An exploration of wine

Kopke, Cálem and friends: Sogevinus fine Port-folio

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Colheitas and Tawnies

Fine old Port wines from Kopke, Cálem, Burmester and Barros

Sogevinus is the Portuguese firm that has a portfolio of 4 major Port houses: Kopke, Cálem, Burmester and Barros. Kopke is the oldest established Port house:

Kopke Port lodge

Kopke is the oldest Port house in Gaia

Next door in Vila Nova de Gaia, closest to Eiffel’s dramatic bridge over the Douro is Cálem. Further up the hill are the lodges of Burmester and Barros.

Calem Lodge facade

Calem Lodge on the waterfront in Vila Nova de Gaia

The first Vintage Port I knowingly drank was one from Porto Barros. The first of these 4 houses I really got to know in depth was Kopke, whose wood-aged White Ports are a standard-bearer for the category and whose aged Tawnies and Colheitas are enviable. I tasted Burmester’s 1952 Colheita at London Wine Fair where it was quite rightly being shown as a best-in-show from the International Wine Challenge.

Apart from Porto Barros, which houses the group’s offices and bottling facilities, all lodges are open to visitors, but it is the Cálem lodge that Sogevinus have invested in creating a multi-media visitor centre that goes a long way to explaining the complexities of the Douro, of Port production and of the different styles of Port in a clear, simple and visual way. When in Porto, I arranged a visit and tasting of the Sogevinus range, which we did at Cálem.

A simple communication of Port is hugely important for the category and the efforts made at Cálem merit specific comment. Not only that, but the lodge receives a staggering 275,000 visitors per year, meaning it is reaching the kind of scale required to build the profile of Port.

The visit starts with an eye-catching 3D contoured map of the Douro region, onto which a sequence of graphics are cleverly projected, to explain the demarcation, rainfall, temperature variations, locations of quintas and so on. Smart and simple:

Projection Douro map

Contoured map of the Douro onto which different elements are projected, like rivers and quintas

Following stations cover the production process in diagrammatic forms, as well as explaining the nature of the fractured schist that is the basis of the Douro, in a truly tangible way:

Douro soil structure

Showing Douro fractured schist and how vines adapt to growing there

What was particularly impressive was then going on to explain to consumers what different styles of Port exist, and what they can expect to find in the glass from these different styles. That included illuminated stations to show the different types of colour and an aroma station showing around 20 different aromatic characteristics like orange or chocolate – which were authentic and clear, by my nose!

That section began with a very useful diagram, which some MW students and MWs should probably review (note: Ruby Port does not only refer to entry level Ruby, but rather is a broad style category of which Vintage Port, LBV and Reserve Ruby are sub-categories):

Port category hierarchy

How Calem clearly visualise the Port ‘family tree’

There is finally a 5 minute, 5D movie (3D video, audio and sensory) showing the region.

All of this adds up to a suite of engaging ways to explain a complex product to consumers. Port wines are diverse which is good. But diversity has complexity as its flip-side, which leads to consumer confusion and stunting of growth. Laying the category out simply and clearly must be a key component of promoting Port wines, and Sogevinus should be congratulated for their work at Cálem.

We wrapped up the visit with a structured tasting of 2016 Vintage Ports from each house, Kopke’s White Ports from 10 to 40 years old, Tawnies from 10 to 40 years old – one from each house, then finally Colheitas from different houses, from 1998 back to 1961.

This really showed the range and quality of Sogevinus’ Ports, as well as giving some insight into house styles. In summary:

  • Kopke White Ports continue to stun, with the optimal age between 20 and 30 years of age, balancing fruit density with tertiary development, and personal taste
  • Burmester has a richer and fruitier style, with Douro Superior fruit providing density
  • Cálem has firmer tannins pointing to a style for longer ageing, and their Colheitas demonstrated fantastic longevity
  • Barros 2016 will go somewhere interesting over time, with a sweeter style
  • Tawnies were all beautifully crafted and got better with age, through the 40 year old is a totally different, fully-matured style rather than fruity, as should be expected

The tasting notes below are a consolidation of the tastings at this visit in the order of each flight, supplemented with notes extracted from ProWein, the BFT, London Wine Fair, and from a series of 2016 Vintage Port samples Sogevinus subsequently sent me for re-tasting.

