A Rare Wine on a Rare Date - Carcavelos back to 1906

To record tasting notes and thoughts on fortified wines we might try which do not come from the demarcated region of the Douro Valley
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Alex Bridgeman
Graham’s 1948
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Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

A Rare Wine on a Rare Date - Carcavelos back to 1906

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

Carcavelos tasting
Carcavelos tasting
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On 29th February 2024, Jörg Lewerenz – the owner of Quinta da Corrieira in the Carcavelos wine region of Portugal – organised a remarkable tasting of a selection of 9 wines curated to show the historic and modern interpretations of this region.

The history of Carcavelos is a long one. Evidence shows that viticulture and winemaking in the region date back to Roman times, but it was really in the 1700s when the region started to become recognised for the quality of its fortified wines. Much of the vineyard area was owned by the Marquis de Pombal, who sold his grapes to the Port producers even after the regulations he introduced in 1756 stated that Port could only be made from grapes grown in the demarcated Douro region. In 1769 Christie’s auction included Carcavelos wines which were in demand and achieved high prices.

But gradually the fortified wines made in the area to the west of Lisbon became recognised for their own qualities. Made differently from Port, the wines are fermented dry but some of the partially fermented must (vinho abafado) is retained and added back to the fermented wine to bring it to the level of sweetness desired. The sweetened wine is fortified using 77% Portuguese aguardente de Lourinhã spirit to bring the overall alcoholic strength of the wine to 18-20% and then aged in wooden barrels for at least two years (usually longer) and in the bottle for at least six months before being released to the market.

Carcavelos - just to the west of Lisbon
Carcavelos - just to the west of Lisbon
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The wines became very popular in England and Scotland in the early 1800s when Napoleon’s invasion of northern Portugal cut supplies of Port to the British Isles. Despite the impact of phylloxera, a century later the region became a regulated DOC in 1908 and hit its heyday with around 24 wine estates producing and selling their wines around the world. But slowly demand for the wines fell away. Two world wars and a severe global recession or three left the wines forgotten and unloved.

Demand for land for housing as Estoril and Lisbon grew put pressure on the owners of the quintas as land values grew faster than the value of the wines. Land was sold, vines were grubbed up and houses or roads were built. The last commercial winery, Quinta do Barão was wiped out by a road expansion in the 1990s.

Villa Oeiras vines
Villa Oeiras vines
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But there were people who lived in the region who had pride in the wines and their history. The town council of Oeiras managed to rescue some of the vines that were being lost to development and planted 12.5 hectares of vineyard in the protected land within the boundaries of the Marquis de Pombal’s palace – a national monument. The town operates the only Portuguese publicly owned winery to vinify the grapes and make vinho generoso under the brand Villa Oeiras and have single-handedly rescued the region from extinction.

Today the area under vine has grown to 25 hectares and there are several more producers making fortified Carcavelos. Most producers are making more table wine than fortified, but the quality of the fortified wines today is truly excellent.

This tasting was designed to show the different styles of wine from dry to semi-sweet and the ability of the wines to age and mature in both bottle and barrel.

9 wines 2009-1906
9 wines 2009-1906
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9 wines were tasted ranging from the youngest being a 15 Year Old non-vintage wine from Villa Oeiras and the oldest being the 1906 from Quinta d’Algoa – which would have been vinified before the DOC was created although bottled and sold under the “new” regulations.

The wines tasted were:
2012 Quinta da Corrieira
NV Villa Oeiras 15YO Vinho Superior “ouro”
1995 Quinta dos Pesos from Howard’s Folly
1989 Quinta da Ribeira da Caparide
NV Conde de Oeiras, Meio Doce
NV Quinta de Cima
1906 Quinta d’Algoa
NV Quinta do Barão No.1
NV Quinta da Bela Vista 80 Years Plus

My overall impression was of the quality of these wines and their ability to embrace the test of time. The older wines tended to be drier, the younger wines have a balance that was closer to today’s taste for off-dry wines. It was a wonderful opportunity to taste some excellent examples of these relatively rare wines – wines I will certainly be seeking out, buying and drinking much more of in the future.
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
Posts: 641
Joined: 13:22 Wed 17 Feb 2021
Location: Douro Valley

Re: A Rare Wine on a Rare Date - Carcavelos back to 1906

Post by MigSU »

Excellent read, and such a brilliant line-up.
winesecretary
Fonseca 1980
Posts: 1907
Joined: 15:35 Mon 13 May 2019

Re: A Rare Wine on a Rare Date - Carcavelos back to 1906

Post by winesecretary »

Carcavelos is a name that appears on some C18th silver wine labels thus a testament to the UK fondness for it.
Glenn E.
Graham’s 1977
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Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: A Rare Wine on a Rare Date - Carcavelos back to 1906

Post by Glenn E. »

I believe it was Will W. who introduced me to Carcavelos. I went out and purchased a couple of bottles of the Villa Oeiras 15YO and still have 1 left. It's a very nice wine, and given the usual gap between our scores I think we are in agreement about its quality.
Glenn Elliott
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Alex Bridgeman
Graham’s 1948
Posts: 14906
Joined: 13:41 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: A Rare Wine on a Rare Date - Carcavelos back to 1906

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

I’ve just realised I posted this in the “Other Wines” forum and not in “Other Fortified Wines”.

Now corrected.
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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