exquisitely fragrant, raspberry, peony, red fruit jelly, a sensation of freshness reminiscent of the floral bark of bergamot, mentholated Sichuan.

The firm palate reveals a granular tannin, immense finesse, floral, balsamic, a superb fruity liveliness. The 10-year Tawny, serious and rooted, is pulpy with a granular, chocolatey tannic structure, while the 20-year Tawny already exhibits the subtle sotolon, an incredible punch with notes of orange peel and precious wood. A soft, digestible core with fine-grained tannins, its freshness is full of intertwined citrus zest, spices, and leather. The 50-year Tawny, beautifully lifted, between cabinetmaking, cigar box, exhibits vitality, a sense of balance, polished tannins, spices, concluding with precious wood.



« Pomerol of Porto »
The visionary Guimaraens, always present in the house, took the first step towards the Flatgates to sell Fonseca in 1949. David Guimaraens is the chief winemaker of the house with three Quintas: Panascal, Cruzeiro, San Antonio (as well as Taylor’s and Croft). Considered as the "Pomerol of Porto" due to the stylistic approach to vintages, it is also a pioneer in organic agriculture, with Quinta San Antonio. Siroco, a fragrant dry white, is the alter ego of Taylor's Chip Dry. The Bin 27, one of the most successful Ruby Reserves on the market and a favorite in the United States, exemplifies what was once called “Vintage Character”. Terra Prima Ruby Reserve Bio provides a fresher sensation, firmer tannins, and a peppery warmth compared to Bin 27. LBV 2018 is more full-bodied, with mature acidity and adherent tannins compared to Taylor's unfiltered style. Vintage Guimaraens 2018, a confidential cuvée, is not an SQV but a creation when the grand Vintage is not released: airy with notes of rockrose, impactful with black fruit, smooth, veined, framed by superb vitality and a granulated structure, a delightful fruit. Fonseca now only produces 10 and 20-year Tawnies, specializing more in the Ruby style, but their Tawnies are layered, voluptuous, thanks to the precious stocks purchased from Wiese & Krohn.

Julien Dos Santos,

friend and winemaker for French sommeliers,
owner of Heritage Porto & Douro in Val do Seixo.

An 8-year White Reserve, where the muscatel brings an original aromatic signature. The 30-year Dry White combines its toasty notes with sotolon, with a touch of orange marmalade fragranced with cumin. A dynamic freshness sensation, broad heart, soft and powdery phenolic, with zesty bitters framing the structure. The 10-year Tawny is creamy, with a luxurious core, light and polished tannins, velvety, balancing caramel and brandied fruits. The profound 40-year Tawny offers notes of tobacco, cigar box, hazelnut, cocoa, and salted butter caramel. Sweet, dense, with a firm structure, spicy, warm, and complex, yet full and creamy. The 2016 LBV vibrates with ethereal, balsamic, and mentholated aromas. Balance, fresh sensation, fine-grained tannins bring a chocolaty firmness to the fleshy core, and the finish is mentholated and spicy. The 2013 Vintage, airy and perfumed with balsamic, mentholated violet, unfolds silky, with a vibrant, crunchy structure, still firm, refreshed by the volatility of eucalyptus and the spice of exotic pepper.


Quinta do Noval

The Definition of Quinta

Founded in 1715, Quinta do Noval introduced the term "Quinta" into the international lexicon to express its commitment to its namesake vineyard. The company was named in honor of the most important wine it owned. After the devastating fire at the lodges in Gaia in 1981 and the acquisition by AXA Millésimes in 1993, Quinta do Noval reinforced the concept of Quinta, fully establishing itself in the Douro with state-of-the-art technology under the direction of Carlos Agrellos, the technical director who succeeded Antonio in 2018.

Quinta do Noval surprises with its Vintage policy, declaring several vintages in a row but releasing each time tiny quantities of consistent quality. It's worth noting that the iconic Nacional also does not limit itself to unanimous declarations. The unfiltered LBV 2017 introduces us to the world of vintages with its structure and concentration. The 2020 Vintage inspires Esteva, a vibrant foundation of fruit, delicate spices, and exotic pepper. Digestible sweetness guided by liveliness, its taut, salivating structure leads towards the tight finale, with exotic spices, in a minty and ethereal spirit. The mature and pulpy 2017 Vintage blends blackcurrant, blackberry jelly, and chocolate, its fleshy palate supported by a tight tannic grain relies on vibrancy, juicy florality, and balsamic notes. Nacional 2021 remains restrained, with immense fruit purity, ethereal balsamic qualities, magnificent integration of sweetness, and finesse. It inspires freshness counterbalanced by digestible spicy generosity. Almost mineral tannins, rockrose linger on the never-ending finish. After some excellent Tawnies, the Colheitas take the stage, released only on demand, in small batches with stocks dating back to 1937. They are both voluptuous and balanced, with an ethereal character paired with a firm tannic structure. The 2012 Colheita announces sotolon, nuts, maple syrup, dried figs, and spices. Fleshy, salivating, it offers a freshness sensation through concentration, dense, adherent, spicy structure, tinged with Sichuan pepper and liquorice. The 1997 Colheita presents a deep nose, a refined rancio between leather, mocha, and dry grape syrup. Superb flesh and generosity, always structured tannins, dense, muscular, yet fresh, with length and precision.

