In front of me there’s this wine, spreading an aura of greatness. Not sure I want to put words on the complexity, not sure I can either. It’s a liquid larger than life experience, possibly one of the most amazing port wines I’ve had. And yet it doesn’t feel right.
I’m spoiled with many memorable tasting experiences and spit my way through a lot of wines every year. But when you taste a wine that stops time and literally shakes your foundations – yes, it’s the greatest AC/DC single – the shortcoming of the tasting opportunity becomes painfully evident. This is a wine you want to spend hours with; inhaling the complexity and tasting the everlasting elegance and intensity. At a session for writers it’s not given the time it deserves because the next glass awaits and time is limited. And yes, spitting a masterpiece is actually disrespectful to a wine of such class and age.
The 1940 Niepoort Garrafeira greatly demonstrates why port wine has so many followers. It doesn’t demand your attention, the wine simply takes it. Resistance is futile; just surrender to the freshness of the bouquet which is astounding for a wine closing in at 74 years of age. But there’s an explanation, how the apricots can smell so fresh in the 1940.
Few have ever made one, a Garrafeira port. Just a few houses over the decades. It’s a trademark of Niepoort and has been since the very beginning of its birth. Superior quality of grapes, the best simply, from the Cima Corgo part of Douro. Foot trodden, with stems. Allowed to age in casks for around five years before the really interesting parts kicks in; the bottling in demijohns.
At the end of the 19th century, Eduard Karel Jacob van der Niepoort bought 4,000 glass balloons from Germany. Different sizes carrying between eight and eleven liters of wine each. Whether or not he had a plan with the demijohns the story doesn’t tell, but his son Eduard Marius van der Niepoort did. His best wines of the 1931 vintage were poured in to the demijohns, a cork put in to seal the wine, and then it was allowed to continue the aging procedure.
Just a handful of Garrafeira wines are produced since the start in 1931, the last being the 1977 which spent 28 years in demijohns, after the five initial years in casks. The 1940 tasted was bottled in demijohns in 1945 and poured in to bottles in 1979.
Remembering the 1940
The Garrafeira character will probably not attract all. What fascinates the most is the contrast between almost youthful fruit and the components which has evolved due to age. The apricot scent, fresh and yet dried at the same time, eucalyptus, the spiciness which almost has the same curry scent as some older Madeiras, the fresh walnuts, the orange zesty feel, the pipe tobacco, the quince….no point continuing. You get the picture.
On the palate the 1940 offers a slightly oily texture, crazy intensity and yet impeccable balance. Integrated sweetness, youthful freshness with a sense of Oolong tea, dried fruits, orange zest, vanilla, curry, nutmeg and dust. Such purity on the finale. Thankfully the aftertaste refuses to leave, which allows my brain to find a free spot in the memory bank, in the larger than life department.
The 1940 Garrafeira came directly from the cellar of Niepoort. Buying a bottle on the market? Use the wine-searcher box in the top right corner of the page.