2019 #DouroValley | Quinta do Noval
Updated: Jan 8
Noval is one of the oldest and famous Port (and red wine) producers in the Douro valley, the estate exists since beginning of 18th century. Previously owned by local family, who lived there, but recently was sold to well-known AXA Millésimes group (owners of Château Pichon Baron, Château Suduirant, Château Petit-Village in France). Quinta do Noval is located on the highest hill above Pinhão village. The visit is to be reserved and confirmed in advance for particular day and timeslot, they don’t accept any visitors without prior confirmation.
Entering the property, all the surroundings are covered with old vines...
... I believe in summer time it looks even more beautiful than now in winter.
The right side slopes are fully occupied with terrace vineyards.
The small upper part of this particular hill is exactly the parcel which survived during the phylloxera epidemy at the end of 19th century. There is only 2 hectares which gives about 200 cases. The very old vines are cultivated there and that parcel supplies grapes only for famous Quinta do Noval Nacional vintage Port.
On the other side a huge cedar tree is grown, as the owners said it has more than 100 year old. Their great wine Cedro do Noval is named exactly with the name of this fantastic tree.
A chilling relaxed atmosphere is in the air around the estate with terrific views calm and quiet, birds singing, cool windy environment, sunshining on the slopes, makes you feel you’re just in the best place on earth.
The winery for Port production is located on the tophill part.
The terrace parcels are made with stone walls to support and keep one or two vine rows each maximum. The only handpicking of the grapes is possible here, anything needs to be worked with the soil is also doing by handworking or maximum with horse or donkey. The grapes from this part is used mainly for high-level aged Ports like #Tawny.
The slopes behind terraces are another type of vineyards, which are made without the walls but just in a natural way of sloping down the soil by the waves. When it’s raining the soil washing down the hill, which is definitely an issue for the winemakers. The grapes from these vineyards uses mainly for #Ruby port production.
Third vertical type of the vineyards is located in the downhill, closest to the river. This is the most modern type of growing grapes here, due to more flat structure a machine treatment is available on this part of the hill, which makes working with vineyard easier and cheaper in terms of production cost. Grapes from here are used mainly for Quinta do Noval red still wine production.
Another winery and cellars, which are new built recently, located downhill and surrounded by nice grove of olive trees.
The winery and production part for Port contains cement tanks #lagares where the grapes for Port are still being pressed by old traditional method people do it with their own legs, yes it’s true they still do it that way.
Each lagar has it’s own size and they are strictly being filled in only by certain type of grapes from different parcels, no mixing.
The numbers show useful info, first is the number of the lagar, second the quantity of pipas (barrels) of wine contains in that particular lagar after pressing.
The grapes after being pressed within two days by human legs starts fermenting and CO2 starts going up stronger, so on this stage special robots are being used to finish the process.
The machine is going above the lagares and put special pins (legs) inside grape mass to mix the juice with skin and bones, to do not crush them fully but press it with the maximum force.
This nice lady is Patricia, to whom I very much thankful for this super interesting private visit and all the great stories told about this amazing winery.
The “legs” of this robot are made in a very special way, imitating human feet going up&down separately, with the holes inside to make the pressure less stressful. The “feet” are covered with silicon on the bottom part, imitating human skin soft touch, to do not crush the bones and skin a lot, to avoid high tannins extraction.
Once pressing is finished then juice is being filtering into the small tanks...
...and the pure spirit is being add to stop fermentation process, as we’re talking about the Port wine, which contains 16%—22% alcohol and a lot of sugar, don’t forget it.
So finally the wine goes to cellar to be aged in the oak barrels.
Starting from the last years the law for Port production was changed and now officially the producers can do whole cycle including aging in barrels and bottling in house, in Douro valley. Nowadays it’s not necessary and not obligatory to age & bottle Port wine only in #Porto city, even though a lot of producers still do it, but for instance Quinta do Noval transferred all their cellars and bottling to Pinhão and they now do everything in house.
At the end we finished with Patricia tasting their perfect Ports in a special room. There were: Ruby Noval Black basic Port, Ruby Unfiltered LBV 2012, 10 years Tawny, 20 years Tawny.
The last one immediately became my fave smooth, calm, round, with full complex of aromas starting from fig, prunes, raisins, ending up with tobacco, leather, vanilla and a lot of other typical tawny’s aroma.