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Quinta da Falorca – Old Vines Garrafeira 2009

Quinta da Falorca – “Old Vines” Garrafeira 2009, 14% abv – from the Dão 

A bottle of Garrafeira 2009 fro Quinta da Falorca
I could really do without the brag tag, however.

Is there anything nicer than being pleasantly surprised by how much a wine has to offer? This feeling is even better when you were expecting something really good to begin with.

Portugal is already rightly famous for its fortified wines; from Madeira to Port, there are some glorious bottlings to be had – albeit often with substantial alcohol and sugar. But increasingly, it is the dry wines that are cause for real excitement.

With a wealth of native grape varieties, diverse soils and some climatically demanding regions, Portugal is well-placed to produce interesting wines. Monovarietal wines are only seldom encountered; most wines are labelled with the region of production and, possibly, a proprietary name. But the wines, when they’re good, are almost always ageworthy, interesting – and reflect a character that is unique to Portugal.

The Region

The Dão is found just south of the Douro in north-central Portugal. It is a region of granite mountains, which protect it from Atlantic influences. Summers are hot and dry, winters are cold and wet.

The Producer

Quinta da Falorca was founded five generations ago in Silgueiros, a subregion in the heart of the Dao, by the Costa Barros de Figueiredo family. Now with 13 hectares spread over four vineyard parcels, they continue to hold onto a 2-hectare plot with vines over a hundred years old. The cellar and vineyards have seen a lot of investment over the last few decades, and the wines are made for the ages – no blockbusters, these, but multifaceted wines of elegance and clarity.

The Wine

Quinta da Falorca Garrafeira 2009 in glass
Does this wine look eight years old yet? I think not.

This little beauty is made mostly (70%) from one of Portugal’s best grape varieties that also just happens to have originated in the Dão: Touriga Nacional. The remainder is 15% Tinta Roriz (perhaps better-known by its Spanish synonym: Tempranillo) and 15% other native varieties like Rufete. The bottle says “Old Vines”, and in this case it really is true – vines are 80 years old.

The wine aged for 24 months in used French barriques, followed by 24 more in steel tank. Only 4400 bottles were made.

The Tasting Note

Wow. Dense – nearly opaque – ruby, showing no signs of age or oxidation. The nose is full of rich blackberry and black plum fruit, sweet clove and nutmeg and a bit of dried fig, with some rum compote to make things really interesting.

There is plenty of fine, sweet tannin icing what is actually a very balanced wine. Acidity is not overly high, flavours are not over-concentrated. There is real elegance and length. It has such youthful potency it will easily last a decade or two in bottle, bringing more and more to the table as it ages. Wood integration is already very good, but it is clearly noticeable on the palate, which packs in more dark fruits like blueberry and black currant into the mix.

With air the complexity of the wine becomes even more clear, with coffee and cinnamon, dark chocolate and even some black truffle starting to emerge. It continues to evolve with every sip, and over the course of days. A fascinating wine and a pleasure to discover.

Freshly-opened, I was a bit worried as the wood character was still so dense – and at eight years old, I definitely was expecting a bit less tannin from the get-go. But alas! I forgot how often this kind of thing emerges from Portugal: spicy, dense, a bit herbaceous, challenging – and utterly unique. This wine offers everything, and after enough air the complexity is superb. The tannins mellow into a buttery impression, with everything coming together.

The One-Line Takeaway

Sure, it may be nearly, but not quite, as expensive as a ticket to a good concert – but this wine will offer you at least as much spiritual enrichment and delight for the senses.

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