It was great to eat at Pedro Lemos, considered by many to be Porto’s top restaurant. We dined with Vitor Bento and his wife Teresa. Vitor is an Airbus 330 pilot and a complete wine nut. When he’s not on duty, he’s usually eating and drinking well in Porto, New York or Rio. He supplied the wines last night, as a sort of tribute to our mutual friend Dirk Niepoort, who he’d dubbed The Master.
The evening was a remarkable succession of great food and incredible wines. The restaurant itself has an atmosphere of assured calm, and the service is spot on. Pedro Lemos was founded in 2009 and in 2014 became Porto’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.
We began with a new wine. This is from Dirk, and it’s an as yet unnamed white from Quinta do Lombo in Dão, informally called Dão Coche. This is pithy, waxy, linear and mineral with real finesse. Very Niepoort in style: lean, elegant, with tension.
We had this with shrimp, caramelized cauliflower and citrus.
This was followed by the actual Coche, from the 2014 vintage. This bottle took a while to get going, but emerged with a taut, mineral personality, hints of apple and lemons, fine spiciness and a bit of nuttiness.
Next course was a quail dish, in two parts. First, a quail bouillon, and then a quail tartlet with onions and carrots.
The following course was delicious. Caramelized foie gras with brioche and some pear, served with a Madeira wine.
Barbeito Ribeiro Real Vedelho 20 Years Old, Madeira
So aromatic and fine with citrus, citrus pith, marmalade and peach notes. Has good structure and intensity with lovely bite. So intense. 96/100
Seared tuna was the next course, served with enoki mushrooms, onions and wasabi, and dashi sauce. This was a brilliant dish.
Niepoort Redoma Branco 1996 Douro, Portugal
This wine! What a surprise! So complex, showing a citrus fruit core with ripe apple notes. Hints of marmalade and honey. Refined and pure like an aged Grand Cru white Burgundy. Finishes with briny notes and hints of cabbage. 96/100
Next course: Atlantic croaker (a fish that’s sort of like sea bass), with white asparagus, fennel and clams.
Pingo Doce Douro Reserva 1992 Portugal
This wine was made by Dirk Niepoort for a supermarket, but it’s actually pretty serious, and was priced highly at the time. It has aged beautifully. Deep in colour, this is structured and fine with lovely freshness and weight. Finely spiced with some herbs, and notes of earth, iodine and blood. So supple, and still has a lot of fruit. 94/100
Niepoort Calderera Mencia Bierzo 2011 Spain
Made by Dirk Niepoort. This is very fine and pure with red cherry and plum fruit. Fresh with nice brightness. Silky and delicious with a sappy edge. Such purity and focus. 95/100
Niepoort Clos de Crappe 2013 Douro, Portugal
Supple and fresh with sweet red cherries and plums. So fine and fresh with focus and brightness, a redcurrant quality, and lovely elegance and linearity. Has shed its excessive reduction so well. 94/100
The next course was the pigeon that Pedro Lemos is famous for. This was amazing. And it was followed by an astonishing run of wines.
Niepoort Pisca Vintage Port 2007 Douro, Portugal
Dense and structured with sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit. This has some slight earthy spiciness adding a savoury dimension, as well as some saltiness. Amazing depth here with good structure. 95/100
Cockburn’s Vintage Port 1938 Douro, Portugal
This is truly sensational, and one of the best old Vintage Ports I’ve experienced. Still has good colour. So supple, fine and fresh with elegant red cherry fruit and lively spiciness. Vibrant, pure and linear with good structure. Pretty much perfect. 98/100
Araújo Malvasia MMV 1895 Madeira
This is from Barbeito, and the initials are those of Ricardo’s mother who found the wine. So complex and intense, with astonishing flavours of treacle, spice, herbs, marmalade, lemons and citrus peel. High acidity counters the sweetness. Such length and complexity: it’s impossible to do this wine justice in words. 99/100
Niepoort 30 Years Old Tawny, Douro, Portugal
Bottled in 2017. Concentrated and lively and vital with marmalade, spice, citrus peel and some raisin and cask richness. Incredible complexity and balance. 95/100
Niepoort VV Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal
Bottled in 2012 to celebrate the 170th anniversary of Niepoort. 999 bottles made. The base of this blend is a port from 1863 aged in casks and then put into demijohns in 1972. It’s almost perfect. So refined and complex with intensity yet also good focus. Spice, marmalade, peach, herbs, nuts and old furniture, with a twist of raisin and orange peel. Astonishing stuff, and, once again, very hard to capture in words. 98/100