Some Portuguese Dessert Wines Currently in
- JOSE MARIA da FONSECA
2010 Setúbal $19.99
- 20 Year Old Moscatel "Setúbal"
$43.99 - 375ml
- 1966 Setúbal Superior $99.99 - 375ml
- The "basic" little Moscatel is really nice, but if you
can afford to treat yourself and friends to these latter
two offerings, you're in for a wonderful experience.
The 2010 is made entirely of Moscatel, though I understand they can
blend in a small amount of Arinto, Malvasia and or Boais. The wine is
served at about 50-degrees if served as a cocktail wine, while the
Portuguese serve it a tad warmer if offered as a dessert beverage.
The 20-Year-old still has a
youthful exuberance about it. It is sweet, rich, round and has a very
long finish to it. The youngest wine in this blend is 20 years old,
while the older lots incorporated here are as much as 40 years of age!
The 1966 displays aromas and flavors which reminded me
more of a fine, well-aged brandy. While these are certainly not inexpensive wines,
keep in mind the price of a luxurious bottle of Sauternes with 20-30 years of age...that
thought should ease some of the "pain" of paying for these little half bottles.
Bacalhôa MOSCATEL DE SETUBAL $11.99
Bacalhôa MOSCATEL ROXO DE SETUBAL $29.99 (750ml)
Berardo's story is a remarkable one and he purchased the Joao Pires winery
in 1998. He also acquired a share of the Lafite Rothschild enterprise
in Portugal and he's sold a few shares of his Bacalhôa property to the
Some people identify José Maria da Fonseca as the only producer of Moscatel
de Setúbal, but, in fact, Bacalhôa has a cellar devoted to aging Moscatel.
We visited the estate and found a special building devoted to
the aging of these Moscatel wines...not temperature controlled, in fact, as the
warm summer temps help mature the wine more quickly. Even so, though, they
age some batches for an extended time.
The Moscatel cellar.
We have a couple of their excellent Moscatel wines...
The entry level bottling is the basic Moscatel de Setúbal. This is
matured for approximately 8 years in old whiskey casks. The aromas
are remarkable...sort of candied orange with some raisiny notes and a bit
of a toffee note. It's sweet and can be paired with fruit or nut
desserts or cakes. You'd serve this at cellar temperature, cooled
but not chilled.
There's an even more marvelous version, made from the Moscatel Roxo, a
sort of reddish Muscat grape.
- It's also given extended aging in that huge, somewhat warm
garage-of-a-cellar. The wine is aged in used whiskey casks, but the
fragrances of the Moscatel are distinctive and floral. There's a
creamy aspect to the flavors with notes of honey, raisins, caramel and
toffee. The finish goes on for minutes...
Some Port Suggestions
A tiled rendition of the harvest in the Douro Valley...
Poças Junior wearing a Weimax cap!
- POÇAS JUNIOR
- Yes, this is a funny name for a winery, but it was established in 1918 by
Manoel Poças Junior. Don't know much about Manoel Poças Senior.
The grandchildren of Junior (what are they, then? Junior-ettes?) took over the
company in the 1970s and claim to be "obsessed" with quality.
We've found their wines to be quite good, typically.
Their 1997 Vintage Porto shows, in fact, their obsession may bear fruit. Handsomely,
This is a firm which has no U.S. marketing company to bang their drums. And they
don't advertise in American wine publications, so they will get short-shrift from those
who claim to objectively rate wines.
On the other hand, their costs are modest and for those of us who like to actually drink
wine, this is a firm to look to and support.
The LBV is quite good. It's a medium-bodied, mildly sweet Port.
Ready to drink now, of course.
Their Colheitas are typically quite good. The 1982, now sold out, was
The 1994 is quite good and well-balanced.
- The 1997 Colheita is mildly nutty and smooth...
POÇAS JUNIOR LBV PORTO $19.99
POÇAS RUBY PORT $10.99
POÇAS 1994 COLHEITA $49.99
POÇAS 1997 Colheita $51.99
POÇAS 1997 VINTAGE $29.99 (375ml)
In the aging cellar at Poças.
A tank of Ruby Port at Poças
Carrying the hose.
- W & J GRAHAM'S
Graham's name is one of the top names in Port. It is one of six labels owned by the
Symington family (the Port "Mafia" which owns numerous top Port
Graham's is named after two brothers
who worked for this Scottish firm in Portugal. They were involved in the textile
biz. Got paid for some fabric not with escudos, but with Port wine. The
people back in Glasgow weren't very delighted with this transaction, until the wine got
back to headquarters and was then sold. They then were in the Port wine business in
The firm was purchased by the Symington's in 1970. One of their
ancestors had worked for Graham's in the 1880s and then was affiliated with another Port
- They have been making top quality Ports for decades and the brand is
amongst the "elite" in terms of quality and prestige.
Theirs is a brand which actually is reliable in terms of quality.
Vintage Ports are tops, with the Graham's bottlings being in the category
of "excellent." They make a second-tier Vintage Port
bottling called "Malvedos" and consumers can look to that label
for something sensibly-priced and offering value.
