A Visit to Quinta do Noval

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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
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A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

In June 2023, just before São João, I had the privilege of staying a couple of nights at one of the most beautiful spots in the whole of the Douro Valley – at Quinta do Noval. With its distinctive white-washed terrace walls broken only by the steep steps leading from one terrace to another, Quinta do Noval commands a breath-taking view both over the Douro River as it bends around Pinhão, and to the west and north across and along the Pinhão River valley. Our stay was right in the middle of the train strike affecting the services on the Douro Valley rail line so we travelled by car, using the tunnel through the Marão mountains and the road through Alijó.

The Marao mountains keeping the rain from the Douro Valley
The Marao mountains keeping the rain from the Douro Valley
Marao barrier.jpg (228.94 KiB) Viewed 28508 times

This meant driving through Vale de Mendiz and past the Hotel Silval where the Wine Show crew stayed in 2019 when filming series 3 which used Noval as its headquarters. Arriving at the gates of Quinta do Noval never gets old. The gates across the cobbled driveway bring a special thrill, knowing that there is a little less than 1km to go before reaching the house. The view across the valley towards Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Taylor’s Quinta da Terra Feita was spectacular, with the shadows of the clouds racing across the mountain on the other side.

Looking over the Pinhao Valley
Looking over the Pinhao Valley
Looking north.JPG (401.97 KiB) Viewed 28508 times
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
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Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

And then we were at the house. The ancient cedar tree, as old as the house, reached out in welcome from its sentry position guarding the view south towards the Douro. The flowers around the edge of the terrace waved colourfully in greeting as the wind ruffled past them. The house doors opened as our host Patrícia Bastos and Sol came out to meet us and show us into the house.

The ancient tree
The ancient tree
Lebanese Cedar.jpg (331.73 KiB) Viewed 28507 times

The whitewashed house was built around 200 years ago and was refurbished in a delightful blend of Portuguese and French styles in the mid-1990s after AXA purchased the estate from the Van Zeller family in 1993. AXA’s ownership of Quinta do Noval has seen a resurgence in the quality and reputation of the estate’s Ports and table wines. Much of this has been to do with investment in the vineyards, but the philosophy of respect has allowed Noval to make the best possible use of the resources offered by nature.

The philosophy of respect covers all aspects of Noval’s operations. First and foremost is the respect for the environment – minimising the impact of Noval’s operations on the land, enhancing biodiversity, and preserving the living soil structure. But the philosophy of respect also applies to the way people who live and work on the estate are treated (Noval has around 20 full time, year-round employees, with up to 80 people working during harvest), to the food prepared from ingredients sourced from local suppliers or grown on the estate, right to the investment in Pinhão when Noval became the first producer to open a dedicated tasting room in the town.

The northern end of the sitting room
The northern end of the sitting room
Card Table.jpg (255.43 KiB) Viewed 28507 times
The southern end of the sitting room
The southern end of the sitting room
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Inside the house is a large sitting room with a fireplace (and two sets of clearly used Port tongs!), a card table and on the wall two maps of the Douro. One is a replica of Barão Forrester’s map and the other is a copy of David Eley’s map released in 2013. The sitting room looks out onto the Lebanese cedar’s terrace with a door on the opposite side which connects to the entrance hall. The entrance hall is dominated by a large, round table in the centre and a console desk to one side. On the console desk is a visitor’s book containing nearly 30 years of visitor history. Alongside the visitor’s book are three years of fascinating press cuttings covering a myriad of aspects of Noval’s operations and wines as seen through the eyes of the media.

Cuttings from October 2019
Cuttings from October 2019
Press Cuttings.jpg (71.8 KiB) Viewed 28507 times

The entrance hall has a door on the west side which leads out to the gardens (and pool), to the dining room on the north side and stairs to the east which lead up to the bedrooms and tasting room. The detailing on the stairs is beautiful, tactile wooden bannisters, golden oak steps and colourful tiled risers, all sitting beneath a glass cupola making the stairwell bright and well lit, enhancing the French entomological and botanical drawings on the walls.

