Each year in January, Quinta do Noval prepares the final blend of its red Douro wines produced from the harvest which took place two years previously. On January 20th & 21st 2015 it was 2013's turn to come under the spotlight. Although conditions during the growing season were not always easy to handle, 2013 looks set to be a generous year and holds the promise of great enjoyment without a long wait!
An irrevocable act
Just like harvesting and ageing, blending is a key stage in the elaboration of Douro red wines as it is an irrevocable act. We therefore prefer to wait until ageing is almost finished (whether in wooden barrels or not, according to the batch), to decide on the final blends so that we can be absolutely certain to make the right decisions - particularly as the elaboration of these wines is relatively recent. This is the final step before bottling.
Our range of red wines is composed of Quinta do Noval (Douro DOC), Cedro do Noval (Vinho Regionais Duriense), Touriga Nacional (named after the grape variety it is made from and Douro DOC), Labrador (Vinho Regionais Duriense, exclusively from Syrah grapes) and Maria Mansa (Douro DOC). Each one has a specific blend.
A very precise tasting process
Around 15 batches making up the 2013 vintage were assessed a few months after the grape harvest. The batches were allocated between new barrels and second or third use barrels according to their potential.
A year later, the range of batches was therefore almost tripled: for each batch, we had a portion aged in new barrels, second use barrels and third use barrels. This explains why blending tasting is so very precise!
The importance of quality
Blending always starts with the ritual of tasting each batch by order of barrel age. This allows us to classify them according to batch quality. An interesting example of this is that we would not necessarily make Touriga Nacional wine with only the best batch. We prefer to assemble two or three batches to obtain a wine which is both more complex and typical of this grape variety. Three, four or five batches (or even more) are tasted blind to determine the blend for Touriga Nacional wine.
We use a technique of successive blind tastings to decide on the final blend for each of the wines in the range and sometimes adjust by using slightly more or less of a given batch. All decisions are made collectively, and it is important to stress that quality takes absolute precedence over quantity.
2013 is a prime example of this since exceptionally we decided not to produce Quinta do Noval (DOC Douro) fine wine, as in our opinion the batches were not characteristic of what this wine should be. The best batches have therefore been reemployed for Cedro do Noval, giving it an exceptionally high quality in 2013!
After several intensive working sessions spread over two days, blending ends with a global tasting of the whole range. This ultimate control enables us to guarantee the consistency of all our red Douro wines before bottling.