segunda-feira, 25 de junho de 2018

Noble & Murat, how a classic vintage Port is born

or the vintage Port composition

Quinta do Bragão, Celeirós do Douro: Noble & Murat winery

    The most recent Port wine producer, but only apparently or formally. There is an experience, knowledge and an intimate connection of many years to viticulture, Port wine production and the Douro region which are decisive for this project and for the quality of the wines produced here, as we have already noticed in a previous publication (
Noble & Murat, an historical Port wine brand reborn).

    There is a strong and evident commitment to superior quality Port wine special categories production, natural wines, authentic, without artifice and with a strong identity and character, serious Port wines whose consistency the future will surely ensure.

    The heart of Noble & Murat's Port wines

    The Noble & Murat winery is located in "Quinta do Bragão", at the border of Celeirós do Douro, in the middle of the Pinhão river valley and on its right bank (from here we can see Quinta do Fojo, Quinta do Passadouro, Quinta da Manoella, Quinta do Silval and further on Quinta do Noval). A winery with the typical ambience and a rare charm which is an expression of the Douro traditional wineries.

    It is here, in this river valley that Alexandre Antas Botelho and António Borges Taveira families, the Noble & Murat partners, have their roots and a centuries long tradition of wine production, trading and export, since the sixteenth century. We can say with propriety that the Douro is in the soul of this house and is reflected in the Port wines it produces. A project closely linked to the Douro's viticulture roots.

    It is important to remember that, in the Douro, wine production is carried out mainly in two ways, on the one hand, the "quintas", and on the other hand the isolated vineyards. Let us consider that, with the exception of large wine producers, owners of several "quintas" in the Douro, the wine production on the basis of a single "quinta", has to work with the vines and grapes of that specific property with its own characteristics, with a smaller and a more limited range of choice and less diversity than those producers, as is the case of Noble & Murat, which have at their disposal several vineyards, with different locations, with greater diversity and peculiarities, old vines and vineyards of different ages and grape varieties, located at different altitudes, climatic conditions and solar exposures. All theses factors allow the producer more possibilities and variety of choice and will confer greater richness, complexity and longevity to the final result, as we will see throughout this text.

    Noble & Murat produces Port wine from 6 vineyards, 3 of which are owned by the firm's partners, with privileged and diversified locations in the Pinhão valley and in the Tedo valley (Cima Corgo Douro sub-region), with intense field work of constant monitoring and control.

    The process of wine production and vinification is traditional and entirely manual, understood and assumed as the method that most respects grapes and terroir.
    After careful selection, the grapes are vinified separately, through a traditional winemaking process, with some peculiarities worth noting in order to better understand, not only the wines, but the producer's philosophy.

    As we said, the product of the vineyards is vinified separately, and exclusively foot trodden in small "lagares" (granite or stone treading tanks) made of schist and granite slates, with a high ratio man per wine cask in the "lagar", which ends up having a huge influence on the wines. To understand the rarity and the meaning of this process, in a "lagar" with an approximate dimension of 5 x 5m the grapes are trodden by about 24 to 26 men, and in the smaller "lagares", with adimension of 2,5 x 3m by about 15 men. More than a working team, a wine family that every year does this work together.

    The grapes are vinified with the grape bunch stems, which involves more work, but it's also a decisive method for the final wine quality and character. The fermentation with the stems allows the absorption of heat and contributes to temperature control during fermentation, helping the aeration of native yeasts and conferring the so-called "green tannin", the grape stems acidity will give tannin and aroma and its decisive for the wine longevity. There is also a lot of hard manual work at this stage, for example, when the "blanket" rises (the solid layer that forms in the "lagar" consisting of grape skins, seeds and stems) it is worked manually with the traditional "macacos"(1) throughout the fermentation.

    One of the many important wine making process details is the pressing quality using an old press (a "FAS" press lined with stainless steel that extracts the last drop of wine from the solid matter coming from the "lagares"). The producers believe that a good press will contribute to the necessary extraction and body, which is to say, will bring color and tannin to the wine. A full "lagar" will be equivalent to about a press and a quarter. This "press wine" then integrates the wine that comes out from the "lagares".

    Another of the peculiarities that is also one of the house secrets is the wine fortification procedure, to achieve a greater integration and homogenization of the grape spirit added, for a better aroma, flavour and structure preservation.

    After the separate vinification of each of the vineyards, the resulting wine is kept individualized in "tonéis" (large wood vats) to follow and evaluate its evolution, quality and its potential for vintage Port.

    The vineyards, the grape selection and the winemaking process is exactly the same for the Late Bottled Vintage Port wines and Vintage Ports. The LBV is traditional, unfiltered, more structured and full-bodied, and literally a vintage bottled later. When the wine is removed from the "lagar" a selection is made and the wine destination is determined at this moment. In those years in which vintage port is not produced, almost all wine is destined for the Noble & Murat LBV Port.
    Some of the wine produced in each year is also reserved for longer wood ageing, for a future Tawny colheita port (tonel 11) and also some is saved for an aged Tawny port.

A classic Vintage Port composition
Understanding the Vintage Port assemblage elements 

    Vintage Port wine is a rare wine of exceptional quality, produced in very small quantities, with the very best grapes from a single harvest in a year with perfect conditions and which is the supreme expression of Port wine. It is also a blended wine, but not like Aged Tawny ports in the sense of blending different aged in wood wines from several harvests, but in the sense of a blending of the very best grapes from selected vineyards and from the same vintage, according to the desired wine profile.

