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A weekend in Porto... continued

I recently spent a weekend in Porto with Douro winemaker Dirk Niepoort. A number of us were gathered to celebrate his 40th, and for most of us the wines we had over these three days represented the best part of a year's worth of drinking experiences all crammed into a weekend. I took notes on almost everything, and I'm reproducing them here for the sake of the record.  

Part 1, Friday can be found here, and part 2, Saturday here. On Sunday (March 14 2004) we had the morning to recover and then met for lunch at the restaurant À mesa com Bacchus, which is near the waterfront not far from the Carlton Oporto. Before lunch we started with some Niepoort experiments.

Niepoort Riesling 2003 Douro, Portugal
Riesling in the Douro? You’d better believe it. Dirk bought these grapes from Cockburns, who planted an experimental vineyard some 15 years ago at 800 m altitude (high up where it’s cooler). This has lovely fresh definition on the nose with some CO2 evident. The palate shows high acid, minerality and lovely weight and texture – it’s got some rich sweetness, but it isn’t too big.

Pinot Noir in the Douro? Yes, as well as Riesling, Dirk’s been making some Pinot Noir. This time its from his own vines. He planted a hectare of Pinot Noir vines on a north-facing vineyard next to his Quinta do Carril at 300 m. The vines are planted at a high density of 12 000 per hectare, and in 2003 he made 1 barrel of Pinot Noir and 1.5 barrels of a Pinot Noir–Rufete blend. The yields were a miserly 3 hl/hectare.

Niepoort Pinot Noir 2003 Douro
Dirk says this is Australian style, and almost a bit jammy on its own. Quite bright herby, spicy nose showing lovely dark fruits. The palate displays lots of concentration and a rich, savoury tannic structure. It’s deep coloured and intense – very bold. Very good/excellent 93/100

Niepoort Pinot Noir/Rufete 2003 Douro
Pinot Noir coming in at 19 degrees of potential alcohol was blended in the lagar with Rufete at 11 degrees alcohol. This wine has a rich, ripe, elegant nose with intense perfumed berry fruit and some chocolatey richness. Wonderfully rich, elegant palate with smooth fine-grained tannins. This is sensationally good. Excellent 96/100

Niepoort, Pinot Noir 2003 Douro
This third Pinot is a blend of the two above. It has a lovely intense perfumed nose with bright berry, cherry and raspberry fruit. Elegant with a savoury intensity. The palate is elegant and dense with taut wound fruit. Bold but elegant. Excellent 95/100

Niepoort Redoma Branco 2001 Douro
Served blind, this was a ringer for a serious young white Burgundy. Very open rich toasty nose with savoury, bready, toasty intensity. The palate is concentrated with lemony fruit and well judged oak. Powerful with good acidity and minerality. Very good/excellent 92/100

João Roseira (of Quinta do Infantado, left) and Luis Antunes (right), with the restaurant proprietor in the middle and Dorli Muhr's (Dirk's wife) head in the foreground.

Quinta de la Rosa Branco 2001 Douro
Served blind. Distinctive nutty waxy nose leads to a firm palate with high acidity and nice minerality. A firm savoury white with lots of personality. Very good+ 88/100

Niepoort Charme 2002 Douro
Deep coloured. Roasted edge to the nose with lots of taut berry fruit and some vanilla. The palate is concentrated and spicy with some roasted notes, a fair bit of elegance and firm tannins. Youthful but with wonderful structure and lovely acidity. Very fine. Excellent 95/100

Valdunes 2000 Ribera del Duero
Tasted blind. Very sweet ripe blackcurrant fruit nose with some nice spiciness and a hint of lifted minerality. Seamless. The palate shows some evolution, but still displays lots of ripe fruit with an elegant earthy, leathery edge. Very savoury with an earthy finish. Very good/excellent 93/100

Encostas do Tua Reserva 2000 Douro
Tasted blind. Taut herby, leathery nose. The palate is dense and savoury with high acidity and firm cherry spicy fruit. Herbiness here too. Very good+ 88/100

Quinta do Infantado Vintage 1999 Douro
Very rich herby, leathery fruit with some real complexity. Taut and quite savoury on the palate with some lovely herby character. Tasty stuff. Very good/excellent 92/100

After lunch, John Crook and I decided to wander the streets of Porto, giving Dirk some space before we descended on him for dinner. It's a lovely city to stroll through and the time flew by.

see also: weekend in Porto part 1, part 2 and Dinner with Dirk Niepoort 1 and 2.

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