Portugal Revisited – 11. Dinner At Quinta do Noval


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“The name Quinta do Noval evokes for me above all a place. A magical place, an historic place. A piece of the earth capable of producing wines that are among the world’s greatest. The wines of Quinta do Noval express the greatness of this terroir, of this majestic landscape. They evoke also the centuries of history that have been necessary in order for these wonderful wines to exist.”
– Christian Seely, Managing Director, Quinta do Noval

 

It is an unqualified pleasure to visit Quinta do Noval. Last year we had lunch at the Quinta and this June we went there for dinner.

We took the narrow, winding mountain road from Quinta Nova where we were staying down to Pinhão, crossed the Douro from its right bank to the left at the edge of town and drove up into the hills through the terraced vineyards. At the Quinta, the narrow, stone paved and vine canopied path took us right up to the imposing manor house.

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Ana, petite, pretty and bubbly as ever, was there to greet us like old friends. She is a comforting sight and her chatty enthusiasm is infectious. She led us into the grand old house and through it to the flower-decked back yard and the tiny but treasured Nacional vineyard with ungrafted vines, untouched by phylloxera, stopping briefly to say hello to two pigs in a pen. “We are fattening them for the table” Ana said feeding the grunting duo fresh green leaves, ignoring the stink.

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We walked in to the winery with the large stone lagares including the special smaller one for Nacional where grapes would be foot trodden in September and through the small barrel cellar with the walk way and large storage vats in the basement into the now familiar tasting room with two long, polished table with benches on either side.

Tasting glasses were already on the table. Ana brought in the bottles and we sat down to taste the Noval range. Apart from the traditional Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage and Vintage Ports, Quinta Noval has been making Douro red wines since 2004.

Cedro de Noval – named after the emblematic cedar tree that dominates the terrace in front of the Manor House is a blend of classic Portuguese varieties with a touch of Syrah. Quinta do Noval is made with fruit from the best lots of the Quinta in any given year. Maria Mansa is a blend of Touring Nacional, Touring Franca and Tinta Roriz aged in French oak for 18 months.

Noval Black is a new, lighter Port style which does not require ageing or decanting and is to be drunk chilled. Quinta do Noval LBV from the fabulous 2011 was an absolute delight. Of the several Tawny’s tasted the most amazing was the 1937 Colheita!

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Under the enormous cedar tree on the terrace overlooking the vine covered valley, Ana mixed White Port & Tonic for us and carefully dropped four cubes of ice, a slice of lemon and two crushed mint leaves into each tall wine glass. “There was a marathon here for a charity the other day and nearly a thousand runners passed through this terrace” she said. The slanted rays of the evening sun made her hair shine. We munched salted almonds and fried fricadels and sipped the Port watching the orange fire ball of a sun sink slowly behind the distant hills. “It is time for dinner” Ana said.

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The table was already laid in the elegant dinning room. We ate salads, ham & melon, veal & rice, fresh fruit and the wonderful soft, creamy and rounded cow’s milk cheese from the Estrela Mountains in the far north-east of Portugal (I bought one in the duty free shop at Lisbon airport to take home!) and drank whites and reds from Quinta do Noval. At the end, decanted Nacional was poured out and sipped in respectful silence. “I asked Christian Seely what Nacional vintage to give you this time “ Ana said. “And he suggested the 2001.” Last year it was the 1999.

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Later that week I wrote to Ana to thank her for her splendid hospitality. She replied: “It was great to welcome you again at Noval. I hope you will come back many times.”

It would be sad not to.

Comments

  • “Thanks for the great read & stunning photos – Glad you enjoyed your visit!”- Gonzalez Byass UK, 24 August 2016
  • “This is fantastic, thanks for sharing & I’m so glad the trip was a success. I shall certainly pass this on & see if I can get it shared a little. We should have a catch up at some point, I would love to be able to work with you once more. Please let me know your thoughts!” – Hamish (Bradin), Gonzalez Byass UK, 22 August 2016
  • “So interesting! Beautiful pictures.” – Mal Keragala via Facebook, Sri Lanka, 18 August 2016

 

See also: Footloose In The Douro – 11. Quinta do Noval

Our visit was arranged by Mafalda Nicolau de Almeida of Miles Away

 

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