Having particularly enjoyed this masterclass held at the BFT (Big Fortified Tasting) on 22nd April 2016, I thought I would write it up for interest of others who were not able to attend.
This session was an intriguing insight into some of the decisions to be made during the port making process. The masterclass focussed on the wines made by Dirk from the Pisca vineyard from 2007 since obtaining the property, and generally known under the Bioma label. In particular Dirk focussed on the differences in the wine when made from grapes picked early or late, blending, and on the values and risks of determining an earlier vs later bottling date.
Presented were vintage ports from 2007, '08, '09, '11, '13 and two cask samples from 2015. The cask samples were particularly interesting as they clearly illustrated the difference between early and late picking, with the wines having been made from grapes that were picked three weeks apart. The earlier of the two pickings seemed to me to be soft and dry with more complexity and flavour, while the later picking was more of a powerful tannic beast.
Having sampled them individually, we were encouraged to mix them, and the result was significantly better than both individually (I mixed 50/50, though I think 60/40 early/late would have been better - but at that point I ran out of sample!).
Dirk also talked about making the decisions on when to bottle; a probably terribly over-simplified version of which is that you want to bottle as late as possible, except not too late; apparently the quality continues to slowly improve but then suddenly fall off a cliff when considering wine for a VP. Dirk described holding off as late as possible to get the best quality, but also in one year having waited too long and some barrels having to be discarded as a consequence - though the remainder were superb; clearly a very tough judgement call requiring skill and experience to produce the best output.
Overall it was an excellent masterclass, with the opportunity to taste the separate and blended components of the 2015 being my highlight; thank you Niepoort and Dirk for such an engaging and educational session on rarely mentioned aspects of the production process.
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