Sunday, May 22, 2011

It was great to be in Portugal again... (part 2) - Evening at the IVV (Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho)

On the first evening (still in Lisbon) we were invited to a fantastic tasting at the IVV* (Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho) where we had the opportunity to get to know some amazingly old (and great) Portuguese wines.

I would like to thank Roy Hersh – For The Love of Port  - for the tasting notes of the Madeira wines.

1943 Sercial do Estreito Madeira – Prior to this event, this bottle was part of the inventory cellared by the National Wine Institute of Portugal, used only for special occasions. This wine originated in the area of Estreito de Camara de Lobos and was bottled in January 1945. Slightly cloudy appearance with medium brown-amber color and a pale gold rim. High toned notes of citrus fruit, caramelized sugar, cooked onion, VA and pecan.  An initial sweet entry quickly fades to dry.  Light-bodied and soft with well defined acidity. Framed by flavors of grapefruit pith, walnuts, and toffee with a stylish finish of great length, leaving a jaw jarring dry impression.  I am not quite sure how this gained so much complexity with less than a year and a half in wood, nonetheless, the 1943 Sercial was an evocative elixir.  93 points ~ 5/9/11  

  1943 Listrão Madeira – What makes these bottles from 1943 even more unique is that during WWII, Madeira production was so limited and the harvest of ’43 so small, that it’s nearly impossible to find any bottles from this vintage in the marketplace, even on the island.  Interestingly, bottles can be found of the vintages bookending this one. The 1943 Listrão, (bottled in January 1946) is even scarcer than the other Madeiras at the IVV tasting, as Listrão was rarely bottled on its own. Today, very few bottles of Listrão exist since this large, hard-skinned grape -- which is typically sweet, but occasionally quite dry -- is virtually extinct on the island. The only Listrão that I know of can be found in the adega owned by the Olim Brothers’ at their Barros e Sousa property in Funchal (ABSL).  The grapes for this bottling are thought to have originated in Porto Santo, an island adjacent to Madeira.  Dark brown coffee color with an apple-green edge and laced with panoply of torrefacted aromas along with almond paste, saline and a distinct smoky nuance. Medium-bodied and exhibiting just enough acidity to keep this in synch, with its sweet impression; smooth, delicately textured and elegant mouthfeel.  The mid-palate presents modest depth with candied nuttiness and lemon-lime flavor.  The finish is persistent, rich and long, but overall I found this wine tasty but rather simple.  Nevertheless, it was a distinct pleasure to try this ultra-rare Madeira. 89 points ~ 5/9/11  

  1943 Malvasia Madeira – Bottled in January 1946. It has a cloudy appearance, is medium maple in color with a golden meniscus.  This 1943 was literally just opened and it had an inexplicably odd and indescribable nose that seemed beyond normal bottle stink.  However, whatever it lacked aromatically, it easily made up for on the palate.  I’m pretty certain that with proper decanting, for several days or even a week, the fragrance would have been far more pleasurable.  The palate immediately offered succulent sweetness, but only to the level of Bual and blind, I’d never have guessed it to be a Malvasia.  Extremely rich and concentrated with tension and cutting acidity, the ‘43 presented itself as a deceivingly youthful wine, despite its accessibility, compared to any of the other bottlings in the flight.  Medium-bodied and focused, featuring nectarine and praline flavors that were followed by a remarkably long, tangy finish.  Aromatics aside and focused solely on taste, the 1943 was an endearing, seductive sipper.  94 points ~ 5/9/11  

  1943 Tinta Negra Mole Madeira – In the 1940’s it was quite rare to find a Madeira that was labeled 100% TNM as back in the day there was little respect for this grape which is small, soft and possesses a black exterior and green pulp. Today the grape is known as Tinta Negra, which encompasses 80-90% of the total Madeira production and it also happens to be a red grape; a rarity in terms of the other cultivars grown on the island.  Like the other bottlings selected for this tasting, there was little known about the producer of this wine or its exact origin.  Medium-full weight, the crisp lip smacking acidity immediately provides precision and intensity.  Seemingly Bual-like upon entry and impeccably balanced, this ‘43 is packed with orange marmalade sweetness, fresh lemon-lime and dried peach flavors, leading to an intriguing sweet vs. sour counterpoint.  The VA adds an extra element of warmth and complexity that I liked, along with the extraordinary length and dry finish of this Madeira.  A unique experience and a brilliant bottle of Tinta Negra Mole.  Although I’ve tried young versions labeled Tinta Negra, this was my first older bottling.  92+ points ~ 5/9/11  

  1900 Madeira – The 1900 was poured after all of the 1943’s. No information was known about the cultivar, location or producer of this particular Madeira.  It spent sixty three years in wood prior to being bottled; thus, it was unlike the preceding four samples all of which were from the identical vintage and bottled within three years; so it was hard to understand how they developed such beauty in the bottle with so little time in wood. Medium amber-tawny color with a golden/greenish meniscus.  Not only was the producer’s name not known, but this was the only bottle which did not include the name of a grape.  It fell in the range between a slightly “sweeter” Sercial and “drier” Verdelho, but beyond my own sense, there was no way to know. Cachaça (distilled sugar cane) was used as the fortifying spirit for this wine which was sensationally concentrated and possessed excellent structure.  The saline and mahogany notes which prevailed initially were joined by scents of mandarin orange and torrefacted nuances. Full and chewy, with a density beyond any prior bottling on the table, what struck me is how young this Madeira seemed. Unctuous and silky soft, the intensity was ratcheted up by the lively, crisp acidity.  Flavors of golden raisins, figs, ripe nectarines, pralines and caramel delivered a bitter-sweet and tart profile which was like going for a thrill ride. Punctuated by vibrant, sharp acidity the balance was superb as was the length of the finish.  Too bad this was not for sale!  95 points ~ 5/9/11

IVV (Vine and Wine Institute) is a public institute created in 1986 with the purpose of adapting the existing organisations to the new Community directives.

Besides being an organization that manages and values the Portuguese wine heritage, IVV has political competencies in the wine sector. Among all the organisms related to the wine sector, IVV is the one closest to the European Union and ensures the functioning and presidency of the Comissão Nacional do OIV (OIV National Committee) (OIV – International Organization of Vine and Wine).

IVV ensures the fulfillment of the statutory scheme for vine culture, coordinates the national and Community programs for vines and guides and regulates the wine market.

This organization is also responsible for the official control of wine products and of the certification systems used by the interprofessional organizations that approve VQPRD (QWPSR) and Regional wines.


Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho
Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, 5
1250-165 Lisboa

Tel.: 21 350 67 00
Fax: 21 356 12 25

Here some of the pictures that were taken that evening..


Luiz A. G. Alberto

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