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Cálem, Kopke, Barros and Burmester

by Tom Cannavan, 06/07

Historically, much of the Port wine trade has been owned by overseas interests, like the British Symington family who own Graham's, Warre's and Dow's amongst others. Group Sogevinus is a Portuguese drinks company that owns the house of Cálem, and has been on an acquisitions trail of late. In 2005 the group acquired J.W. Burmester, before purchasing the houses of Kopke and Barros in 2006.

Sogevinus now has an 11% share of the total Port market, covering everything from mass-market rubies and tawnies to an improving range of vintage Porrts and Douro table wines. Sogevinus has substantially upgraded production facilities for the group, like its new 6,000-bottles-per-hour bottling line installed at Cálem.

Please note: not all wines are available in the UK at this time.

the vintage Ports

Barros Vintage Port 2003
The Barros 2003 has a very solid, vivid crimson colour and a nose that is rather spirity at first, with a fresh, almost herbal edge to bright raspberry and vinous fruit, in a style that immediately suggests this is a lighter, more fresh style of Port. On the palate there is plenty of sweetness, with cassis and ripe, sweet liquidised cherry, but also a touch of raisin and date-like fruit. A certain silky, vanilla and thick plum underpinning emerges into the finish, but so does some quite grippy tannin and again a slightly spiritous edge in a wine that perhaps will become a little more harmonious with time in bottle. Approximately £30.00. See all stockists of Barros on wine-searcher.com.

Burmester Vintage Port 2003
Burmester's 2003 has a deep, solid crimson colour. The nose is very attractive, with plenty of vibrant, sonorous berry fruit and rich, currant and raisin depth of fruitiness. There's a little floral character that comes through, and hints of real complexity here. On the palate this has a very immediate, bright, fruity appeal. Fine raspberry and cherry fruit notes are joined by little nuances of ash, hazelnuts and a fine chocolaty quality, with a depth of mocha and ripe, juicy plum fruit and a broad-based tannic background. The spirit and a juicy acidity add some bite, in a Port with delicious sweetness and good length. Approximately £30.00. See all stockists of Burmester on wine-searcher.com.

Cálem Vintage Port 2000
I visited and wrote a feature on the house of Cálem back in summer 2000, before the company became part of the Sogevinus group, which also owns Burmester, Kopke and Barros. Cálem had been something of an underperformer at that time, though with some excellent old Colheitas and some fine younger vintage wines. I was intrigued by the chance to taste this wine. It has a dense, even, opaque crimson colour, with a very rich, dark well of black fruit and floral aromas, with all sorts of mineral and delicately spicy nuances. On the palate this has a beautifully focused sweetness, with a supple, svelte quality of black fruits, that is pure and very long and silky through the mid palate. There are fine chocolaty tannins adding plush depth, and the spirit is nicely integrated. This wine has lovely balance too, with excellent length, emphasising the harmony and structure of the wine. A terrific effort this. Approximately £39.99. See all stockists of Cálem on wine-searcher.com.

Kopke Vintage Port 2003
Kopke's 2003 has a a very dense, solid dark ruby colour, and a fine nose of rich, dark coffee with dark berry fruits and plenty of floral, cherry and clove-like, spicy nuances. On the palate there is a very full, pure, ripe berry fruit sweetness, with lush plum and dark, glossy black cherry fruit and a generous support of mocha and vanilla. It is slightly spirity, but not in an unbalanced way, and whilst fairly simple and straighforward at this youthful stage of its evolution, it is a delicious wine with a tannic framework behind it and decent length. Approximately £25.00. See all stockists of Kopke on wine-searcher.com.

  

Kopke Quinta São Luiz 2004
Kopke's Quinta São Luiz is sited on the left bank of the Douro, close to the town of Pinhão, planted with Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. This single quinta vintage wine has a very saturated, dark ruby colour, and a nose that is deep-set and darkly fruity, with cherry and a little lipsticky quality, with dried red fruits and a fine background aroma of Sandalwood and exotic spices. On the palate this is quite light and brightly fruited, with masses of sweet, quite jammy red and black berry fruits, and a fine, slightly smoky and tobacco-like chocolaty depth. The spirit is quite prominent, but it has tannins and acidity that also add an edge, in a fairly straightforward wine that is not terribly long, but is quite powerful and has plenty of fruit. Price TBC. See all stockists of Kopke on wine-searcher.com.

the table wines

Barros Grande Escolha Vinho Tinto 2001
This table wine from Barros is 100% Touriga Nacional from their Quinta S. Luiz property, aged 12 months in French oak barriques. At six years old it still has a solid ruby colour, with barely a hint of brick at the rim. On the nose this immediately gives a creamy and smooth impression, with rich vanilla-scented berry fruits, and notes of strawberry coulis and some background coffee and spice. On the palate this is quite an intense, concentrated wine, with a very dense fruit quality that is creamy and thick, and a big, strapping, spicy tannin and oak background. That dense creaminess of texture persists, and with good balance into the finish, this powerful wine stays grippy and focused. Price TBC.

Burmester Douro Reserva 2004
A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz aged in French and American oak, Burmester's Reserva pours a dense, dark crimson colour. The nose is very tight and schisty, with a blue-black quality of fruit suggesting blueberry and tight, focused black berries, and with a peppery quality to the oak. On the palate this has quite a creamy texture and a rich seam of blackcurrant and ripe blackberry and bramble fruit. It maintains a firm edge, with a slightly liquoricy suggestion, and plenty of bittersweet plum and cherry skin tang. With a pleasant touch of savoury austerity, the pepper and spice component builds into the finish, in a wine with good length and balance and a nicely edgy personality that keeps it crisp and savoury. Price TBC.
  


Cálem Curva Reserva 2004
When I visited Cálem the company was tinkering with its red table wine, trying different oak treatments and blends before they got fully behind the product. Cálem's new owners have released this blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional in a striking, confidently modern package. It has a seductive and charming nose, layered with ripe, glossy black fruit, an earthier berry and chocolate quality and plenty of high quality, savoury French oak. It is spicy and rich, but has a hint of elegance too. On the palate that concentration of ripe, full, tobacco and clove-tinged berry fruit powers across the palate, but this wine is medium-bodied, and the freshness of the tannins and good acid structure give it a hint of welcoming austerity and restraint. Lovely stuff this, that swells on the finish with chocolate and plummy reserves, but has fine balance. Price TBC.