Detailing on the risers
Detailing on the risers
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The dining room is commanded by the presence of a huge and immaculately polished mahogany table, which can seat up to 14 people. Three sides of the room are half-tiled with blue and yellow dominating the colours, each panel of tiles framing a sepia painted scene relating to the production of Port – picking grapes, walking the baskets of grapes to the winery, treading a lagar, sailing the barrels down river on a Barco Rabelo and tapping a barrel. The north wall is filled with patio doors and a discrete door in the east wall leads to the large kitchen usually manned by a team of 3, led by Aida Ramos. Outside the patio doors is a small cobbled area covered by a pergola of vines growing table grapes.

The magnificent mahogany dining table - set for two!
The magnificent mahogany dining table - set for two!
Dining Room.jpg (327.52 KiB) Viewed 28507 times

Once unpacked we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves until meeting for an aperitif under the Lebanese Cedar at 7.30pm. The sun was warm and the sky was blue so we decided to spend an hour or two in the infinity pool, swimming and reading. The pool is astonishing, carved into the side of the hill with views south over the Pinhão Valley towards the Douro River and the mountain peak of Quinta das Carvalhas.

Cloudy but nice and warm
Cloudy but nice and warm
A pool with a view.JPG (219.87 KiB) Viewed 28507 times
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

All local produce from the estate or close by
All local produce from the estate or close by
Aperitifs.JPG (96.07 KiB) Viewed 28502 times

Too soon it was time to dress for dinner and to meet Patrícia on the terrace. Gazing out across the valley we nibbled on almonds from the estate, olives from the estate, goats cheese and four types of ham, all accompanied by a bottle of Quinta do Noval Vinho Branco Reserva 2022. Half an hour later we moved to the dining room and had a wonderful meal of vegetable soup (made from vegetables grown in the garden planted in the deep soil at the bottom of the hill close to the Pinhão River).

Cetenario oil on the right
Cetenario oil on the right
Soup and oil.jpg (330.87 KiB) Viewed 28502 times
Distinctly different colours
Distinctly different colours
Olive Oil.JPG (401.01 KiB) Viewed 28502 times

This was followed by pork loin with a pumpkin sauce, almond tart and Serra de Estrella cheese. The cooks at Noval are talented, and the meal was superb, as always. What was especially interesting was the opportunity to try, side-by-side, the regular Noval olive oil and the Noval Centenário olive oil made from the fruit of low yielding and ancient olive trees. The comparison was fascinating. The regular oil is one of my favourites, being grassy and full of fruit. The Centenário was just as grassy and fruity but came with a wonderful intense pepperiness which added warmth and texture to the oil’s flavours. The meal was served alongside some wonderful wines, giving us the chance to enjoy bottles of Quinta do Noval Vinho Tinto 2015, Quinta do Noval Vinho Tinto Reserva 2020, Quinta do Noval 1997 Colheita Port and Quinta do Noval Nacional 1997 Vintage Port. What a wonderful dinner! After a leisurely dinner we decided to move to the sitting room to read and finish the decanters of those gorgeous Ports.

Such a lovely wine
Such a lovely wine
Noval 1997 colheita.JPG (292.37 KiB) Viewed 28502 times
Served blind - described as "silk velvet"
Served blind - described as "silk velvet"
Nacional 1997.JPG (53.66 KiB) Viewed 28502 times
And then we were shown the bottle!
And then we were shown the bottle!
Nacional 1997 label.JPG (62.01 KiB) Viewed 28502 times
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
M.Charlton
Quinta do Noval LBV
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by M.Charlton »

Fantastic write up, Alex - thank you for sharing! The last time in was at Quinta do Noval was in 2019, and they had quite a few terraces to repair due to land slips (I hope they’ve managed to do so in the meantime). A very special place indeed!
Andy Velebil
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Andy Velebil »

The almond tart is mouthwatering good. One of the best around.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

