When the leaves are falling and a nip is in the air, it’s time for a glass of 2005 Quinta de Vargellas Port.
The train ride from Oporto to Quinta de Vargellas, in Portugal, is only a few hours, but it takes you centuries back in time. The Quinta estate is a 225-acre property, half of it planted with vines on a steep terraced hillside that descends to the banks of the Duoro River.
In 1893, Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, one of Portugal’s great port companies, purchased Quinta de Vargellas in near-ruin from the Phylloxera scourge that had been attacking vast areas of Europe’s vineyards.
Reflecting Quinta de Vargellas’ high standards, two-thirds of the grapes in its 2005 wine are port’s most respected: touriga nacional, touriga francesa, and tinta roriz. The winemaking follows the traditional stomping of the grapes in stone tanks called lagares. This is done to music and starts the fermentation; it also is a lot of fun, to which this writer’s wine-stained legs can attest.
Unlike other wines, the fermentation was stopped after about half the grape’s sugar is converted to alcohol, when a pure natural brandy, approved by the Port Wine Institute, was added to the fermenting wine. After being drained from the lagares, the 2005 Quinta de Vargellas was aged in barrels for two years and bottled without filtration.
The result is a black cherry color and aroma and a delightful ménage of chocolate, blackberry, mulberry, and cherry flavors. The perfect integration of tannins and fruit creates a velvety texture that is quintessential Quinta de Vargellas.
Port is usually recommended with cheese and walnuts. I prefer it with dark chocolate confections or cake. It is also delightful with friends and conversations like those at the Robertson’s table at Quinta de Vargellas.
The 750ml bottle of the 2005 Quinta de Vargellas retails for approximately $60; and the 375ml bottle is about $44.
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