The widely declared 2016 Portuguese Vintage ports have seen numerous positive reviews, many mentioning their fruit richness and surprising early approachability (albeit with maturation to come over the next few decades). I took the opportunity to visit a heatwave 2003 wine, another generally declared vintage year.
Quinta do Noval is well-known for its Nacional vintage port – which I have never tasted- and their earlier-drinking Silval, but the wine reviewed is their standard model. These wines are imported into Australia by Bibendum, and are widely available. Noval follow the beat of their own drum, with recent vintage ports released from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016; whereas most other houses only declared 2011, 2015 and 2016.
The cork has done its duty, the colour of the wine is a very solid dense red, with some bricking on the rim. The bouquet is ultra-complex; mulberry, liqueur cherry, plumcake spices, green olive, almond, blueberry and cocoa. The palate is an elegant full-bodied style; flavours coat the mouth, there is the tension between blue, red and black fruits. Blackcurrant is in the mix now with red liquorice. The fortifying spirit has melded, the super-silky tannins are present within the swathe of rich ripe fruit.
At this age, the wine is generous, juicy, approachable and delicious, but has the stuffing to mature with grace for another 20 years.
An easy 94 points, and drink up to 2035.
From a half bottle, the cork shows some wine travel- no qualms; the label is cellar-scuffed, but the contents are much more important.
The colour is bright gold, with abundant, tantalising stewed apricot, cinnamon spice, pineapple and dark honey. This is class! Reinhard and Beate Knebel (Mosel, Germany) have no trouble delivering wines with an abundance of richness, but with the harmonious balancing acid to provide delight.
The palate is palatial and unctuous (with 190 g/l of residual sugar, somewhat atypically abundant for an Auslese, but I am not complaining). Apricot, quince, honey, wrapped with cinnamon and faint vanilla pod spices. Fresh and smooth, from a fairly typical recent Mosel vintage, this is a startling reminder of the lush featherlight excellence of a sweet Riesling, full of flavour with modest alcohol.
Match with a fruit platter or by just by itself for delightful contemplation.
Drink to 2030, 95 points and I am jealous of anyone that has some bottles remaining.
This a wine that is meant to be a gift – there is an elaborate, impressive box, a striking, weighty bottle and a hefty price in Australia – around $80-$90. And its not a gift to decline, even though I purchased it from curiosity. It’s sealed with a very ordinary cork, but there is a glass stopper included in the package.
The wine claims a minimum average age of 20 years, and its home is the Barossa Valley of South Australia (although doubtless blended from many parcels from different areas and grape varieties). One of the curious crafts of this style is to ensure the blend is not merely old, but also maintains vitality and freshness. The description “rare” reflects not merely the age, but the quality level. It’s an expensive exercise to hold wine for so long in barrel, with winemakers having to be somewhat circumspect to their book-keeping regime. Old fortified wines are a luxury, low-volume line that -whether in small companies (or even large concerns like Penfolds)- include a nod to winemaker whimsy and tradition.
The colour of the wine is a bright amber/khaki, and there are graceful spice notes, honey, vanilla, caramel and crackling autumn log-fire notes. The fortifying spirit has been sensitively selected and has melded extremely well. The palate is effortlessly balanced with some dried fruit raisins, caramel and vanilla again, plus figs and clean citrus-led acidity to tidy matters along. The persistence of flavours is extensive, and of course the combination ensures resistance to further tasting indulgence is futile.
Overall, this a a super Australian example of this style.
Once opened, this wine is ready to drink – over several weeks, and deserves 95 points.
Another enjoyable wine from the upper Nahe in Germany. From Stephen Reinhardt‘s terrific reference book “The finest wines of Germany” comes the tribute that the family has “maintained parcels in the steepest sites…and restored a number of top parcels that had been abandoned for decades…since they were suitable neither for mechanisation nor for high yields”, ending with Werner Schonleber’s claim that “quality comes from torture”.
Fruhlingplazchen translates as “Spring’s little place” and is mainly blue slate.
This wine is a deep gold colour, exhibiting ripe apricot, yellow peach skin, and quince aromas. The palate is unctuous and honeyed, with a touch of tropical pineapple, plus cinnamon spiciness. There is a strong line of mineral and a delicious persistence. Notes from the importer reveal the wine has 113 g/l of residual sugar, in balance with its acidity. Altogether lovely.
From the half-bottle, drink to 2023 and 94 points.
This wine is still a clear and bright pale straw colour, with voluminous aromas of petroleum, kiwi-fruit, green melon, lime, some waxiness, and a touch of camphor too.
The palate is poised and effortless, concentrated , with more lemon and light tropical flavours added to the mix. Its the kind of wine that puts me on high alert as it slides along and teases the senses, freshness and balance a key attribute.
Fritz Haag is one of the top Mosel estates, and this wine was a lovely example of Riesling with some bottle maturity, and naturally capable of much further aging. My suspicion is that the residual sugar level is around 80 g/l.
Drink to 2028 and 93 points.
I previously assumed this was a Yalumba wine, but the back label claims the wine was made by Beresford. Anyway, this port-style wine is readily available in Australia for between $30 and $35.
It’s a healthy garnet, bricky colour, and the aromas are full of dried apricot, raisin, roast hazelnut and almond, vanilla bean and mocha. That’s action aplenty!
It claims an average of 12 years age, and this is a complex wine with well-matched brandy spirit, providing rich fruitcake, nuts, rancio and vanilla flavours that unfurl with each sip. The wine is artfully constructed, balancing sweetness, richness and freshness.
In a perfect world I would prefer less of the overt vanillan characters, but the wine is a winning, late-evening drink that will generate enormous enthusiasm at a bargain price.
Drink now, and 93 points.
From the small Nahe region (close to Mosel), this is a good age to tackle a quality German spatlese Riesling.
The wine’s colour is a light gold, and importantly the wine is still very fresh, showing some honeyed development, but the interplay of sugar and acidity ensures there is plenty left in reserve. It’s a proper, typical, German sweet Riesling, with power and grace packed into its modest alcohol level.
There are some sweet ginger spice notes, candlewax and leaf, with breathing helpfully bringing out more aromatic lime and honeysuckle. The palate is viscous, but with some oiliness too, flavours closely mirroring the aromatics.
The wine is unforced, has delightful persistence and is highly drinkable, with just some faint, but attractive bitterness adding to its charm.
Admittedly, 2005 produced many terrific wines from Germany, and we are fortunate in Australia that Cellarhand imports a wide range of Donnhoff’s wines.
Drink to 2027, and 92 points.