The weather the next morning was overcast and cloudy, with rain forecast for the afternoon. After breakfast we went for a short walk and came across a delightful sight. One of the ways in which Noval cares for its environment is to use natural processes wherever practical. We stumbled across Boneco, a beautiful and incredibly well-trained horse and his handler, João, ploughing the terraces around the vines in the Vale do Tanque terraces immediately below the Lebanese Cedar terrace. It was mesmerising to watch them. Boneco knew when to stop at the edge of a terrace, how to turn round in almost no space, when to back up before having space to turn and, most astonishing of all, how to use the stairs to move from one terrace level to the next! Ploughing around the vines helps them as it mixes a little organic material into the shallow and stoney topsoil from the grass and weeds. It also breaks up the surface of the soil, which will allow any rain that falls in the summer to soak into the soil and not simply run off a hard and baked surface.

Ploughing the terraces
Ploughing the terraces
Boneco e Joao.jpg (139.51 KiB) Viewed 28490 times

After watching Boneco for nearly half an hour, we walked back to the house and met up with some other visitors and took part in a short tour, starting at the ancient cactus. Exactly how old this cactus is, is not known for certain. It’s only known that the cactus appears in the earliest of photographs of Quinta do Noval, which were taken in the late 1800s.

As old as photography
As old as photography
Cactus.JPG (31.06 KiB) Viewed 28490 times
Full of flowers
Full of flowers
Cactus flower.JPG (29.46 KiB) Viewed 28490 times

The tour started with an explanation as to the different types of vineyards – the old stone terraces (socalcos) with their narrow growing surfaces capable of supporting 1-2 rows of field blend vines, the patamares with their varietal planted wider growing surfaces and sloped walls, and the vertically planted vinha ao alto. We spoke about varietal block planting and old field blends all while overlooking the steep hills down to the Douro. Then our attention turned to the north and we walked past the back of the house to what would have been the hub of estate life when the house was first built. This collection of whitewashed buildings is now used as a kitchen and changing rooms for the workers, offices and storage – and the place to access the stairs leading up to the Nacional vines.

Originally the homes of the estate workers
Originally the homes of the estate workers
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Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

M.Charlton wrote: 21:16 Tue 04 Jul 2023 Fantastic write up, Alex - thank you for sharing! The last time in was at Quinta do Noval was in 2019, and they had quite a few terraces to repair due to land slips (I hope they’ve managed to do so in the meantime). A very special place indeed!
The only damage to the terraces was from the heavy rain earlier in 2023, and most of that had already been repaired.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

So understated!
So understated!
Nacional Marker.JPG (89.91 KiB) Viewed 28487 times

Just in case the story of Noval Nacional is unfamiliar, here is a short summary – skip the next couple of paragraphs if you already know it.

Prior to the early 1800s, all of the world’s great wines were produced from noble grape varieties grown on their own roots. These are vitis vinifera vines. In the 1870s, a microscopic vine sap-sucking form of an aphid was accidentally brought to Europe from the Americas. When it feeds on vitis vinifera vines, the aphid causes the vine’s roots to deform and allows fungal infections to get into the wounds it leaves. The combination of scar tissue and secondary fungal infection eventually prevents the roots from transferring moisture and nutrients to the plant, causing the vine to die. Phylloxera devasted the vineyards of Europe, including those of Quinta do Noval, in the 1860-1870s.

However, American vines – vitis labrusca – evolved alongside the phylloxera aphid and have several defences against the insect and against secondary infections. Although the grapes produced by vitis labrusca do not make appetising wine, it was discovered that grafting noble grapes onto American vine rootstock gave a plant which produced good quality wine and yet was resistant to the aphid.

Once this discovery became widely known, growers in the Douro who could still afford to replanted their dead vineyards with grafted vines. Noval did this in the 1920s but discovered a small parcel of land where the vitis vinifera vines had not died, and were still producing small amounts of wonderful fruit, which made wonderful Port. A decision was taken in 1923-24 and when this small area was replanted and ungrafted vines were used to see what happened. The vines survived and did well enough to produce good grapes and make outstanding wine.

