Douro Valley tasting: Senhora Do Convento

About a 30-minute ride from the town of Pinhao on very windy roads, this exquisite 45-hectare estate was recently purchased by Patrick Landanger (owner of Domaine de La Pousse d’Or in Burgundy.) He has built a spectacular state of the art new winery that he will use for the first time with the 2008 harvest.

Patrick received us with his wife Ruth-who is Portuguese- and their new cellar master Daniel. Daniel Gomes is an oenologist and has worked in several wine regions of Portugal. He knows the Douro very well and the characteristics of the terroir and grape varieties.

Patrick’s goal is to make quality, regardless of the money he must invest in his winery in order to get there.

First we tasted the dry reds, the 2001 and 2003 which were not vinified by Landanger. He acquired them as stock when he purchased the estate in 2007. The next dry red will be 2007.

Douro Tinto 2001 (Dry Red) had a lot of spice, smoke and char in the nose. The mouth had smoother tannins than the nose suggested, but the fruit was a little cooked (would have benefited from cooler temperature of service). The style is similar to an old fashioned Cote Rotie wine made with not quite enough new, and a little too much time in barrel. However the result is supple, sensual and delicious.

Douro Tinto 2003 (Dry Red) also made by the previous owner the fruits here seem like cooked raspberries, like baked in a pie. The mouth had spicy yet smooth tannins and is very long with orange peel.

2007 was the first vintage vinified by Patrick Landanger.

The grape varieties were vinified separately and raised separately. We started by tasting all of the components individually. (The malos (malo lactic fermentation) were recently finished on the Touriga Nacional and the Tinto Roriz.)

According to Daniel, Touriga Franca needs heat during the growing season in order to obtain good maturity. The nose was smoky with lots of dark black fruits and lots of spice. The purity of fruit in the mouth was impressive. But it also had energy and spice. Smooth tannins. I assume that aging would contribute to more complexity.

 Touriga Nacional is considered the best grape in the Douro, but Daniel explained that it is very delicate and requires a lot of labour, like Pinot Noir. I sensed that the recent malo was muting the nose aromas and sure enough, a firm shake of the wine revealed pure and noble fruit aromas (small black and blue berries). I found the tannins to be more present in the mouth than the Touriga Franca.

Tinto Roriz (the equivalent of Tempranillio) can be a great grape in the Douro according to Daniel, but requires a lot of work. I found that the nose was the most concentrated and precise. The mouth was also quite tannic, but the spiciness and plum fruit made it quite balanced and covered the tannins better than the Nacional.

After trying several blends, our best result was approximately 50% Touriga Roriz, 20%Touriga Nacional, and 30%Touriga Franca. It was exceptionally floral with a great palate of spices. The energy and spiciness is dominated by lots of pepper!

We will taste it again in several months to see how it evolves.

 

In the cellar, we tasted Port from cask

Porto Ruby –(2007 not on label)(from barrel) had great fruit and precision; more than any Ruby I had ever tasted. Burgundian vinification accentuated the fruit.

Porto Ruby 2006 (from barrel) is more bitter than the 2007, but had energy fruit.

Ruby Special Reserve  (from barrel) (approximately 5 years old) Prunes and nuts dominated, more burned. Very deep red fruits. A big step up in complexity and length.

The Late Bottled Vintage 2000 (from barrel) had a young and deep red colour. The nose was smoky with liquorish and red berry jam on burned toast. The mouth had smoky walnuts and jammy red fruits.

The Late Bottled vintage 2003 (from barrel) was spicy, rich, delicious full of energy (late bottled vintage has to have 4- 6 years of elevage) Soon to be bottled.

For the young Tawny 4 years (from barrel)  My notes say ‘wow’! with spice and the salty caramel (like the kind from Brittany) Tawny Port is built to express positive oxidation.

Tawny 10 years (from barrel) was like a honeyed spice bread (pain d’epices) with yellow and brown spices with honey. Fabulous. Prunes and nuts, more roasted than the 4 years. Also had less colour. The mouth was dried walnuts, caramel and much more spicy and complex.

Tawny 20 years (from barrel) Had still less colour with beginnings of green tinges. Sign of a great Tawny, beginning to be first class. It was salty, dryer and more nutty. The nose was fabulously rich and complex. It was reflective of the green tinge with tarragon, pistachio nuts, walnuts and incredible African curry. The mouth was crème caramel, bitter chocolate and slightly less complex than the nose.

Tawny 40 years (from barrel) was like a Mirabelle liqueur with curry and cream. The mouth had spice, cinnamon, curry and honey.

 

The following wines were already bottled:

The Ruby Special Reserve was spicy red and purple flowers. The mouth was also spicy but with more earth aromas and smoke. Smooth tannins.

1999 vintage (vintage means that it must be bottled between 2-4 years after harvest). Incense and perfume. Some dusty sandalwood and red berry jam. The mouth was earthy spicy with chocolaty, dried walnuts and also sandal wood still some red fruits. Very long.

2003 vintage, heady spices and TONS of energy in the nose with red and blue fruits. Purple quetch plums. The mouth had more chocolate tones, prunes but less fruit here. Long with spices. Energy driven by tangy citric skins and ginger.

6 year old Tawny had heady spices with walnuts and great spicy minerality from the terroir. Caramel and peanut brittle.

10 year old Tawny had honeyed spices and Mirabelle plums with cinnamon sticks and ginger.

20-year-old Tawny walnuts, very precise and pure. Honeyed butter sautéed mirabelles (small yellow prunes) and white peaches with walnuts, pistachios and curry. Cinnamon dry sensation in the end of mouth.

Quinta Senhora del Convento   

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