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Forty years of Noval. Part II

This feature is in two parts. There is another link to Part I, Christian Seely and the Port wines of Quinta do Noval, at the bottom of the page.

Table wines of Noval & Quinta de Romaneira

Text and photographs © Tom Cannavan, 02/2011

The great grape of the Ports and robust table wines of the Douro is the Touriga Nacional, though Managing Director of AXA Millésimes, Christian Seely, doesn't think Touriga Nacional needs to make 'big' wines necessarily, but can produce something finer. That is true particularly for the table wines of his Quinta do Noval estate, and of the nearby estate called Quinta de Romaneira. Both quintas share the Noval winemaking facilities in the Douro, and the common link is Seely. He is one of a group of private investors who purchased the large, beautifully sited but somewhat forlorn Romaneira vineyard in 2004.

Romaneira Since then, Romaneira's vineyards have been substantially improved, terraces rebuilt and vines replanted where necessary. The ensuing range of vintage Ports and table wines has improved in quality dramatically. Part of the grand plan for this majestic estate whose terraces climb to dizzying heights above the river was to construct a super-luxury hotel and spa, which opened for business in 2008. Right: the hotel from the top of the Romaneira vineyard slopes.

For the table wines, Noval and Romaneira do not use lagars (the shallow troughs where grapes are trodden by foot) because they can extract too much colour and tannin. Instead Seely ferments these wines in stainless steel tanks with some pumping over and some automatic 'pigeage', or plunging of the cap of floating grapes and skins. "You also have to be extremely careful about use of wood," he tells me. "I find event the big, complex red wines tend to suck up new wood in an alarming fashion, so we use much less new wood now than we did in the beginning."

the wines

Quinta do Noval table wines

Quinta do Noval, Labrador Syrah 2008
Lovely nose, though deep and powerful, with a mass of ripe black fruit but a little lift of cherry too and a touch of rubbery reduction at this stage that blows off, whilst the oak marks the wine powerfully. The palate blossoms with full sweetness, giving a lovely cherry ripe character and masses of spice. There's an earthy grip, and a big liquoricy thwack of tannin and extract in the finish. 90/100

Quinta do Noval, Labrador Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
There's a green, slightly resinous edge to this Cabernet that lacks a little definition and finishes quite chalky and dry. 86/100

Quinta do Noval, Touriga Nacional 2008
Lovely nose, the black fruit core and the spice and pepper lift along with a little floral touch. There's plenty of juiciness on the palate of this, with a very firm, liquoricy, dark core that is grippy and finishes with an inky density. This needs time. 92/100. Sells for same as Quinta do Noval, so around £35.

cedro Quinta do Noval, Cedro 2008
Very juicy and approachable already, with a lovely lift of violet to a deep, sweet, blackberry fruit. There is herbs and tobacco, in a complex but open wine, with lots of cedar. Lovely sweet fruit, a little hint of the Douro bake, but good acidity and that bittersweet liquorice twist to the tannins. 90/100

Quinta do Noval 2008
Tightly wound on the nose, with lots of herbal character and a certain meatiness and density to the fruit. There's plenty of oak here, but the fruit on the palate has the substance and density to handle it, a lovely dry extract coating the palate and a real core of juiciness that is bittersweet and really defines and pulls the finish through to a lovely point. 94/100

Quinta do Noval, Cedro 2007
Beautifully spicy, tobacco laden aroma, with a Sandalwood spice and intense mulberry and cherry fruit. On the palate this fills the mouth: it is perhaps sweeter and more giving than the Noval at this stage, with a juicy mid-palate, but the tight, liquoricy tannins are intense and that spice and cedar pushes through. This retains a beautiful edge of tannin and acidity. 90/100

Quinta do Noval 2007
Darker, more dense and more brooding, with a great blue/black fruit depth and some of Romaneira's gamy edges, but remarkably different given that the cepage and winemaking are identical, and the properties separated by only a couple of kilometres (as the crow flies). More flesh and coffeeish sweetness, a lovely plush, meaty presence and a massive wine that needs considerable time still. 95/100

Quinta do Noval, Cedro 2005
Meaty and a touch gamy, with a muscularity and depth again. Powerful, dense, concentrated stuff with a fleshy quality and lots of delicious juiciness. Fills the mouth with spices and deep, bittersweet fruit and lip-smacking formidable stuff. 90/100