7 years later, in 1931, an astonishing Port was made from these grapes and the legend of Quinta do Noval Nacional was born.

On their own roots
On their own roots
Nacional vines.JPG (340.02 KiB) Viewed 28487 times

The name “Nacional” comes from the fact that the vines are Portuguese grapes, on Portuguese roots, growing in Portuguese soil – thus “Nacional”, meaning “of the nation”.

The Nacional parcel is 1.6 hectares in size, including the walls and the paths so perhaps only 50% of that area is used for growing vines. It sits behind and slightly above the house, covers 6 terraces with each terrace holding 1-3 rows of vines and each vine bearing as little as no bunches of grapes to as many as 4. On average, the vineyard yields around 750g of grapes per vine.

Only 3 bunches on this Nacional vine
Only 3 bunches on this Nacional vine
Nacional grapes.jpg (97.45 KiB) Viewed 28487 times

Despite experimenting, Noval have never been able to successfully grow vines on their own rootstock outside the Nacional terraces, nor to discover what special aspect of the terraces allows vines to grow on their own rootstock in this small area.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

The big back roof is the cellar in which the wine is matured
The big back roof is the cellar in which the wine is matured
The winery and armazem.jpg (267.44 KiB) Viewed 28486 times

There are two wineries at Quinta do Noval. One is at the foot of the hill and is used to make the table wines and the basic Ports. The other winery is attached to the house and holds 7 granite lagares of varying size. This is the winery used vinify the grapes which are expected to be used to make the premium Ports. All lagares are cut (the first treading when the grapes are squashed to release their juice) and trodden by foot once a day. During the day, as and when the musts need work to release more of their colour from the skins, a robot treader is used. The feet of this treader – which was built in 1995 – don’t quite reach the floor of the lagar so don’t crush the pips and release the bitter tannins the pips contain. This makes the robot the ideal way to work the musts and punch the cap without having to take people away from the harvest.

Robot treaders at the top, nacional lagares on the right
Robot treaders at the top, nacional lagares on the right
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Each lagar is typically filled 10-15 times during the harvest. Although not unique, Noval is unusual in using granite lagares, but the slightly abrasive nature of the granite surface has been found to be ideal to release the colour and tannins from the skins of the grapes when being trodden.

Each lagar can be drained using gravity into the barrel cellar below, which is also part of the house and sits behind the kitchen. The mass of skins and pips – the pomace – has to be shovelled out by hand, a hard task, and is pressed to yield a dark, tannic and powerful wine which is used as a blending wine. Once pressed, the pomace is sent to a distillery so any remaining alcohol can be extracted and used elsewhere. Some of the solids are kept on or returned to the estate where they are composted and spread around the vineyards. Interestingly, a vineyard in the Douro is not allowed to operate their own distillery. Regulating and controlling the volume of aguardente is one of the most effective tools the IVDP has to ensure that producers do not fortify more volume than permitted under their benificio.

Showing the window to the tasting room
Showing the window to the tasting room
First year wine storage.jpg (157.54 KiB) Viewed 28486 times
The barrel cellar is seriously impressive. Ancient wooden beams hold up a tile roof, high above two rows of tonneis (large barrels lying on their sides). Each of the 30+ barrels varies in size and are used to hold the wines for their first year, after which they are driven down the hill to the wine store for longer term aging. The barrels are old, most of them more than 100 years old, mostly made from oak but one or two are chestnut a wood used quite often for holding wine in the Douro. There are four windows into the barrel cellar. Two in the roof, one at each end. The window in the south end looks into the tasting room and our next stop…
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

Andy Velebil wrote: 21:18 Tue 04 Jul 2023 The almond tart is mouthwatering good. One of the best around.
That vegetable soup was stunning, probably the best I have ever had!
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

Warm wooden furniture
Warm wooden furniture
Tasting room.jpg (172.9 KiB) Viewed 28483 times

The tasting room at Noval is a lovely wooden furnished room with two long tables with benches either side. One window looks into the barrel cellar, two look over the terrace giving good light in the room. Tucked in a room just the other side of the fireplace is the property’s small chapel – visible from the terrace as a beautiful blue and yellow stained-glass window.

