Wine and Cork – why do they need each other so bad

Cork plays a critical role in the wine business. It has historically been the most used closure and nowadays it closes around 70% of all the wine bottles in the world. However, in the last decades both screw caps (made out of aluminum, with around 19% market share) and synthetic corks (made out of plastic, with around 11% market share) became more and more popular. Why? I would point two main reasons:

Despite that, cork is still the most used closure. Why are wine producers so keen in using cork? I’ve recently visited Corticeira Amorim factory and tried to understand a bit more about the motivation for using cork. I’ve also read few article about which closures to use for wine and found some stunning research (check bibliography at the bottom of this article). Putting the environmental question apart (cork comes directly from the bark of the cork tree grown naturally), there are two factors that help cork to be the closure that ensures the best quality for a bottle of wine:

Regarding to Port Wine, back in 2008 I knew of one Port producer, Castelinho, using not only natural cork. They were using synthetic corks is some of their references. Currently, don’t know any. However, legislation does not allow the use of screw cap but only natural and synthetic corks  (the only exception is the very small size bottle which can be sealed with screw cap). Though I’m sold to natural cork for Port, I disagree with the prohibition of using other closures. Producers should use what they think is better for their wines and Ports. Through experiments of different closures, we could see and taste how different closures perform in a bottle of Port. And eventually we might come to the conclusion of what closure is the most indicated for Port. But through our own experiencing, not by law.

Oscar

Bibliography – If you want to know more about these three closures I suggest you to read:

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Press clipping and a farewell to 2013

As the year is about to finish, we thought that could be fun to share with you what has been said recently on the press about our Ports and wines. We tried to combine in this press clipping one quote from each Port and each wine, combining a diversity of publications.

2013 was a great year for us, so we just hope that 2014 is as good.

Happy New 2014!

Oscar

Opening a bottle of Port with Port tongs

Wine geeks like rituals. We care about which glasses to use, which way to pass the bottle, decanting time or serving temperatures. We take these “necessary” steps to fully enjoy a bottle of wine on any occasion. Another ritual that you may also care about is how to open the bottle and which cork screw to use. For very old bottles which might have a wet cork that may not come out in a single piece, port tongs can make the whole difference.

How to use Port tongs? Instead of pulling out the cork, we directly remove the top of the neck. The video above will show you how to do it but basically, the tongs are heated (I prefer to use ember rather than the stove), then clamp the tongs around the neck of the bottle right above the line of the bottom of cork for 30 seconds and then put a cold wet towel (I sunk the towel in an ice bucket) around the neck in the same place. If the tongs were really hot this temperature change will cause the glass to break. Voilà, you made it. Time to decant the wine and enjoy it with your company. If you didn’t make it, try again and make sure the port tongs are red-hot before clamping them to the bottle!

Cheers,

Oscar

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The Douro under the fog

Parambos, Carrazeda de Ansiães

Winter is approaching quickly at the same pace that days get shorter. Temperatures in the Douro have been barely positive, which is quite normal for the season. Usually, at this time of the year rains often. Once or twice a week I would say. However, after the long days of rain in October which helped to spoil the grapes and part of the harvest in the Douro, very little rain came afterwards. These last days the moisture is coming only from the compact fog that has been covering the valley. Although this makes it harder to handle winter as the humidity is very high, the fog actually creates stunning landscapes. And this photo is a good example of those landscapes. The photo was taken in the way to Tua village, on the north bank of the river.

Next time you plan to come to the Douro, you may want to consider a visit on winter. It is a quite different scenario, but If you do so, just make sure you bring a good coat.

Cheers,

Oscar

Photos of the Quevedo vineyards and winery – do you want to share with us?

Dear reader, we are in process of refreshing our blog and would love to use photos from you that you took when you visited us. We can’t promise to use all the photos you send, but in case we use any, we do promise that your effort won’t be fruitless. You are always welcome to taste our wines and Ports at the winery but when you it you get a free bottle. So you if want to share with us and with our community some of your photos, please send me an email to oscar at quevedo port wine dot com.

Oscar

Quevedo 1996 Colheita wins gold medal at the Mundus Vini and Palate Press Awards

First let me say that we don’t like to brag, but our Quevedo 1996 Colheita has been popular on the wine competitions, being awarded both in Europe and in the US. Thus, we thought we should share this with you. First was Mundus Vini that in September awarded it with a gold medal in their annual event. Then, in November, in the Fifth Annual Palate Press Grand Tasting it received another Gold Medal. It really looks like this 1996 is a gold conquer! If you want to read the tasting reviews, which are quite interesting to see how they evaluated the Port, please click on Quevedo Colheita 1996 gold medal on Mudus Vini and Palate Press. If during the next months you see our bottles of 1996 Colheita with a award sticker on it you know where is it coming from. We have been discussing with friends if the consumer is more tempted to buy wines that have a medal sticker on the bottle. It is time to test and if you want to know the results emails us is 6 moths.

Practical information that you may want to know: we have just finished to bottle what is the last batch of this first edition of 1996 Colheita (we made three bottlings between 2010 and 2013). The remaining volume we have, a bit more than 10.000 liters, will remain aging in oak pipes and in tonel for the next decades, before we touch it again and put it in bottle.