As an aside, it’s interesting as a taster to go back and look at how consistent you are at tasting the same wine on different occasions. As Jamie Goode has written recently, consistency matters. On the whole, I’m pleased that I generally score the same wines closely – within 0.5 / 20. However, there are a couple of discrepancies, most notably Kopke 10 year old White at 15.5, 16 and 17.5. So although I think I’m pretty good here, obviously there’s more practice needed (I can only guess that tasting the 10 for the first time in ProWein was enough of an eye-opener to make a bigger impact on me than perhaps it should have; 16 / 20 is about right for this wine).

 

Wines

Calem Kopke Barros Burmester Port tasting

The 16 Port wines tasted at Calem Lodge

Flight 1 – Vintage Ports

Burmester Vintage Port 2016 (18 / 20)
Similar to Burmester 2015. Fruity. Easy to understand. More Touriga Nacional, less Touriga Franca. Douro Superior fruit.
A: Deep purple
N: Deep, baked fruit. Pure. Orange zest. Some violets
P: Pure, fresh, dense black fruit & orange. Spice. Fine, firm tannins

Burmester Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (17+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. 50% Touriga Franca, 50% Touriga Nacional.
A: Deep black-purple, very narrow rim
N: Slightly fiery, red and black fruit. Lots of perfume. Some crushed rock
P: Primary floral Touriga Nacional notes. Spice, crushed rock. Fine, very firm to high tannins. Plenty of density. Will go somewhere very interesting

Barros Vintage Port 2016 (17.5+ / 20)
Sweeter than Burmester. Cima Corgo fruit.
A: Deep ruby-black
N: Smoky, crushed rock tones. Subtle spice. Violet emerges.
P: Firm, chalky tannins, spice, red and black fruit

Porto Barros Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (17+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. Tough vintage overall, but very good weather conditions at harvest, resulting in very good vintage; likely to be widely-declared. Portuguese style house. Majority Touriga Franca as a good vintage for Touriga Franca.
A: Deep black-purple, with a narrow rim
N: Floral, red and black fruits. Attractive. Primary. Ripe. Dense, some mineral but mostly floral-fruity
P: Pure and sweet blackberry and blueberry fruit; floral tones. Firm, very fine tannins with stem and schist. Warming but medium-long to long

Cálem Vintage Port 2016 (17.5 / 20)
Classic, rustic Port style. Touriga Franca greater than Touriga Nacional. Some from Douro Superior and some from Cima Corgo.
A: Deep black-purple
N: Stem herb, more floral tones. Dusty, crushed rock
P: Rich, full-bodied, peppery tannins emerge, but not super-firm. Long, though a little warming

Cálem Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (17.5+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. 30% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz, 10% Sousão
A: Deep black-purple, very narrow rim and very purple
N: Stem and elegantly floral. Very ripe blackberry and raspberry
P: Dense black and blue fruit, with lots of scented notes. Firm, very fine tannins. Needs time

Kopke Vintage Port 2016 (17+ / 20)
More elegant tannins. Between classic and modern. Quinta de Sao Luis. 380th anniversary, June 21st.
A: Deep ruby-black; narrow rim
N: Blueberry and blackberry, schisty mineral. Stony and savoury, rather than floral or fruity
P: Supple, blueberry fruit. Firm, almost high, fine tannins. Will need a lot of time

Kopke Vintage Port 2016 [cask sample] (18+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. 100% old vine Touriga Nacional.
A: Deep black-purple
N: Totally Touriga Nacional. Not so massively aromatic, but still plenty of violet tones to rich black fruit, with crushed rock and schist mineral, and some saline notes
P: Pure, liquorice and jammy blue fruits with violet – almost violet candies – overtones on the palate. Dense. Tense. Some saline hints. M+ very fine, mouthcoating tannins and integrated alcohol. Very long

