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Dona, Dona, Dona

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)

Presto Crasto

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)


J. Portugal Ramos “Marquês de Borba” 2008 Alentejo (Portugal) – Big, wet fruit (citrus and stone, not particularly specified), fair structure, fair length. A perfectly pleasant commercial wine. (1/12)


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)

Make it there

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)

A Noval idea

Quinta do Noval 1985 Porto (Douro) – Delicious but still more primary than not, which state I expect to persist for a time measured in decades. It’s certainly enjoyable despite the lack of movement, with a rich and extremely intense mélange of berries cut on the horizontal axis by significant tannin and on the vertical axis by fine acidity. And while it’s certainly sweet, it shares with better Ports a dominant vinosity that makes the sucrosity much more interesting as counterpoint rather than point. I’m lucky enough to have more of this, and will not be even attempting another exploration for a good long while. (8/11)

A Noval idea

Quinta do Noval 1968 Colheita Porto (Douro) – The trick for colheita and my palate is finding that balance point in which the wine is no longer a simple collection of brown-hued sweetness and spice, but hasn’t yet flatlined into its long, oxidative decline. This is sometimes made trickier by the apparent fact that a lot of dedicated colheita want that latter stage, or at least wish it to be more prominent than I do. So, preferential disclaimers aside, how about this one? It’s marvelous. Less spice and thinned-out molasses than a collection of molten metals…bronze, copper, iron…in whorls and gentle curls. But yes, there’s spice and sweetness as well, and lingering memories of fruit, and a confident persistence. It’s rather beautiful, really. (9/10)

Duque of Œil

Ferreira “Duque de Bragança” 20 Year Tawny Porto (Douro) – One of the two ways I like my tawny: not so much tawny. Still quite fruity – in fact almost primary – with dark, chewy, still-tannic berries and wild (that is to say, tart) plums. Spice, amber, and haze lurk in the background, which is how one differentiates this from an actual ruby port, but they are still not the lead actors, merely understudies. A very nice wine, sweet but with so many contrasts to that sugar that it operates well as a “table wine” of sorts. (9/10)