Cheers,

Oscar

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O·PORT·UNIDADE – the project that put 20 Port producers all in the same lagar

Many things have happened in your life and in ours in the last two months:

Looking back at the these two months, there is something that stands out related with the 2013 harvest, and which will certainly last for many years, if not decades: for the first time in the known history of Port, 20 of the biggest bottlers of Port took their own grapes to a lagar and trod the grapes together with the goal of making a Vintage Port. The place where all this happened was at Niepoort‘s Port winery in the village of Vale de Mendiz, few kilometers north of Pinhão. The man with the idea and with a plan that organized the whole event was Axel Probst from the World of Port. The name that Axel gave to this event was masterly picked: O·PORT·UNIDADE being the meaning the last part, as you have certainly already realized, unity. The profit made with this event is going for charity, donated to Bagos d’Ouro, a local charity organization which takes care of children.

I know that you deserved to know from me about this great idea right on the day it happened, but only last week in Belfast, at my hotel room, I had the opportunity to write it.

A big obrigado to Axel for putting all these people together and for spreading the “Wor(l)d” of Port. Press Release can be downloaded here.

Oscar

Foto: Dirk Niepoort (Niepoort), Antánio Agrellos (Quinta do Noval), António Saraiva (Rozes), Jorge Dias (Dalva), George Sandeman (Sandeman), Charles and Martin Symington (Symington), Francisco Ferreira (Quinta do Vallado), Miguel Roquette (Quinta do Crasto), Oscar Quevedo (Quevedo), Manuel Cabral (IVDP), Carlos Flores (Andresen), Tiago Alves de Sousa (Alves de Sousa), Jorge Manuel Pintão (Poças), João Roseira (Quinta do Infantado), João Nicolau de Almeida (Ramos Pinto), Paulo Coutinho (Quinta do Portal), Pedro Sá (Vallegre), Manuel Silva (Rozes), Jorge Borges (Pintas), Sophia Bergqvist (Quinta de la Rosa), Pedro Silva Reis (Real Companhia Velha), António Amorim (Quinta Nova), Luisa Olazabal (Quinta do Vale Meão) and Luis Sottomayor (Ferreira).

Quevedo 2011 Vintage Port – Wine Spectator review

Few weeks before staring the harvest back in 2011 we were quite confident that the grapes were in very good conditions to make something good. Then, when the grapes were already at the winery and fermenting, our expectations about an excellent vintage were slowly growing up. Then you start to feel a little nervous, a kind of butterflies in your stomach (right, the same as when fall in love) as the time goes. It is when you ask: did I made something special? Talk to other producers and they say the same, what they have is also very special. Winter arrives, temperatures go down, sediment too, and the Ports bravely resist maintaining colors and flavors. First check point passed and in with great stamina. And it doesn’t stop of getting better and better. As you start sharing your blend for the 2011 Vintage you see people smiling. More and more smiles. Got it approved by the Port Wine Institute, start to allocate the first cases, then more, and more up to the point that you have more than 50% sold and it is still not even bottled. Then more and more people want to taste, the press is also impressed by the quality of the 2011 Vintage Ports, up to the point that Jancis Robinson says this about the Douro “I believe it impossible to think of any other wine region anywhere in the world that has produced better wine in this year,” and then comes Wine Spectator to say this about our Quevedo 2011 Vintage Port:

And then you realize this is not a dream and you are quite awake. And you smile again.

Oscar

2013 Harvest in the Douro – all about to finish

Time doesn’t stop and we are slowly approaching the end of the harvest. Contrary to the norm, this year it rained during the picking and this fact played a very important role in the overall quality of 2013 wines. If we would divide the harvest in two parts we would have the weeks before and after the 27th of September. Until the 27th we harvested those parcels at lower altitude, which reach full ripeness early. At that time, in our mind we were thinking that grapes would improve if they could stay a few more days in the vine. After the 27th we asked ourselves why did we wait for so long to harvest the grapes. Thus, it is fair enough to ask what happened on September 27th… If you read the previous post about the 2013 harvest in the Douro you may have some clue. It rained for almost one week and as consequence, the quality of the grapes was threatened and affected. In areas with some slope and without retention of humidity the rain went down the hill and grapes were not that much affected. But those vines planted in flat soil with more humidity and low ventilation showed some rotten grapes. And one of the varieties that was most affected was Touriga Franca, which grows with a compact bunch and has thin skin.

As a very first impression so far, I would say that wines in general present a good dark ruby color, with fresh aroma, medium bodies with slightly short finish. Lets see how they develop during the next weeks/ months but the lack of concentration is a bit surprising. Well, maybe not that much unexpected if we have in mind that vines didn’t have enough water to finish the maturity of the grapes during September, mostly in the lower altitude areas. Of course there are exceptions to this lack of volume: those vines that produce very low yields, with small berries in which we can get and extract more tannins and structure. Time will tell us.

Oscar

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“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.”

That’s what Vladimir Nabokov said about the rain, and it should be also the way we feel. But it is not easy just to be indifferent. After so many weeks praying for a good week-end of rain some weeks before the harvest started, it comes right now, when all Douro producers were harvesting the best grapes for the best wines.

The year hasn’t been amazing climate-wise and the fact that now we have rain is just complicating things a bit more. On the top of that, it is not only one night of showers, it shall be a full week of wet weather that threatens our plans for the wines of 2013.

So far, grapes are resisting but it will be a challenging test to see how many days can grapes handle of this humidity without braking the skin of the berry and it starts to get rot.

Oscar

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