Kopke LBV Port 2013 (15.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Deep black-ruby
N: Intense herbal violets, but with fresh leather tones of subtle oxidation. Hints of fresh coal smoke minerality. Deep, jammy black fruit
P: Fairly-firm tannins. Sweet, stemmy mid-palate. Bright fruit. Bright acidity. Fair length. A little lightweight on the palate

 

Flight 2 – non-vintage aged White Ports

Kopke 10 year old White Port NV (16.5 / 20)
Bottled January. Only Sogevinus brand with well-aged White Ports.
A: Mid amber
N: Spirity touch to creamy preserved stone fruit. Hazelnut tones. Caramel and cakebread
P: Mid-full body. Medium-sweet. Hazelnut, dried stone fruit. Fudge. Long, nutty, slightly spirity

Kopke 10 year old White Port (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid amber
N: Fudgy tones to preserved stone fruit. Spice. Some spirity tones, but generally very integrated. Some wood tones
P: Intensely sweet, rich, spicy, orange and preserved stone fruit. Dense, integrated and lovely

Kopke 10 year old White Port NV (15.5 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Pale amber
N: Caramel, cooked citrus. Spirit. White flower and nuts
P: Sweet, spicy and chewy. Straightforward

Kopke Colheita White Port 2008 (16 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Pale-medium amber
N: Minty, spirity, scented white peach
P: Spicy, cakebread, nut and cooked citrus. Fair length

Kopke 20 year old White Port NV (18 / 20)
Bottled January.
A: Mid-deep amber
N: Caramel, vanilla, some cheese touches. Toffee, coffee touches. Creamy
P: Nutty, with a savoury edge. Spice. Caramel. Sweet. Toasty-nutty finish. Better alcohol integration. Long, creamy finish

Kopke 20 year old White Port (18 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid amber, with green glints
N: Fudgy, spicy, cakebread. Dried peach and apricot fruit. Creamy
P: Rounded sweetness with freshness and cooked citrus. Very long, with beautifully balancing acidity

Kopke 30 year old White Port NV (18 / 20)
Bottled January.
A: Mid-deep amber
N: Fudgy, walnut and some polished wood. Rich. Cakebread spice and cinnamon. Some fresh leather touches
P: Fresh acidity balances full sweetness. Bitter orange peels. Spice. Smoke. More powerful. Long

Kopke 30 year old White Port (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid-deep amber, green rim
N: Mahogany wood tones to hints of fudge, only dried fruit and cakebread tones. Definitely bringing the maturity
P: Polished wood, fully integrated sweetness. More powerful spice character. Less overtly sweet and becoming spiced. Long. Slightly more overt alcohol

Kopke 30 year old White Port NV (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Mid-deep amber
N: Beautiful, nutty, integrated and complex
P: Sweet, nutty, cooked citrus, spice. Complex and long

Kopke 40 year old White Port NV (17.5 / 20)
Bottled January. Kopke Colheita 1934, 1936, 1937 White Ports are held and occasionally sell some bottles.
A: Deep amber-tawny
N: Fudge, lifted wood polish tones, spice, walnut, toast and gingerbread. Beautifully integrated alcohol
P: Rich, dense, wood spice and mellow tobacco tones. Power through the mid-palate but then mellow and integrated at the finish. Fully-matured, with just dried fruit beneath

Kopke 40 year old White Port (18.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid-deep amber, green rim
N: Mellow, polished wood and touches of rancio. Fully-integrated alcohol. Cakebread and fresh leather. Fully matured
P: Dense, intense, some cooked citrus, lots of spice, polished wood. Hugely spiced, toasted finish. Very long

 

