For a wine lover, visiting Quinta do Noval is a great opportunity to experience in loco the birthplace of some of the best Port wines on the market and to learn more about the incredible history and culture of wine in the Douro. On top of that, getting a chance to taste a very unique Quinta do Noval Nacional is, I assure you, nothing short of heaven.
Driving through the Douro, Quinta do Noval is a particularly hard property to miss. A few minutes after passing by the small village of Pinhão, Quinta do Noval shows up magnificiently on the hillside with its lines of terraced vineyards and aligned stair walls painted in white. Inside Quinta do Noval, the old house and cedar tree are a welcoming sign that people and history have had a long and strong connection in this place.
It starts raining slowly but for what seemed like an eternity we stay beneath the cedar tree listening to Rute’s voice telling the history of Quinta do Noval and observing the immensity of the Douro valley as it spreads throughout the hills in front of me.
As we visit the beautiful vineyards we make a stop at the birthplace vineyard of the great Noval Nacional. A small 2 hectare plot (ungrafted vines and untouched by phylloxera) where the average age is around 40 years and still includes some 80 year old vines.
Amazed by the beautiful landscape and the intense sense of history we head to the the first tasting, Noval’s Douro red wines. The Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional were my favorites of the tasting and are good examples of the kind of delicious reds that are coming out of the Douro. We move on to start tasting some Port.
- Noval Black
First Noval Black which is an easily accessible Port made to be enjoyed with no complications (no aging or decanting necessary). Like a good LBV, it screams for a piece of dark chocolate to go with it. Perfect Valentine’s day gift with that special box of dark chocolate. Deliciousness: 6.
- Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2005
Next the Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2005 which is simply one of the best LBVs on the market. Lush and powerful but beautifully balanced. Simply delicious. Pairs perfectly with a Stilton cheese. A great wine to have at home and sip one glass or two every week. Deliciousness: 8.
We move on to the Tawny Ports. Tasting 10 to 40 year old tawnies side-by-side is one of the most exciting Port wine experiences and one I like very much. Each of the wines is constantly evolving in the glass and transforms a tasting with a few wines in a rich experience of aromas and flavors. This tasting was no different.
- Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old
We start with the Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old which has a wonderful freshness and despite being just a 10 Years Old it already demonstrates an attractive complexity. Served chilled and on its own it’s one of the most delicious aperitifs you can have. Having friends over for dinner? Open this bottle, it’s a crowd pleaser. Great option for cocktails too. Deliciousness: 7.
- Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old
Next is the Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old which is an explosive, powerful and rich Tawny with a great long finish. Beautifully complex and vibrant at the same time. One of my favorite 20 Years Old on the market. A wine to be enjoyed with some time letting it evolve on your glass. A perfect companion for a dinner with special friends where you can prepare that delicious foie gras starter (a pairing made in heaven!) or end the meal with a tasty crème brûlée. Serve slightly chilled. Deliciousness: 8.
- Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old
Finally the oldest tawny of the tasting. The Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old is a fabulous tawny Port. Highly refined and delicate and showing some great freshness for its age. Lets not forget that a 40 year old Tawny is a blend of old tawny Ports from different vintages with an average age of 40 or more years. It’s quite impressive and I could be here for hours tasting this wine. This is a wine that I’ll enjoy as dessert on it’s own, no other pairing necessary, just time. Deliciousness: 8
Incredibly, the best of the night is yet to come. I’m now having dinner at Quinta do Noval looking at its amazing view of the Douro valley and enjoying a good conversation with a friend and our host. Finally it’s dessert and cheese time and I’m ready to taste some very fine Port.
- Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997
The Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997 is a fantastic pleasure to drink. Powerful but balanced and well defined with a lovely complexity and a vibrant finish. When tasting this bottle you can understand the richness in craftsmanship that goes into each bottle of Tawny Port in a house like Noval. Pure quality. The Colheita 1997 has been, since the day I first tasted, a loyal companion when I want to show my friends what a great young Colheita can be like. At around 40€, this a must buy. Deliciousness: 8
- Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994
The Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994 starts with subtleness like it was trying to hide something. But, as it opens, it starts showing why subtleness in this case it’s actually a virtue. The previously hidden complex layers of flavors are now present and the 1994 is just showing how different and elegant a Port wine can be. Pure balance and great pairing with a delicious Serra da Estrela cheese. Deliciousness: 8
We move on to taste and enjoy the last bottle of the night.
Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994
The Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994 is charming from the first moment. Extremely delicate yet firm. With incredible finesse but highly complex. Incredibly balanced at all levels. A pleasure to sense, an indulgence to taste.
Enjoying this Noval Nacional is like enjoying a slice of the perfect chocolate cake, made with layers and layers of very well defined and focused flavors of different quality chocolats that blend perfectly on each bite.
Simply one of the best Port Wines I’ve ever had. This is one of those wines that when you open them, that’s the special occasion they were made for. Unique. Deliciousness: 10
I woke up the next morning at 6am as if wanting to finish the previous night once again. I take a look outside and the valley is fully covered in low clouds. I can barely see outside the window but I decide to go for a walk. No matter where I look the view is always beautiful and surprising. I spend the next couple of hours lost between the vines, the view and my thoughts.
Returning to the house and after a fortifying breakfast (no wine but pun intended) we head over to the magnificent cellar at Noval’s. The cellar is a Port wine lover’s dream. It’s filled with a few thousand barrels that are used to store and age Port wine. Each individual barrel has its own story which is tightly connected to the wine they protect and age and is deeply related to the people (winemakers, barrel-makers and blenders) that handle them. An impressive heritage that contributes massively to the kind of quality Port Wines that Noval is putting on the market every year.
A last stop at the main house to buy some old Port. Suddenly I realize that I’m just leaving the Douro one more time and already can’t wait to come back. While away I miss the history, the culture and the people that make the Douro and Port Wine such an incredible rich part of our culture.
Thank you Christian Seely and the rest of the team at Quinta do Noval for taking good care of such an important part of the Douro heritage. Thank you Marie-Louise for your kind invitation to visit Quinta do Noval. Thank you Rute for your hospitality. Thank you Luiz Alberto once again for sharing such a great moment.