Quinta da Gaivosa

Pioneers of Douro Wines

Tiago guided us through his research, his quest to embrace climate change, drawing inspiring examples from his doctoral thesis and applying them in the family vineyard. Branco da Gaivosa Grande Reserva 2021 displays precision, detailed construction, led by a sapid salivation, with a reductive spirit. Rosa Celeste 2021 is floral, with superb smoothness, and vibrant aromatic freshness, while Vale de Raposa is a 100% Tinto Cao originality from the challenging 2018 vintage, almost resembling Pinot. Quinta da Gaivosa 2020 is a true monument of structure and finesse. "Abandonado" comes from an 85-year-old plot with 25 forgotten grape varieties - floral, pulpy, drawing a refined freshness enhanced by balsamic, essences, and resin. Concentration held by almost mineral tannins, with immense sapid length. "Memorias" reproduces the spirit of a solera, interpreting the best vintages of the decade. Between evolution and beautiful reduction, warm and caressing. While Quinta da Gaivosa remains a pioneer of dry wines, we conclude the tasting with Port wines: White 20 years - as indulgent as a dried fruit and honey pastry, aromatic freshness complemented by orange peels, marmalade, mint, precise and powdery structure. Tawny 20 years, with a rooty and earthy character, blends fig, tobacco, spicy precious wood, it unfolds broadly but with a drier aspect, a spicy chew. Vintage Amphitheatrum 2020 - a concentration bomb paired with a delicate, luxurious airiness, incredible digestibility, whimsical density, tight tannins, a memory of 1822.


Julia Scavo dans les caves de la maison Ramos Pinto.

Ramos Pinto

The smallest of the great producers
A monument in the landscape of Porto houses, Ramos Pinto is the smallest of the great producers. Self-sufficient in terms of grape supply with its own 240 hectares (except for purchasing grapes for Lagrima), Ramos Pinto combines the dimension of a winemaker with the research and development dynamics of a large company, plus the aura brought by its parent company, Champagne Louis Roederer, since 1990. As usual, Roederer has taken care to preserve the family identity, present today with the remarkable cellar master Ana Roses and Jorge Rosas, the president of the house. The visit was one of the most technical of the journey, revealing the holistic personality of Ana, the historical visionary spirit of the house in perfect harmony with Roederer's enlightened vision. We started with wood-aged Ports: Adriano White Reserve, a skillful blend of different lots of white wines aged an average of 7-8 years, also contains drops from 1964 or 1965 to enhance the blend. Adriano Tawny Reserva, averaging 8 years, lifted, balsamic, cocoa, and spicy. RP10, the Tawny from the Ervamoira terroir, presents itself round, generously pulpy, tensioned by firm, grainy tannins, showing finesse, spicy chocolate in depth. RP20 with a proportion of Bom Retiro, between spices and sotolon, blends quince jelly, caramel, balanced by the fresh and concentrated sensation, superb fine lift, and soft tannins. Spicy, persistent density, on the potpourri. RP 30 is serious, more earthy, spicy, gentian, coffee, carried by rancio. Sustained concentration through a lively vector, offering silky linearity coupled with dense extract, a very concentrated dry finish between fig jam and spices. Ruby Reserva is generous, velvety, with a sweet liquorice sensation, a powdery bitterness of cocoa. The Unfiltered LBV 2018, reserved, more reductive, floral, fresh, and spicy, with a balanced digestible sweetness offset by aromatic freshness. Vintage 2000 is young, concentrated, with floral aromas, toasted bread, and black fruit coulis. Sweet, an ethereal generosity brings aromatic and spicy freshness to its silky, suave flesh, finesse but with still structuring tannins. Vintage 1997 – chocolate, candied blackberry, Morello cherry, concentration, lush and lifted at the same time, plus earthy mineral notes. Velvety, soft on the palate, tight but not powerful, with potpourri notes, long and seductive. Vintage 1982 blends notes of coffee, toasted bread with superb development, a sensation of freshness, sapid fine-grained tannins, superb florality, depth, remarkably youthful.


Dalva Wines et Porto Cruz

(Granvinhos Group), The World of Fine White Port 
Guided by Elsa Couto, we delved into the world of White Port with the “Dry collection”. Dry White Reserve intertwines dried fruits, woody spices, silky, resting on a spicy structure, a delicate, granular density, digestible, and precise. The Dry White 20 years is more discreet, more saline, with a soft texture but a dry aspect, textured core, denser due to its phenolic grip, spicy grain, umami flavor. The Dry White 40 years becomes resinous, carried by sotolon, fresh, dynamic, and silky vibration, grainy like the crunch of almond, deep, with a salty umami. Colheita Dry White 1968 brings citrus marmalade, honey, curry, and fenugreek, flavorful, suggesting umami. Superb dry and vibrant balance held by a mineral phenolic structure, with the relief of bitter almond. Very dry, with immense length. What to say about the Golden White '89 – voluptuous like tamari sauce, candied figs, salted caramel, ethereal, suggesting umami. The palate is sweet, textured but fresh and wrapped in satin, with superb dynamics and structure.

Text and photos : Julia Scavo