An educational selection
An educational selection
Wines to taste.JPG (72.06 KiB) Viewed 28483 times

Patrícia organised the tasting to illustrate different styles of Port and the effect of aging on the wine. We started with the Quinta do Noval Single Vineyard 2017 LBV. This was followed by Quinta do Noval 2003 Vintage Port tasted alongside Quinto do Noval 2020 Vintage Port. Next came the final flight of four wines: 10 Year Old, 2007 Colheita, 20 Year Old and 40 Year Old (which is no longer called “over 40 Years Old” following the introduction of the 50 Year Old category).

The tasting brought the tour to an end and the other guests departed. We moved to the terrace where a bottle of chilled Noval Extra Dry White Port and some tonic was waiting to greet us as a prelude to lunch. This was the point at which we learned that wine labelled “Noval” has been made using grapes which include those grown by long-term contract farmers on their own land. Wine labelled at “Quinta do Noval” has been made from grapes grown exclusively on land owned by Quinta do Noval.

Perfect Port for White Port and Tonic
Perfect Port for White Port and Tonic
Extra Dry White.JPG (63.46 KiB) Viewed 28483 times
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

One of the plaques from the dining room tile friezes
One of the plaques from the dining room tile friezes
Dining room detail.JPG (67.93 KiB) Viewed 28482 times

Lunch was in the dining room, and consisted of soup, grilled hogget with salad, chocolate mousse and Serra d’Estrella cheese. The soup was accompanied by Passadouro Vinho Branco 2020. I loved this white with its very light touch of oak (16% of the wine is fermented in oak) and vibrant fruit. The labels for the white wine feature a different local flower on each vintage; the red wines feature a different local animal. I hate the fact that this news immediately triggered the collector instinct in me and I asked how many vintages there had been so far…

Damn those collectible labels!
Damn those collectible labels!
Passadouro branco label.JPG (31.59 KiB) Viewed 28482 times

The hogget was matched with a delicious Quinta do Noval Petit Verdot 2016 single varietal. The wine was the perfect match for the slightly gamey, lean meat of the hogget and the tomato-based salad. The chocolate mousse and cheese went deliciously with a chilled glass of Quinta do Noval 2005 Colheita Port.

A wonderful match for chocolate mousse
A wonderful match for chocolate mousse
Noval 2005 Colheita.JPG (36.63 KiB) Viewed 28482 times
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

Supposedly the new wine cellar
Supposedly the new wine cellar
Small white hut.JPG (151.46 KiB) Viewed 28479 times

Noval’s wine cellar built in the 1980s nestles at the bottom of the hill. The old roof is being replaced this summer, so might be changing colour soon as the old asbestos roof is replaced by a modern alternative. But sitting alongside the 40 year old winery is a nearly-finished, fabulous 3-level modern winery which could well have been influenced by AXA’s other properties in Bordeaux and Hungary.

This is more like it!
This is more like it!
Real entrance.JPG (192.32 KiB) Viewed 28479 times

At first sight, the winery appears to be a small, round, whitewashed stone hut. But then you notice a road leading down to the left of the hut along a beautifully built dry-stone wall supporting the terrace outside the hut. This goes down the slope to the level below the hut and is the real entrance to the new cellar.

The new vaults are stunning, and with amazing acoustics
The new vaults are stunning, and with amazing acoustics
New cellar vaults.JPG (168.09 KiB) Viewed 28479 times

The new cellar is stunning. The vaulted space goes far back into the hillside, circling around a spiral cellar which links the three levels. This middle level is the main storage space and will be used to store and mature wine in barrel – and might well be used as a concert space from time to time since the acoustics are amazing. Built immediately around and under the spiral stairs is a caged, 4-level stone bin storage for the library of old bottles (of Port and table wine) being slowly built-up harvest after harvest.

