Though the Port shipping company of Quinta do Noval began its Douro table wine project in 1996, it was not until 2004 that Director Christian Seely felt the quality of the wines was good enough for commercial release, with the first vintage of Quinta do Noval Douro red, made from similar grapes to the Port wines. A great vintage in 2005 led to a second release for Noval, and also the appearance of Cedro do Noval. Cedro is a more experimental wine that, because it contains around 30% of Syrah in the blend, cannot carry the stamp of the Douro DOC, so is bottled as a ‘Vinho Regional Duriense’. In 2006 Noval was not produced but Cedro was, the vintage being considered good, but not quite good enough for the ‘Grand Vin’. Syrah was first planted by Noval in 2000, and Christian Seely says he thinks Syrah “Adapts very well to the Douro, and expresses Douro characteristics far more than any varietal personality.” He also adds “I think it will become in future years a respected grape variety of the Douro, and I hope it will one day be accepted in the DOC.” To that end, a third wine has been added to the table wine portfolio that is 100% Syrah, and goes by the unlikely name of ‘Labrador’ – not Portuguese for ‘Hermitage’, but named in honour of the dog belonging to Noval’s technical directora, António Agrellos. Though the bottle of the 2007 that I sampled here is guaranteed pooch-free, the commercial release will carry an image of the canine in question. As one might expect from such an illustrious house as Quinta do Noval, the ambition for these wines – particularly the Grand Vin – is considerable. From the house that produces ‘Nacional’, the legendary Port made from a six-acre parcel of ungrafted vines, Christian Seely expects it to age for many years, and it already fetches a premium price of around £30 per bottle. The Cedro is around £14.00.
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Quinta do Noval, Cedro do Noval 2007
The 30% of Syrah in this wine stops it from carrying the DOC Douro appellation, blended with 30% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca and 10% Tinta Roriz. It has a beautifully spicy, tobacco laden aroma, with a very similar Sandalwood and spice as the Grand Vin, and intense mulberry and cherry fruit. On the palate this fills the mouth: it is perhaps sweeter and more giving than the top wine at this stage, with a juicy mid-palate, but the tight, liquoricy tannins are intense and that spice and cedar pushes through. This retains a beautiful edge of tannin and acidity, and delivers a load of sophisticated, very grown-up wine for a modest price. 90/100. £13.99, Tanners
Quinta do Noval, Labrador 2007
This is a pre-release sample of this 100% Syrah wine, which pours a very deep, youthful and vibrant blackish purple. On the nose it is svelte and velvety deep, with lots of schisty, cedary and peppery character and a deal of minerality, as well as a pastry case or baked plum pie aroma. On the palate the purity of that dark, blueberry and damson plum fruit comes through, with quite thicl and rich, almost chocolaty tannins and plenty of warming, coffeeish oak. Again, this wine retains very good, cherry-skin freshness. Perhaps just lacks the complexity of the Cedro, but very good indeed. 89/100.
Quinta do Noval, Tinto 2007
A blend of 50% Touriga nacional, 40% Touriga Franca and 10% Tinto Cão, this wine comes from some of the same vineyards as the top Noval Vintage Ports. The colour is a blood deep, crimson and the nose offers very enticing, swirling aromas that have some high, incense and Sandalwood notes as well as fragrant fruit: there’s a lot of floral and hawthorn lift to refined black fruit and an edge of something liquoricy. In the mouth this has great cut and focus: there’s a finely-honed edge to this wine immediately as it strikes the palate. Acidity is part of the picture, as are very fine but needle point tannins, but it is also to do with the clarity of the fruit and the cedary, understated toast and char of the wood. It stays quite fleshy but always tight through the mid-palate, finishing with a clean, fruity but very savoury appeal. This is the epitome of a structured wine in many ways, with a central core on which everything hinges. It could have considerable ageing potential. 95/100. £29.99, Tanners, Majestic, The Wine Society