- Currently in stock:
1977 GRAHAM'S VINTAGE PORT $219.99
GRAHAM'S TEN YEAR TAWNY PORT SALE $29.99
GRAHAM'S 20 YEAR TAWNY PORT $59.99
GRAHAM'S 40 YEAR TAWNY PORT SALE $189.99
GRAHAM'S 30 YEAR TAWNY PORT Sale $119.99
1997 GRAHAM'S VINTAGE PORT $69.99
1983 GRAHAM'S VINTAGE PORT $159.99
1994GRAHAM'S VINTAGE PORT $119.99
2004 GRAHAM'S Malvedos Vintage Port $59.99 (750ml)
2011 GRAHAM'S VINTAGE PORTO SALE $99.99
1970 GRAHAM'S VINTAGE PORT SALE $275.99 (last bottle)
- SMITH WOODHOUSE 2003 LATE BOTTLE VINTAGE SALE $29.99
SMITH WOODHOUSE 2000 Colheita $48.99
SMITH WOODHOUSE 1994 Vintage Port SALE $99.99
SMITH WOODHOUSE 1985 Vintage Port $99.99
SMITH WOODHOUSE 10 YEAR TAWNY PORT $32.99
SMITH WOODHOUSE 20 YEAR TAWNY PORT $59.99
- The "Smith" here was the Mayor of a small British
village called "London." The Woodhouses came along and joined him in his
Port enterprise around the early 1800s. The firm was sold to Graham's in 1960 and
the Symingtons bought it in 1970. Yes, the same Symington's of Graham's, Dow's,
The Ports from Smith Woodhouse can be quite good and seriously under-rated.
The real "star" is their "Late Bottled Vintage Port," a wine
which is matured for about 4 years in wood and bottled without filtration. The wine
is then given lengthy bottle aging, being released when it's close to mature.
Smith Woodhouse "LBV" is the Port for those who dream of
drinking their 1966s, 1970s and 1977s, if they only had these or could afford the serious
cash outlay it takes to acquire those sorts of wines. Being unfiltered, you'll be
best served to stand your bottle upright to allow the sediment to
"settle." Decanting is ideal. Most "LBV" Ports are
filtered, so while they don't require decanting, they are often less interesting, having
been stripped of some aromatics and flavor components.
The Ten Year Old Tawny is a marvelous wine. Nutty, medium-bodied and
sweet without being syrupy.
This firm offers a less-costly alternative to the famous houses. The
quality of their vintage Ports is quite good, though the wines may lack a
shade of the finesse of Graham's or Warre's. The pricing, though,
makes up for this and the wines are still pretty satisfying.
Taste the 1980 vintage from Smith Woodhouse. This is a medium-bodied
vintage Port. It's showing magnificently at the present time.
You'll do well to decant it, of course.
- NIEPOORT 1997 Colheita Port $74.99
NIEPOORT 1999 Colheita Port $49.99
NIEPOORT 1999 Colheita Port 375ml bottles $29.99
NIEPOORT 2001 Colheita Port $46.99
NIEPOORT 2005 Colheita Port $46.99
NIEPOORT 30 Year Tawny $159.99
NIEPOORT LBV $22.99 (750ml)
NIEPOORT LBV $12.99 (375ml)
- NIEPOORT WHITE PORT $15.49
NIEPOORT 10 YEAR OLD WHITE PORT $38.99
have been involved with Port since, at least, 1842 when this firm was established.
Dirk Niepoort is the winemaker and he, like his predecessors, is a stickler for
quality. The firm is somewhat small compared to the really famous brands, yet it is
very well-regarded in the connoisseur market, particularly in Europe.
A representative of the firm comes over to the San Francisco market from
time to time. "We don't make a huge amount of wine," he
explains, "so we don't need a 'huge' marketing effort. Besides,
our customers such as Weimax, who understand the quality of wine we make,
are selling sufficient quantities of wine for us to be happy."
The company didn't own any vineyards. Until recently. They purchased three
properties in the period between 1988 and 1990: Quinta do Passadouro,
Carril. These take care of less than 20% of Niepoort's production.
I think Passadouro is owned by someone else, though Niepoort did vinify the
juice for a vintage or so...
Passadouro is, actually, a name you'll see on some table wine of Niepoort.
Niepoort is passionate about quality: low yields in the vineyards.
Later-picking than most vintners, as Niepoort prefers riper fruit and riper tannins.
They still do a fair bit of the old-fashioned "foot-trodden" fruit.
While they make some terrific Ports up and down the range, we're fans of their Colheitas.
The number of 'vintages' of Colheitas has diminished a bit and prices of
older ones has escalated.
We have some nice bottlings in stock, but 20+ year old bottlings have gone
by the wayside.
The LBV is a fine example of this type of wine, being medium-bodied and close to those
"Vintage Character" wines some firms offer. Very fine! Both are good and fairly
priced, too. Certainly a good step better
than basic "ruby" and "tawny."
- Niepoort also does a fantastic job with its White Ports. These are
typically made of Malvasia, Viosinho and Gouveio.
There's the "Dry White" which has a bit of skin contact during its
fermentation. The wine is a blend of various years of White Port and
when it's bottled, these average about three and a half years of
It's nicely dry and is good on its own, but really morphs into something
different when mixed with good tonic water.
You'd enhance it with a slice of orange, lemon or lime.
The Ten Year White Port is a more complex aperitif and it's delicious served
in a large white wine glass...best chilled.
Gabriela Santos offers a taste of Niepoort's White Port.