Double height bin storage for bottles
Double height bin storage for bottles
Bottle bins.jpg (48.66 KiB) Viewed 28479 times

The level below the vaults is less decorative but is already half full of wine barrels being allowed to mature at their own pace. The level above the vaults is the space which appears to be a small hut – which is actually the tasting and blending room with the north wall full of windows to give generous light. The building is in the final stages of completion and should be operational by the 2023 harvest.

The space on the lower level is starting to be filled
The space on the lower level is starting to be filled
Lower level.JPG (77.64 KiB) Viewed 28479 times
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
Posts: 15074
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

The first dedicated tasting roo to open in Pinhao
The first dedicated tasting roo to open in Pinhao
Pinhao tasting room entrance.jpg (172.12 KiB) Viewed 28478 times

From the new wine store, it's a relatively short trip to Pinhão. Quinta do Noval are the only producer to have set up a dedicated tasting room and shop in the town, in a beautifully renovated house just a few steps away from the waterfront on Rua da Praia. No appointment is needed to call in and enjoy a tasting of Noval’s wine and Ports, by the glass or as one of the suggested flights.

A tasting room and a shop
A tasting room and a shop
Noval Pinhao interior.jpg (383.24 KiB) Viewed 28478 times

Downstairs the room is whitewashed walls, glowing wooden floors and an assortment of tables. The wall in the shop contains a beautiful collection of painted tiles commissioned by Noval of a horse and plough turning the soil along a row of vines in the Vale do Tanque vineyard immediately below the house – almost exactly what we had seen that morning!

Azulejos in the Noval Pinhao tasting room
Azulejos in the Noval Pinhao tasting room
Noval tiles.jpg (298.16 KiB) Viewed 28478 times

But up the iron staircase is where the Port aficionado will want to be. The private tasting space has a wall display on which sits a complete collection of every vintage of Nacional ever released. (Sadly, all are empty replicas, but that doesn’t stop a thrill of excitement when you see the wall rack.) Just for the record, at the time of visiting, the display consisted of 1931, 1934, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1958, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

But where is 1960?
But where is 1960?
Nacional display.JPG (62.54 KiB) Viewed 28478 times

The other corner of the room is used to project a wonderful immersive wrap-around video of life at Noval. The video is all around you, and you really feel like you are a drone flying over the vineyards at time. If you're in Pinhão and have some time to spare in Pinhão, I recommend a stop here.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
MigSU
Warre’s Otima 10 year old Tawny
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by MigSU »

Alex Bridgeman wrote: 22:01 Tue 04 Jul 2023 . This was the point at which we learned that wine labelled “Noval” has been made using grapes grown by long-term contract farmers on their own land. Wine labelled at “Quinto do Noval” has been made from grapes grown exclusively on land owned by Quinta do Noval.
By law, any wine that is called "Quinta XYZ" has to be made exclusively from grapes originating in that estate (quinta).
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Alex Bridgeman
Fonseca 1966
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Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

MigSU wrote: 23:14 Tue 04 Jul 2023
Alex Bridgeman wrote: 22:01 Tue 04 Jul 2023 . This was the point at which we learned that wine labelled “Noval” has been made using grapes grown by long-term contract farmers on their own land. Wine labelled at “Quinto do Noval” has been made from grapes grown exclusively on land owned by Quinta do Noval.
By law, any wine that is called "Quinta XYZ" has to be made exclusively from grapes originating in that estate (quinta).
Very true.

But law (or at least IVDP regulation) does not require wine labelled Name XYZ to be made using grapes sourced from farmers with long term contracts. What I was trying to get across was that consistent with their philosophy of respect for their physical and social environment, Noval had long term arrangements with their farmers and didn't just buy spot grapes as and when they felt like it. By contrast, they have a network of grape farmers they work with and support with advice, supervision, guidance and materials so as to ensure that even the wines not labelled Quinta do Noval, are made using grapes which in all other respects meet exactly the same standards.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

The whitewashed terrace walls
The whitewashed terrace walls
Noval terraces.jpg (208.46 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

A visit to Quinta do Noval is always a delight, but rarely allows any time to wander around and explore. Spending a full day on the Estate meant that there were a couple of hours between returning from Pinhão and dinner – time enough for a wander. The route I followed went from the north facing door of the dining room out onto the cobbled service yard and its pergola of table grape vines, then on to the cobbled road that runs along the hillside that leads eventually to the famous wrought iron gates and the main highway running between Pinhão and Alijó. The road is lined with a variety of roses, part of the philosophy of Noval and of many estates in the Douro, to create a harmonious environment which welcomes a wide variety of birds and insects.