Flight 3 – non-vintage Tawnies

Barros 10 year old Tawny Port NV (16 / 20)
Gold in Portuguese wine challenge.
A: Deep tawny
N: Oxidative. Tobacco and marmite tones. Black pepper. Masculine. Spicy.
P: Rich dried red fruit. Plenty of spice. Some phenolic grip. Powerful and slightly rustic. Smoky

Kopke 10 year old Tawny Port (16 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Pale-medium tawny
N: Oxidative – quite mature for just 10. Spirity touch is quite marked. Baked red fruits. A little simple
P: On the palate, primary fruit and some spice. Spirity. Spicy. Medium-long length

Cálem 20 year old Tawny Port NV (17.5 / 20)
A: Mid-deep tawny; amber rim
N: Creamy, vanilla-fudge, cinnamon spice. Hazelnut. Lovely integration of alcohol
P: Dried red cherry and spice. Cinnamon. Hazelnut and walnut fudge. Creamy-vanilla. Medium-long to long

Kopke 20 year old Tawny Port (17 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid-depth tawny
N: Some rancio tones. Subtle cakebread. Nutty, spice character emerges. Fudge touch. Toasty oak. Dried red fruit beneath
P: Richer dried strawberry palate fruit, fudge, cakebread. Intense sweetness, pretty well balanced. Milk chocolate finish. Long, with some spicy alcohol

Kopke 20 year old Tawny Port NV (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Pale-medium tawny
N: Smoky, spicy wood toast
P: Sweet, cooked strawberry and citrus peel. Cakebread. Long

Kopke 30 year old Tawny Port NV (18 / 20)
A: Mid-deep tawny; amber rim
N: Walnut and hazelnut, dried red fruit, some pot pourri lift, dates and cakebread spice. Fudge
P: Fresh acidity, sweet but not cloying. Lovely integration of red fruit, dried stone fruit, spice, nutty toasty oak, and spice. Long

Kopke 30 year old Tawny Port (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid tawny-amber
N: Mahogany and hazelnut. Touches of rancio. Subtle cakebread. Well integrated
P: Sweet and full. Rich and powerful. Some spicy notes, but well integrated alcohol, mahogany, chocolate, background dried fruit and acidity. Bright. Long, creamy finish

Burmester 40 year old Tawny Port NV (18.5 / 20)
A: Deep tawny-amber
N: Walnut, almost grilled meat toasty tones, wood-spice and fudge. Old tobacco
P: Fresh acidity, dense, intense palate. Spice, wood, old tobacco, walnut, dark chocolate, hard to spit. Smoky-sweet finish, with exceptional length

8. Kopke 40 year old Tawny Port (18 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid tawny-green
N: Fully mature, somewhat VA-laced. Then lots of mahogany and old cheese rancio. Toasted wood. Old olives
P: Powerful, intense and dense, sweet, rich, integrated palate. Linear acidity holds it together. Fudge, cooked fruit, mahogany, chocolate. Wow – beats the nose. Very, very long. Creamy

Kopke 40 year old Tawny Port NV (17 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Mid amber-tawny
N: Nutty-smoky
P: Rich, spicy, toasty and long

Barros 102nd Anniversary Tawny NV [barrel sample] (18 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018. Blend of tawnies from 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of Porto Barros. Served blind.
A: Mid-deep tawny
N: Initially primary – appeared youthful, with floral tones and stems – and also quite cool. On warming, crushed rock, nut, fresh leather and spice, then old tobacco emerged
P: Sweet, with alcohol beautifully integrated. Floral and dried strawberry. Long and balanced

 

Flight 4 – Colheitas

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 2008 (16.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. Quinta San Luis. Pick grapes with different maturity to get correct acidity. Robo-lagares to ferment Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Roriz separately. 3 years large oak, then into pipes. Rack 1-2 times / year between small and large oak, and top-up alcohol with brandy, then back to cask. Light filtration.
A: Mid-deep garnet-brick
N: Heady, brandied, lifted aromatics. Port varietal character – stems and floral tones
P: Toasty oak and cinnamon spice. Primary

