Mark Squires writes a great piece on Colheitas,“The Greatest Ports We Don’t Talk Much About”. Squires points out that often great Colheitas are the equal of Vintage Ports, and are usually made from the best tawnies, because there are some very average Non-Vintage Tawnies; the one exception he points to are Noval’s 10, 20 and 40 Year Olds. Then when Squires gets into the Noval Colheitas, he writes: “This lineup was simply an exceptional presentation”.
Scores and comments below.
QUINTA DA NOVAL
These were aged in large, used oak barrels (640 liters) and they come bottled with real corks, not bar top stoppers. These were retasted in the USA (excepting the 1937 and 1971). This lineup was simply an exceptional presentation, displaying Noval’s wonderful touch with Colheitas. As typically happens with the top producers, the wines show both concentration and balance, plus remarkable freshness for their ages. Importer: Vintus, Pleasantville, N.Y.; tel: (914) 769-3000
1937 Colheita Port bottled 2008
This opens as a brute, with bursts of powerful acidity and a somewhat harsh beginning. Yet it is very complex aromatically, as these older guys tend to be, and as it sat it showed its viscosity, calming a bit, seeming surprisingly fresh, quite serious and multi-layered, with many dimensions. I liked this magnificent Colheita more and more with every sip. It has everything to gush about in terms of the obvious–fruit, sweetness and aromatics–but its aged complexity gave it that extra dimension I truly appreciated. It is quite wonderful. 97 points.
1964 Colheita Port bottled 2011
This release is rich enough, but gorgeously balanced, aromatic and complex. It is a triumph over the year, which, as described by the winery “was a year of difficult weather conditions, with a severe winter, late burst and early drought. Rain in Spring and August. A very hot September. The year was characterized by late rain and inconstant weather that affected the harvest. The year was particularly marked by the lack of human labour in the vineyard due to illegal emigration towards France.” When I first saw this 1964 several years back, it was in full flight and unusually exuberant. A year or so in the bottle has calmed this new version down (the earlier release that I saw was bottled around the end of 2007 or early 2008). It frankly did not seem quite as impressive, although it is very fine. Now, it seems to emphasize instead its impeccable balance, showing increasingly fine harmony and elegance, some subtlety to go with its pungent aromatics and a long, gripping finish, driving fruit into the palate. How can something this old, this long in cask possibly be so fresh, harmonious and graceful? It is a pleasure just to smell and its ability to remain persistent is quite impressive. It settled in around Day 2 and maintained impeccable balance for the next several days (until gone). 95 points.
1968 Colheita Port bottled 2012
Surprisingly dense on opening, this new release is delicious, with intense caramel notes lingering on the finish. This rich wine has all the elements for obvious appeal, but it seemed to me to also show fine balance and integration of its parts. Plus, it is has those wonderful aromatics–but then, that seems redundant to say in this lineup. Early on, in fact, it seemed denser and more concentrated than the 1964–although note that the ’64 had a year in bottle to settle in. However, I didn’t find that to be true as the days passed by and they converged. This calmed down, became more elegant and beautifully harmonious while remaining quite delicious. I wasn’t expecting as much here, perhaps, as with that ’64 that I’ve adored in other incarnations, but it showed me a lot. 95 points.
1971 Colheita Port bottled 2008
Elegant and caressing, with a sweet kicker on the finish, this is bright and lovely, mingling delicious fruit, acidity and an occasional whiff of brandy. I loved the mouthfeel on this wine, sensual and silky, another fine Colheita from Noval, this one showing off its beautiful balance and harmony as well as its impressive first attack (and note that this one has been bottle in a few years). This, I’m told, is not available in the USA due to limited stocks available, which is regrettable because it beautifully combines balance and sex appeal. 95 points.
1976 Colheita Port bottled 2012
Another beauty in this wonderful Noval lineup, this, like so many of them, opens so rich and viscous that it seems simply astonishing that it is really this mature. It seems burly and youthful, fresh and invigorating. True, given the 2012 bottling date, it has not done much settling in the bottle—and those first tastes are often amazing. However, it was retasted in the USA as well some months later and over several days to boot. That rich, decadent first attack was still stunning a couple of days later, although the character and complexity were beginning to emerge then as well. Sugary on the finish, with those whiffs of brandy in the background despite the 21% listed alcohol, this showed fine grip and tannic power on the finish, yet it managed to maintain its balance thanks to the acidity mingling with the sugar. The lurking power is not always lurking, but the molasses-laced finish here is long and remarkable. That juicy finish simply made my mouth water. Every time I went back to it, it seemed quite spectacular. It is probably not coincidental that this was just recently bottled—no doubt it will calm down with time in the bottle—but I sure do adore this incarnation of it. 96 points.
1986 Colheita Port bottled 2012
Held (per custom) in used oak barrels of 640 liters, this is hard edged at the outset, quite intense, piercing, very dense for its relatively young age and remarkably sweet in impression with a viscous texture. Vibrant, youthful and lively, with a lot of energy and tension at the moment, it is a Colheita that opens disjointed and obviously has a ton of everything. If it is not yet quite as complex as some of the older vintages, its energy and concentration make it quite thrilling, although it hardly displays the balance and harmony of, say, Noval’s ’64. It actually seems far too young and I can’t wait to see other incarnations of this as time goes on. Or, perhaps try holding it in bottle for a few years, which may smooth it out as well. As these things go, this is not a really old Colheita and it sure isn’t cheap, but it surely seems to overachieve. 94 points.
1995 Colheita Port bottled 2010
Noval provided some precise analysis for this and the ’97. It is a blend of 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Touriga Franca and 10% field blend. Noval describes the vintage as follows: “Winter of mild temperatures, with enough rain to assure in depth water reservations. Spring with little rain and high temperatures provided a precocious, fast and regular blooming, with an excellent vegetal growth for all the vines. The strong rain of June and the beginning of July were followed by a dry summer, with high temperatures, which originated a short ripeness period. In consequence of the rainy cycle and of the good grape sanitary conditions, 1995 was a year of average production with excellent quality.” This reminds me of a younger version of the ’86, big, vibrant, powerful and preening in its relative youth, showing off all its components and bragging about it a bit. Like all of the wines in this lineup, its intensity is matched by fine fruit. Additional bottle age may add complexity to this beautiful release as might additional barrel age when it is re-released one day, but it is awfully fine now and a big bargain in this lineup. 92 points.
1997 Colheita Port bottled 2012
This is a blend of 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Roriz, 20%Tinta Barroca and a 10% field blend. The winery described this year as follows: “In 1997, winter began very cold and the snow covered the whole Quinta during some days, which hadn’t happened for more than three decades. In February and March temperatures were very hot, getting to reach 29 degrees and it didn’t rain, causing a 15 days blooming advance inferior to the average. Blooming elapsed a month earlier than in 96, with above 20 degrees temperatures and almost without any rain, providing excellent conditions for a good maturation. The rain compensated the lack of water in the soil in April and May and by the temperatures below the average that reached normal values in the end of June. Ripeness was excellent in August and September, with very hot days and night breeze.” It seems to me on looking over my notes that 1997s as a group have seemed remarkably elegant. So, too, here. Quite possibly the most graceful and restrained of this group of Novals, it is lovely and charming, easy to like, sweet, refined and a little subtle–relatively speaking. It is an ingratiating wine that does a lot without being overly obvious about it. 90 points.