Roses attract other kinds of birds and insects
Roses attract other kinds of birds and insects
Roses.JPG (313.79 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

It's about 0.8km from the house to the gates, but halfway along is an amazing viewpoint, with an unimpeded view ranging from the Douro River just by Pinhão, across the whole of the western side of the Pinhão River Valley, Quinta da Cavadinha, Quinta da Terra Feita, the winery of Wine & Soul and Niepoort’s Port winery in Vale de Mendiz. It’s impossible to walk past this point and not pause and admire the scene.

Cavadinha in front, Vale de Mediz on the right
Cavadinha in front, Vale de Mediz on the right
Viewpoint.jpg (182.35 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

From there are four options: down the hill towards the river and the vegetable garden, continue towards the gates, along the road back to the house or up the hill. I chose to go up the hill and found a conveniently located flight of steps going up to the next terrace and its twin rows of vines.

Shoots ready to be pruned
Shoots ready to be pruned
Pruning.JPG (254.83 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

Following the terraces along the sides of the hill and heading vaguely towards the Nacional vineyard gave me a good opportunity to get a close look at the vines. They were green and vigorous, looking to be in fine health. The winter had been wet and had refilled the water reserves, the spring had been mild and had allowed a good flowering and fruit set. A little isolated hail had fallen, but seems not to have damaged significant amounts of fruit. June had seen a couple of weeks of cool and wet weather, but as the mid-summer’s day came around the sun switched on and the forecast changed to hot and dry. The vines have clearly enjoyed having plenty of water and have produced lots of green shoots which were in the process of being pruned away. The humidity from the water in the soil has meant that farmers have been spraying to control the risk of mildew and oidium, but all of the grapes I saw as I walked though the vineyard looked firm and healthy at this point in their development.

Grapes are looking strong and healthy
Grapes are looking strong and healthy
Noval grapes.JPG (67.99 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

My walk took me up the hill from the road and into a small grove of olive trees where I was greeted enthusiastically by a couple of noisy puppy guard dogs belonging to some of the workers who live in the cottages close to the trees. Clearly still learning their role and responsibilities, they made enthusiastic amounts of noise as I approached but ran off and hid when I continued undeterred along the path. My route led me into the back of the Nacional vineyard and towards a building which I had always assumed was a chapel – but looking through a window revealed it was actually a huge cistern. Built higher up the hill than the house, it is used to collect water from the springs which supply Noval and to create the pressure needed for the house to have running water. From the cistern house, a track led south out of the Nacional vineyard, looped round the hill and took me back down to the old cactus and the Lebanese Cedar.

Coming down from the cistern, this was the view
Coming down from the cistern, this was the view
Pool and terrace.jpg (207.49 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

Next time – I’m down the hill through the Vale do Tanque vineyard to see the vegetable garden!
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Alex Bridgeman
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

Best when drunk on the terrace at Noval
Best when drunk on the terrace at Noval
Cedro Branco 2022 label.JPG (55.22 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

Carlos Agrellos is the Technical Director for Quinta do Noval and was able to join us for dinner on our last evening. We met Carlos on the terrace for a glass of white wine (Cedro do Noval Vinho Branco 2022 Douro DOC) and a handful of the estate’s roasted almonds. The topics of conversation were many and varied, covering gardening, Formula 1, objectives for wine fairs, filming of The Wine Show and hundreds of other subjects. Dinner that evening was a cold gazpacho soup, grilled octopus with salad and the Noval speciality of freshly made pancakes served with a Port reduction sauce made using the Port we had not managed to finish the previous evening. The sauce and pancakes were so good that I left with the recipe!

