Yes, I’m still here…

For those concerned by my silence, please don’t be – I am settling in here in Gaia, it’s just quiet, practicing my Portuguese and not drinking much at all, and then not worth writing about.

With one fabulous exception which prompts this entry:  last night I visited Vinilogia again, and had a glass of heaven on earth, I think – Ramos Pinto’s 10 year old Tawny Quinta de Ervamoira.

You may recall (or wish to re-read if you don’t!) that on my first visit to Vinologia I wanted to try tawnies from each region of the Douro – Baixo, Cima and Superior, but the third I had that day was sort of borderline Cima and Superior.  Subsequently Godfrey Spence (author of The Port Companion and free lance wine educator and writer) suggested this as one to try from the heart of the Douro Superior.  I never did get around to it, as I loathe drinking alone, and haven’t had company (hint hint anyone who wants to visit!).

Yesterday I called a friend from the school where I’ve had my Portuguese lessons, and dragged him to Vinologia to try this port with me.  Oh bliss.  Beautiful tawny garnetty colour (not ideal lighting in there for appraising colour, but… ), very smooth palate, very rich concentrated deep dark marmelade and apricot, maybe a whiff of spice?  And that wonderful quality which wood aging gives which just knits all the flavours together without clobbering you over the head with “OAK!!!” as can happen in younger dry wines.  And the bartender gave us generous measures, bless…

After that, my friend voted we go to the IVDP and carry on tasting there.  They always keep a half dozen bottles of port going, one of each type (white, ruby, reservas, tawnies of various ages, LBV, etc.), but every week a different variety and selection of producers.  We opted for the tasting of four:  a dry white, an LBV, and 10 and 20 year old tawnies.

I will be honest – I had not had much food that day, and that little was at 8:00 am; by late afternoon it only took that full glass of Quinta de Ervamoira to make me a bit dim and vague.  I genuinely cannot recall much about these four wines except this:  the dry white tasted like potato crisps (and I actually do remember the producer, but they will remain nameless), the LBV was Graham’s I think, post millenium and pleasant, and the two tawnies were nice but not a patch on the Quinta de Ervamoira for pleasure or complexity, not even the 20 year old.

Quinta de Ervamoira has an interesting history and is quite unique:  following on from considerable research into sites, production methods and grapes, Ramos Pinto bought this site in the 70’s, in the Douro Superior near Foz Côa, and planted it vertically and mostly in single variety vinyards – both decisions were extraordinary and controversial in the Douro at that time, where vinyards were traditionally planted in terraces running horizontally along the contours of the hills with a blend of grape varieties planted together.  After considerable investment in land, research and planting, the entire property was threatened by submersion with the building of a new dam on the Douro.  Miraculously, Paleolithic rock paintings were discovered nearby, and ultimately the dam project was cancelled to preserve the archeological site, and with it, Quinta de Ervamoira.  The quinta has established an archeological musuem on site.

Do visit Ramos Pinto’s website, it is an absolute delight.

The company was founded in 1880 by Adriano Ramos Pinto who was first an artist, and the company continues the legacy of supporting the arts, using rather charming and risqué Belle Epoque images in their advertising and on some of their wine labels – my favourite being their Collection 2006 (a dry red wine), which features the serpent winding around a naked Eve and proferring her a glass of wine in lieu of an apple.  They also have some of the most marvelously poetic and evocative but spot on tasting notes I’ve ever read.

No good recent or strictly relevant photos – really must go up river again soon – so here’s one from October.  The train station at Pinhão has a series of panels of azulejos illustrating the harvest, this one showing cestos típicos – cestos being Portugese for pannier, the basket carried on the back.