    At Noble & Murat, there are 6 wines, resulting from a grape selection from 6 vineyards, being the expression of 6 terroirs, each with its own distinct and very specific characteristcs, different profiles that are the result of tasting and evaluating these 6 elements.
    We had the opportunity and gratifying experience to taste and get to know each of these wines, undoubtedly a tasting essencial to understand vintage Port wine. Our thanks to Alexandre Antas Botelho and Noble & Murat for a tasting usually only accessible to those involved in the house wine production.

    Let us now consider the elements that make up the composition of the lateste classic Vintage port, the Noble & Murat Vintage Port 2016.
    The wines are kept in "tonéis" and cubas (large stainless steel vats) for about 2 years.

    The 1st element from cuba 8 (these stainless steel vats have a capacity of 5000 liters)
    From a very old vineyard in the Tedo valley. A wine in which the primary fruit aromas dominate, with evident intense and fresh fruit, an earthy and very mature wine.

    The 2nd element from tonel 7 (these large chestnut wood casks have variable capacities, between 5500 and 7000 liters)
    Originating in another Tedo valley old vineyard, its a wine notoriously more acidic and tanic, still not very expressive, with the red fruit standing out.

    The 3rd element, from tonel 8
    From a vineyard in Covas do Douro. It is the "scent" wine sample, very aromatic and exuberant, but at the same time with less structure and less length when compared to the previous wines. We could say that this sample lacks all the characteristics of the previous wines. 

    The 4th element, from tonel 9
    From a Tedo valley old vineyard. Clearly a more complex wine, as main notes we can point that its a half dry wine, initially seems sweet but later is cut by a clear dryness, a much more balanced wine. Here one notices the concept of a superior quality vineyard. If there was only the grapes from one "quinta" available, this would be the single quinta vintage Port, a wine that stands out by itself.

    The 5th element, from tonel 10
    From a vineyard located in Vale de Mendiz. It is a very complete base wine, full and with a lot of color, exuberant, earthy and with good acidity, it also has a lot of aroma, a chewy wine, impressive and rough, stands out for the tannin length.

    The 6th element, from cuba 11
    From another vineyard located in Vale de Mendiz and also from a Tedo valley vineyard that has the peculiarity of being a unique vine of touriga nacional grape variety, originating in a unique vine clone(2) of this variety (an exception to the Douro predominance of the touriga nacional grape vine clone from "Quinta do Ataíde"). It is a very floral and lush wine, fine and with litle acidity.

    The final result would be the Noble & Murat Vintage Port 2016, already approved by the IVDP last May, shortly after our visit, in a classic vintage Port year. This vintage is mainly characterized by its exuberant nose and floral aromas, also for its red and black fruit character, with an excellent structure, good acidity and a dry finish. A more elegant and aromatic vintage port when compared to the 2015 vintage port edition, which is more austere and structured.
    Of the 2016 Vintage Port will be bottled 3000 botles, and the remaining wine will be bottled as the house LBV Port 2016.

    From the Noble & Murat wine collection we also tasted some original and very interesting wines worthy noting:

    The "Tonel 11"; an essay still under study to evaluate the long wood maturing period and to determine the future of this wine, probably an old Tawny Port. It is composed of a great variety of wines (9), a blend made up of vintages from 2012 to 2014, in which besides the fruit, the wood presence, elegant and complex, with cherry and crystallized fruit aromas and flavors.

    And a courtesy of Alexandre Antas Botelho, a special, original and very rare Port wine, made with grapes from a very old, pre-phylloxeric ungrafted vines, that no longer exists, it was a vineyard that grew in goblet (a shrub vine), with about 60% red grape and 40% white grape varieties. It has the particularity of being a new wine made from a very old vineyard. To taste this Port wine is really an historical and unrepeatable moment. It is an original and an extraordinary wine, with a slightly open color, chemical, with a clear red fruit nose, very fine and elegant, with acidity and dryness present.

    In the current Noble & Murat portfolio:

  • Noble & Murat Reserve Port
  • Noble & Murat LBV Porto 2012;
  • Noble & Murat LBV Porto 2014;
  • Noble & Murat Vintage Port 2015 (6,600 bottled);
  • Noble & Murat Vintage Port 2016;
  • Noble & Murat Vintage Port 2017;
  • Noble & Murat 20 year Tawny Port

    Noble & Murat
    Alexandre Antas Botelho and António Borges Taveira
    mob: +351 96 327 42 50

    (1) Macaco: a wooden utensil, about 1,5m long, which in the lower part as attached wood cross tips. It is used by the "lagareiros" (the men who work in the "lagar") during fermentation, punching the blanket and forcing the solid matter to descend to the bottom of the "lagar". It is intended that the grape must begins to ferment with the red grape skins, seeds and stems, in order to remove the maximum coloring matter and tannins. ("Illustrated Port Wine Dictionary", by Manuel Poças Pintão and Carlos Cabral).

    (2) (vine)Clone: it is obtained by the vegetative multiplication of a single plant, to reproduce in other vines obtained from this, the same characteristics. The vines are very adaptable, they react according to environmental conditions with different behaviors (resistance to diseases, grape ripening, more or less compact bunches and even slightly aroma and flavor differences), which has as a consequence many varieties of the same grape variery, which does not originate a new one, but a subdivision of the grape variery, Clones are used to replicate specific characteristics of a grape variety.

©Hugo Sousa Machado

May also interest:

Classic vintage port vs. non classic vintage port     An historical port wine brand reborn 


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