Octopus with baked new potatoes
Octopus with baked new potatoes
Final dinner main.JPG (167.82 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

The wines we had to accompany the meal were Quinta do Noval Vinho Tinto 2010 Douro DOC, Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional 2020 Douro DOC, Quinta do Noval Colheita Port 2000, Quinta do Noval 2007 Vintage Port and a contribution we brought to share with Patrícia and Carlos, Martinez 1963 Vintage Port.

Perfect mature Port, better in day 2
Perfect mature Port, better in day 2
Martinez 1963.JPG (62.95 KiB) Viewed 28473 times

Our dinner was a wonderful way to bring to an end a fabulous visit to Quinta do Noval. The car collected us just after breakfast the next day but the opportunity for an extended visit will live in our memories forever.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
Andy Velebil
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Andy Velebil »

MigSU wrote:
Alex Bridgeman wrote: 22:01 Tue 04 Jul 2023 . This was the point at which we learned that wine labelled “Noval” has been made using grapes grown by long-term contract farmers on their own land. Wine labelled at “Quinto do Noval” has been made from grapes grown exclusively on land owned by Quinta do Noval.
By law, any wine that is called "Quinta XYZ" has to be made exclusively from grapes originating in that estate (quinta).
Not to deviate too much from AHB’s thread. But the Douro, like some other regions, actually allows a percentage of non-Quinta/estate grapes into what is labeled “Quinta” or “Estate” wines. It’s not widely talked about but the regulations allow it.
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Doggett
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Doggett »

What a wonderful thread…I almost feel like I was lucky enough to have visited myself and experience the amazing Quinta and the wonderful Port and wines that accompanied the stay. BUT… then I remembered that I had not left Dorset but was chained to the cooker churning out cooked breakfasts as quickly as I could to counter the constant BofE interest rate rises :-)
Looking forward to some more of AHB’s travel writing to allow a bit of vicarious escapism.
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Mike J. W. »

That was a fantastic write-up and the pics are incredible! Thanks Alex.
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Alex Bridgeman
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

Thank you both for your comments. It takes quite a bit of effort to put together a thread like this one so it's always reassuring and helpful to know people read and enjoy them.

I've also posted tasting notes on all the wines and Ports and created links to the tasting notes in the thread above.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
Glenn E.
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Glenn E. »

Andy Velebil wrote: 01:21 Wed 05 Jul 2023
MigSU wrote:
Alex Bridgeman wrote: 22:01 Tue 04 Jul 2023 . This was the point at which we learned that wine labelled “Noval” has been made using grapes grown by long-term contract farmers on their own land. Wine labelled at “Quinto do Noval” has been made from grapes grown exclusively on land owned by Quinta do Noval.
By law, any wine that is called "Quinta XYZ" has to be made exclusively from grapes originating in that estate (quinta).
Not to deviate too much from AHB’s thread. But the Douro, like some other regions, actually allows a percentage of non-Quinta/estate grapes into what is labeled “Quinta” or “Estate” wines. It’s not widely talked about but the regulations allow it.
I've heard this many times, but I've never been able to find the regulation that allegedly allows it.
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Doggett
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Doggett »

Alex Bridgeman wrote: 18:57 Thu 06 Jul 2023 Thank you both for your comments. It takes quite a bit of effort to put together a thread like this one so it's always reassuring and helpful to know people read and enjoy them.
If I am ever lucky enough to visit and stay in such a fashion I promise to put the same efforts in my other regard to sharing the joys and insights from the experience! :D :990066:
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Re: A Visit to Quinta do Noval

Post by Constandia »

Alex, this is a wonderful write up. I have visualised the experience by reading your post. Wonderful read from start to finish, packed with information on the Quinta, its history, its current status, its vineyard location and cultivation, the winery space and lagares, the tasting rooms and of course the wines tasted! Not forgetting the people involved of course. Great photos too :). Please do more of these articles... how about a book with a collection of your visits to the various port producers?
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