21st century Port? The wines of Porto Solene

xDespite the prominent “2004” on the label, these striking new Ports are not Vintage Ports – the product of a single great harvest – but blended ruby and tawny Ports, bottled and released in 2004. That labelling is highly unusual, but in fact, almost everything about the presentation of these wines breaks with tradition.

The slim, black glass packaging of Quinta do Noval’s The Raven was a real departure for Port a couple of year’s ago, but Porto Solene has taken this to radical new heights with these gorgeous and unique bottles, packaged in heavyweight, hinged cardboard boxes. Whatever this stuff will taste like, Porto Solene have got their presentation absolutely right.

Though there is still a strong market for Vintage Port in the UK, it is a long time since I heard anyone raving about a bottle of ordinary ruby or tawny. Port is not a regular drink for the vast majority of people, and moden-day messages about alcohol consumption and drink-driving probably mean that the days of ending a meal with a glass or two of Port have gone for many people. Clearly then, anything that can be done by the Port producers to add some zest and glamour to thier wine has got to be a good thing for the industry.

In that sense, these bottles – each a limited edition of 50,000 – has already succeeded. But that still leaves the problem of these being 20% ABV fortified wines, that are somewhat out of fashion. So the final arbiter of whether this quite radical new product will succeed, is the taste and quality of what is in the bottles. For me, the tawny has acheived this with some style, whilst the ruby is not quite so convincing. But a huge congratulations to Cristóvão de Oliveira e Sousa, the man behind these wines, for a product that could generate a lot of interest in Port amongst a new generation of drinkers.

These wines will be in Harrods from 6th to 18th June in a special Portuguese promotion, at around £10 per 50cl. Porto Solene hope Harrods will continue to list the wines, and are seeking other distribution.

Porto Solene (Portugal) Ruby Special Reserve 2004
The ruby pours a delightfully deep, vivid colour. The nose is rather spirity, with some cherry and slightly medicinal, menthol character, and just a hint of caramel and spice. On the palate there is an initial rush of sweetness, with a blast of jammy cherry and blackberry, before a drying bite of tannins, acidity and alcohol. A little fudge and chocolate-like warmth and depth does emerge, though the finish is slightly raw. Good.

Porto Solene (Portugal) Tawny Special Reserve 2004
The tawny has an inviting burnished amber colour, and an equally inviting nose that suggests raisined fruit, stewed figs and and nice warmth of milky coffee and dark-roasted nuts. On the palate this is a more subtle, and more harmonious wine that the ruby, with that nutty, marmalade and treacle warmth playing against an edge of lemon zest and spices, and an alcoholic but not obtrusive finish. This has a lot of class and is very good indeed/excellent.