Douro on my mind; a quartet from Quinta do Javali


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I have Douro on my mind. Vintage Port has been an essential part of my twenty years of wine passion. Not much beats a mature port in my world. Around a decade ago I started to develop an interest in the table wines of Douro, noticing it wasn’t all about Barca Velha anymore. It’s been an interesting and educational ride, the last ten years. So much happening in Douro and I felt like I was part of an experiment, tasting a lot of differing styles.

Now, with 2007 and 2009, I can easily say I’ve never tasted any better table wines from Douro and a majority of the producers has found their style and identity. Previously I sometimes felt that the wines either were too Port like in the taste or too generous with the American oak. Not anymore. Douro table wines of 2007 and 2009 are pure world class….

For some reason I have never had the wines of António Mendes. Ok, so he has only made wine under own label since 2000, but for some reason he hasn’t been under my radar. Thanks to a friend that is taken care of, and a quartet of Quinta do Javali wines are now a part of my Douro reference.

Douro Schist!

Not a certified organic winery but working in the direction. António’s Quinta are to be found at the left bank of the river, in Douro Nagoselo – Sao João da Pesqueira. The vineyards are located between 150 and 300 meters above sea level and as always with the Cima Corgo part of Douro, lots of Schist! The annual production are around 30,000 bottles including Port wine.

A quartet of Quinta do Javali

Quinta do Javali Reserva 2009

God, I love Douro. The 2009 Reserva from Quinta do Javali has a classy structure with fine integrated oak. Never intrusive though. Dark bitter cherries, some vanilla mixed with blueberries and blackberries. Licorice and a touch of tar. Here comes that dusty summer road again. Love it. On the second day, the floral scent has decided to join. Violets.

Quite a tannic structure, but lots of fruit, suggesting you should forget about this one for a few years. Not the same elegance as the Old Vines bottle and this one is actually in more need of cellaring as well. At least for the moment. Everything’s in fine balance though. Lots of dark berries, plum skin, smoke and licorice. One and a half years in new French oak. Where is it? Fullbodied style with a long, mineral driven finish. Grapes? Mostly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, with a little helping hand from Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão. Vines around twenty years of age.

2009 Quinta do Javali Old Vines

The premium bottling from António Mendes is a spectacular wine. From vines more than 45 years old he brings 40 per cent each of Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, 15 per cent Tinto Cão and the remaining 5 per cent being Touriga Nacional.It spends twenty months in new French oak and that is also one of my first reactions when tasting the wine; where did that oak go?

The 2009 Quinta do Javali Old Vines is nothing but an awesome wine with lots of mineral feel and cool restrained fruit. No intrusive oak. Just an impressing piece of handicraft. Tinta Roriz can produce such elegance in Douro wines and this is no exclusion. A nose filled with flowers, blackberries and dark cherries. Some tar and sweet-root as well. Toasted oak of the gentle kind. But most of all, it completely oozes of rocks; you know, the kind you sense after a summer rain. On the palate it is so elegant, almost floating, but packed with dark fruit, mineral feel, spices, oak and a tannin structure that is massive but carried by ripe fruit and balancing acidity.

No question this is Douro, the schist feel is unique, but the elegance of this kind is a bit new to me; probably something we will see more of by the many skilled winemakers in Douro. Magnificent length with a seductive refreshing feel remaining on the palate for more than a minute. Will probably age for a decade. The wine was showing at its best on the second and third day after opening.

2007 Late Bottled Vintage Port, Quinta do Javali

This is a LBV for the traditionalists! I’m one of them – at least if this one is served. Not just a wine to open and pour; this needs aeration. Perhaps easier put; cellaring. Grapes? Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão. 25 years old vines.

The 2007 displays scents of dark cherries, Victoria plums, licorice, dusty summer road, leather and a hint of violets. Opens up beautifully after a day or two. On the palate the first thing that hits me, is the wine’s tannin structure! Lots of fruit to cover it, but still, at this level I normally think tannins first at Vintage Port level. Lots of mineral feel, smoke, plum skins, dark bitter chocolate and some spiciness. Old school style LBV which is most welcome. No destemming here, only soft crushing of the grapes. Buy some and cellar for a few years. A hard to beat LBV at the price level.

10 Years Old Tawny Port, Quinta do Javali

Limited production on this one but don’t let that stop you! Superior stuff when compared to more well-known brands amongst the ten years old bottlings. For this one, António uses grapes from Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão. The vines are around twenty years of age and the yield is low,  down at 25-30 hl/ha.

Ten years in old oak barrels. Don’t want the new stuff in your tawny. Intense nose with lots of fresh walnuts, bitter almond oil, humus, pipe tobacco, figs in brandy, curry and cherries. Intense and promising. Tasting. Wow, lots of stuff going on there! What fine acidity balancing the sweetness. Licorice, tobacco, dusty summer road, walnuts and almonds. Some spicy notes as well. Intense and long finish. Starting to think I’m more of a Tawny guy than Vintage port. One of the world’s most underestimated wines! Track this one down!

Summary. Traditional wines with a modern touch. The best of two worlds. Especially the 2009 Old Vines are playing in Douro’s top league and without exaggerating, it is one of the best young Douro table wines I’ve had. Now let’s see in a few years if it also is one of the best with age…

Want to taste Quinta do Javali? So far it is not seen that often outside of Portugal but here are some importers.

NB. All four wines were provided as samples. Thanks António!