Cálem Colheita Tawny Port 1998 (18 / 20)
Bottled 2018.
A: Mid-deep tawny
N: Delicate, floral-toned, dried red fruit, then complex, hazelnut, fudge, cinnamon spice. Some oxidative rancio touches
P: Dark chocolate, cocoa, some chewiness. Sweet, rich, fine, spiced, walnut skins. Dense and very long

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1998 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid tawny
N: Fugdy, toasty – more toasted hazelnut character. Dried strawberry. Complex. Attractive. Sweetness and savouriness. Some spiritiness, but much less than the headiness of 2008
P: Sweet, but not massively so. Spiced chocolate and cakebread. Fair freshness of acidity. Nutty, long finish with dark chocolate

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1987 (18 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid amber with red glints
N: Walnut skin, mahogany, nut, spice. Minimal dried fruit. Cakebread and cocoa
P: Intense, powerfully sweet, with balancing acidity, lots of spice, wood, nut and chocolate. Hard to spit

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1981 (17.5 / 20)
Bottled 2018.
A: Deep tawny; narrow amber rim
N: Vanilla-fudge. Milk chocolate. Grilled cakebread. Old tobacco
P: Rich milk and dark chocolate. Full-bodied. Fully-sweet. Fudge, spice, mellow hazelnut touches. Spiced and melted chocolate finish. Mature. Very long

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1978 (18.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. Good vintage.
A: Mid tawny-amber; green rim tinge
N: Mellow, rancio, old wood and old tobacco. Toast. Nutty spice. Residual dried mixed peel. Cakebread
P: Palate weight is also dense, but acidity holds deep sweetness. Lots of polished wood, chocolate and hints of rancio; walnut skins. Fully-integrated alcohol. Long

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1978 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Deep amber-tawny
N: Hazelnut, spice, toast, wood
P: Rich, sweet, fudge, nut, spice. Fresh

Barros Colheita Tawny Port 1974 (18.5 / 20)
Special packaging to celebrate Portuguese revolution. Bottled 2018.
A: Mid-deep tawny
N: Walnut skin. Rocks and spice. Old tobacco. Polished wood tones. Fudge and dark chocolate
P: Tobacco and mahogany tones to spice, dried background red fruit. Rich. Integrated. Long and nutty, with a melted chocolate tone. Long and integral

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1965 (18 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid-deep tawny, with notable rim olive
N: Subtle, fudgy, hazelnut tones. Deep, with some smoky touches. Very mellow. Touches of dried peel fruit
P: Intense but balanced dark chocolate, sweet cooked citrus fruit, spice, nut and mahogany. Incredible depth. Sweet but not sweet. Long, spicy, slightly alcoholic finish

Cálem Colheita 1961 (18.5 / 20)
Bottled 2018.
A: Mid-tawny, broad olive rim
N: Mellow, old tobacco, touches of mahogany and old leather, gentle toasted nuts, subtle spice, deep, rich and complex
P: Full, rich, caramel, fudge, spice, nuts, mahogany. Rich and balanced. Some wood grip. Integrated. Very long. Dark chocolate

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1958 (17 / 20)
Tasted at BFT 2018.
A: Deep amber, with tawny glints
N: Smoky, toasted walnut. Spice. Dried fruit
P: Rich, spiced, smoky-nutty. Toasty wood. Long

Burmester Colheita Tawny Port 1952 (18 / 20)
Tasted at London Wine Fair 2018.
A: Mid-deep amber
N: Mint, hazelnut, fudge, tobacco, mahogany
P: Rich, sweet, dried cherry, spice, tobacco, walnut. Integral alcohol. Long and toasty. Lively and fresh

Kopke Colheita Tawny Port 1941 (18.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid amber, red tints
N: Walnut skins, rancio, toasted nuts. Fully mature and tertiary
P: Very weighty palate. Full body. Spicy spirit, toasty nutty oak. Dried mixed fruit and Christmas cake. Chocolate. Just enough acidity to hold the power together. Very long

 

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