Quinta do Noval 2005
Big and meaty, a touch of balsamic, resinous character and the oak still marking this powerfully. The palate has lots of muscular, dark black fruit, but it is tightly constrained by the oak and the drying tannins, and perhaps lacks a little of the 2007s plush sweetness and charm. Still a structured wine, but not without elegance and length. 93/100

Quinta de Romaneira table wines

romaneira R Quinta da Romaneira 'R' 2008
There is fudge and chocolate here in this mostly Touriga Franca, but hints of a red fruited elegance and nice berry sweetness. Elegant and light on the palate, with blueberry, fruity character and although tannins are grippy and this has some of the Douro bake, it is very aromatic and lifted. 90/100

Quinta da Romaneira 2008
Lovely minerality here, the stony, graphite aromatics melding with some of that more floral lift and cherry ripeness. Delicious palate, the fruit having real elegance and dominating the wood and the tannins, with a fudgy depth, but all the time staying very pure and elegant. Perhaps not the structured depth of Noval, but lovely. 92/100

Quinta da Romaneira Reserva 2008
The best of the old vine Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Cão. Lovely crushed violet lift to this, as well as cedar and an aromatic profile where the fruit is pure. The palate shows the oak a little more, quite resinous, but beneath there is a raft of very silky fruit and silky tannin that gives this a lovely chocolaty, fine finish with sweet, sweet fruit persisting. 94/100

Quinta da Romaneira 'R' 2007
Elegant, quite light on its feet with a lovely juiciness at its core. Delicious stuff, with a great lick of bittersweet plum skin and blackcurrant, and the elegance carries through though the finish is dominated by spice. 89/100

Quinta da Romaneira 2007
Gamy, leafy, even a little sauvage, with a sinewy suggestion of meaty depth, a cedary oak quality adding a little extra fragrance on top. The palate brims with sweet fruit, the lovely juiciness of the fruit and a Pontefract cake richness. There's a lean, muscular clarity to this, with terrific precision and length, and that sinewy edge giving it great structure and presence into a spicy, peppery finish. 93/100

Quinta da Romaneira 'R' 2005
Sweet, elegant, quite soft and approachable black fruits with a very harmonious character - no real gamy quality here, much more focused on the pure fruit with a little woodsmoke note. Very nice palate of chocolate and juicy black fruits, with a tightly defined structure: juicy acids and tight tannins, into a long, balanced finish. 89/100

Quinta da Romaneira 2005
Lots of smoky minerality here, a nice ashy dryness and lift of something very floral and perfumed. That more gamy quality of Romaneira is still there, but more fruit purity and plumpness here than in the 2007. Delicious fruit on the palate: like biting into a sweet, juicy black plum, with bittersweet flavours and a nice edge if something more fine and mineral. Tannins are very fine here, and the finish long and elegant. 92/100

The Vintage Ports

romaneira port Quinta da Romaneira, Vintage Port 2008
A little lighter, finer and more floral, if less powerful than the Noval. Lovely black fruit again, with a cherry skin edge of tartness which is delicious. On the palate retains that edge, with lovely bright structure and definition. Lacks the power and depth of Noval, but does make up for it with its clarity and keen-edged balance. 91/100

Quinta da Romaneira, Vintage Port 2007
More weight and flesh on this than the 2008, with a dark and deep nose of black fruits with a lovely twist of herbs and smoky, mineral character coming though. On the palate this has weight and density of fruit and tannins, a great tangy, plum-skin grip and richness, though that fine edge of acidity and freshness still cuts through, and some of Romaneira's crisp, more floral charm. 94/100

Quinta da Romaneira, Vintage Port 2005
Quite a light, floral and herbal tone to this vintage, with fine minerality and an elegance to the fruit. Has some substance too though, with a hint of chocolate and dark, sweet fruit. Fruity and vinous on the palate, with black cherry tang offset by those chocolaty tones and little tobacco and woodsmoke notes, into a long, sweet finish. 92/100

Quinta da Romaneira, Vintage Port 2004
Dark and vinous, the spirit not at all obvious, with a certain meatiness and herbal quality, but it seems a lot of depth to the fruit. The palate shows more of that smoky, grilled meat depth, the sweetness then just overtaking to give lots of black fruit plumpness, but huge tannins kick in, giving this a lot of meat and substance on the finish and suggesting it will be one to hold for quite some time. Lovely balance and power. 94/100

Go to Part I - Christian Seely and the great Port wines of Noval.