Tasting Notes for two (and a bit) Tastings together this month as Xmas has compressed the tastings to 4 days apart (rather than the usual 11).

First the December (5th) ICC Tasting, the scene-setting article for which was posted a week ago. The tasting was under the general heading “Unusual Dinner Party Wines”:

BLANDY’S “DUKE OF SUSSEX” DRY MADEIRA  –  19%  (TheDrinkShop.com – £10)
Nutty, slightly raisin sweet nose. Warm with good acidity but quite a lot of sweetness giving a Mosel-ish balance. Broad range of quite grainy flavours but cut short by the perceptible alcohol, lovely fruit but without the finesse, smoothness or length of a real Sercial. The group’s favourite wine (just).
Quality:  14/20     Value:  17/20

MOUNT PLEASANT “ELIZABETH” SEMILLON 2005  –  12%  (Tesco – £9)
Very pungent nose – oily and limey. Big lime palate too – heavy yet resolved and asking for a rich fish dish.
Quality:  14/20     Value:  16/20

SAINT AMOUR “MAS DES TINES” 2011   –  13%  (Wine Society – £10)
Served chilled (at about 10°C) acidity and minerality come more to the fore – asking for food – and the carbonic, “bubble-gum”, qualities recessed. The nose is quiet at this temperature but with a tomato based starter this would be very good…..
Quality:  15/20     Value:  17/20

DE MARTINO ALTO DE PIEDRAS CARMÉNÈRE 2009   –  14%  (Wine Society – £15)
Warm laurel-leaf and dark fruit nose. Thick blackberry palate and a smokey quality some acidity and grainy mocha tannins. A little young, would frame a rich roast well though.
Quality:  14/20     Value:  14/20

ATLÁNTICO SUR RESERVE TANNAT-MERLOT 2011   –  13.5%  (Wine Society – £13)
Red fruit (raspberry?) with some sharpness and chocolate notes later. Well balanced with fruit, leather, acid and tannin components, although not fully integrated yet. But good for a young wine, would do well with that Turkey but even better in a year! My favourite of the night.
Quality:  16/20     Value:  17/20

MAURY SOLERA 1928 CASK NUMBER 875   –  17%  (Wine Society – £10 for ½l)
Figs and Prunes on the nose, together with hints of herbs and chocolate. Porty flavours with decent acidity and prunes returning on the palate – very long and satisfying but a slight grappa note at the finish. Good
Quality:  16/20     Value:  15/20

On Monday 9th December the WING group met to taste Port courtesy of Paul and Anna. All the wines were about 20% abv..

Krohn Lagrima White Port (Buzzard vineyard £17)
We started with White Porto, which can be sweet or dry. This, sweeter, style is known as “Lagrima” (“tears”) and is popular in Portugal but not common in the UK.  It is aged for 3 – 5 years before bottling.
Spirity but raisin and caramel nose. Quite a sweet balance but a line of (apply?) acidity backing it up, and  – with the alcohol – attenuating the sweetness. Long and Tawny-like in its Xmas cake flavours and balance.

Next two LBVs. LBV port comes in two styles –  (a) filtered, ready to drink without decanting, stoppered, more common among the British port houses, or (b) unfiltered, with a cork, more common with Portuguese producers, that will continue to improve with bottle age. We had one of each:

Taylors LBV 2007   (Tesco, Majestic £12)
More of a red wine nose – mulberry cherry and plum notes. Palate has plums too, and grainy tannins. Quite a (relatively) dry style. Later biscuit (shortbread?) notes appear but overall quite simple.

Noval Unfiltered LBV 2001   (Tesco?  £17ish)
Pungent, almost onion, nose – red fruit working through in time. Sweeter balance than the Taylors, but smoother tannins, better integration and more fruit – sweet/sour cherries and plums. Non fruit notes to and quite evolved tarry elements. Very good, much more interesting than the Taylors.

Now on to 3 Vintage Ports: Vintage Port also has two styles. In the best years (“declared” vintages) each company produces a vintage wine from a blend of different estates.  In the medium-quality years, they may make a “single quinta” port from their best vineyards.

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim 2001    (Tesco £23)
A sharper nose – berry fruit (cran-, rasp- and black-???) and alcohol. Warm and syrupy with nice fruit but rather simple. The sweetness less integrated than most, the alcohol too. A bit simple. Works quite well with stilton though.

Dow’s Quinta Senhora da Ribeira 1998  (£40 in UK , £20 from Strakers)
15 miles upriver from Quinta do Bomfim. This has a high proportion of old vines (45% are over 25 years old). Quieter nose than the previous wine with hints of baking spice and subtle plum hints. A well-integrated palate – warm alcohol and spice, a sweep of fruit (cherry, plums and figs) and restrained sweetness. Well balanced and up to vintage quality. My favourite!

Tesco finest 1994 Symington Family Estates (Tesco £18)
Very pungent nose (a bit like the Noval) then cherry notes. Cherry on the palate too with big acidity and tannin, with alcohol and spice heat and not too sweet. Individual components persist making a very long wine with freshness but with less integration than 20 years might lead you to expect. Very impressive and more-ish.

Thanks so much to Paul and Anna

And finally…
Just by coincidence I opened a 1983 Offley “Boa Vista” Vintage Port for a dinner party in between the two tastings. The last time I tasted this was 10 years ago in a 1983 v 1985 comparison (as I recall I preferred the 83s), and this was my last bottle. Several guests commented this was the smoothest port they had ever tasted, and the integration and length were remarkable – making it hard to write a note of individual flavours – figs, sweetness and smooth gripping tannins and acidity occur to me – but the main factor was the harmony…

Harmony is sometimes worth the wait! And with that: Seasons Greetings to all my readers.

RIP Nelson Mandela