Quinta do Noval 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Porto (Douro) – Extremely fruity and simple-minded. Port-by-numbers. (8/12)
Jorge Ordoñez & Co. 2006 Málaga “3” (Málaga) – Richness upon richness. Almond oil, fruit syrup, spice, and weight…but not too much of the latter, allowing it to helix into something more complex as it lingers. Beautiful stuff. (8/12)
Ferreira “Dona Antonia” Porto “Reserve” (Douro) – Sweet, spicy, a little heated…I don’t mean heat damage, necessarily (the evidence is unclear) but there’s the sensation of drinking this in front of a warm fire, except that it’s July and that’s kinda not what I want. A bit of smoke, too. (7/12)
Quinta do Crasto 2006 Late Bottled Vintage Porto (Douro) – I don’t drink much Port anymore. I started typing that I don’t know why, but that’s not really true: I do. I find the basic bottlings, the everyday stuff, so consistently flawed and disappointing that I’m rarely interested. Aged tawnies have a sweet spot – different from producer to producer – that I adore, but is always a fair bit more than I usually wish to spend. And vintage…well, I own some, but when I realized that my transformative Port experiences came with more age that I probably have left, my enthusiasm for the wait…let’s say it waned.
But this is where LBV is supposed to step in, right? There was, for a long while, the Quinta do Noval in this role, but that escalated enough that it became a commitment. There have been others, and at the moment there’s this. Let me start with the most damning criticism: this is what I think basic ruby Port should taste like, but almost never does. It’s a big mouthful of sweet berries, all sugar and little structure, with caramelizations and crystallizations taking a seat way, way in the back. Complexity? Zero. I enjoy it, and drink it faster than is probably wise – beware the ides of dubious neutral spirit cogener hangovers – as a result, which isn’t exactly a feature. But it, too, isn’t what I’d call “cheap”…not that Port can, inherently, be all that cheap. But in the universe of wines which satisfy the desire for a few sips of something sweet, perhaps with cigars in the men’s lounge of the Titanic, I fear that my storm no longer settles over this Port. (5/12)
Equipo Navazos La Bota de Fino Macharnudo Alto “18”(Jerez) – Overwhelming almonds. Dry, dry, dry, and dry with a side of dry. Extremely long. Rather a slap upside the context; this is a wine that exceeds most of its potential frames. (11/11)
Equipo Navazos La Bota de Fino Macharnudo Alto “15” (Jerez) – Like drinking upholstery. This is much more restrained and muddled than an 18 consumed on the same night, and suffers for it; were it allowed its own spotlight, matters might be different. But at this moment, it’s muffled and insufficient. (11/11)
Longoria 2009 Syrah “Vino Dulce” (Santa Barbara County) – 375 ml. Corked. (11/11)
de Bartoli Marsala Vecchio Samperi “Ventennale” (Sicily) – On the other hand, this is one way to grab my attention, hard, and wrench it back to the wine in front of me. That no one in his region makes wine like de Bartoli is well known, that no one in his region makes wine as well as de Bartoli is pretty widely acknowledged, and yet he achieves something beyond mere iconoclasm and superiority. I’m not sure these are the right words, but there’s a palpably different sort of life to them, as if they’re existing simultaneously on this plane and another that can’t quite be perceived with straight sight. Some might point out that the previous is really just another way of describing complexity, and they’d be somewhat right, but I think it’s necessary to specify that the complexity is not of the usual, three-times-the-descriptors, type. It’s something else. Though the wine doesn’t suggest electric guitar to me at all, this particular quality puts me in mind of Jimi Hendrix as he was first perceived, channeling a muse that was so far afield from that of his peers that it was often clear he was working in a different language, that whatever he was hearing inside his head (which didn’t always translate to his hands) was something that others weren’t going to be capable of hearing for a long time, if ever.
I note, at this point, that I haven’t actually described the wine in any useful fashion. Well, it’s dry, complex in both the usual way and [see above], incredibly persistent, and monumentally compelling. I suppose my lack of enthusiasm for actual descriptors here is more or less a suggestion that you should go out and try this yourself rather than listening to me ramble on about it. One action is much more rewarding than the other. (11/11)
Rare Wine Company “Historic Series” Madeira “New Orleans Special Reserve” (Madeira) – Sweet, heavy, liquefied nuts. Spicy? If this note seems awfully similar to the previous one, it’s because my attention is flagging at the end of a long night of tasting and socialization, and my lack of true interest in Madeira is starting to reveal itself. This and the previous are pretty pathetic notes for wines on which someone spent a good deal of time and attention, not least the guy who opened and served them to me. Apologies to all involved. Really. These wines deserve better than what I’m giving them here. (11/11)
Rare Wine Company “Historic Series” Madeira Malmsey “New York Special Reserve” (Madeira) – Sweet, heavy, liquefied nuts. I have to admit that I’m not an enormous fan of Madeira due to its ever-present volatile acidity, which I’m unusually sensitive to, but this is pretty nice. I’d really only want to drink a tiny bit of it, though. (11/11)
Cappellano Barolo Chinato (Piedmont) – I admit to having, in the past, struggled with this construct’s occasionally overwhelming volatile acidity. It’s not absent here, but it’s under control, and the result is predictably gorgeous. Probably the best straight-ahead chinato I’ve ever had, in fact (there are variations on the theme that have been awfully compelling). Tannin, herbs both prosaic and exotic, a taste of Old Europe rent and torn by more than a touch of Southeast Asia. Fascinating, relentlessly complex, and utterly compelling. (10/11)