After AXA Millesimes purchased Quinta do Noval in a run down state 1993 they replanted around half the vineyard. Under the previous owners Noval had been experimenting with Douro reds over a number of years (I recall tasting the fruits of a joint venture between Cristiano van Zellar and Domingos Soares Franco of José Maria da Fonseca in the early 1990s). Christian Seely, managing Noval for AXA, finally 'went live' with a red wine from the 2004 vintage.
Noval is now producing three different Douro reds: Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional (since 2009) and a second wine called Cedro do Noval named after the famous cedar tree that stands on the terrace outside the house. The latter contains a proportion of Syrah, a variety which does well in the Douro’s schistous soils but is not considered to be a traditional Douro grape and the wine therefore qualifies as a Vinho Regional Duriense. Cabernet Sauvignon, also planted at Noval, proved to be a failure.
Noval’s wines are certainly standing up to the test of time (unlike some other early prestigious Douro reds which developed rather quickly). They also have finesse, again a trait that still evades many Douro reds, characterized as they are by heavy handed wine making. Christian Seely explains their approach succinctly as ‘a light hand on extraction and wood ageing, avoid using lagares as well as too much new wood’. Although the main wine is aged for 18 months in French oak, only 20-25% of this is new oak. Their approach has clearly worked with more recent vintages showing how the learning curve has been plateauing into something quite special.
Quinta do Noval retails in the UK for around £33 a bottle with Cedro do Noval good value at roughly half the price. The Touriga Nacional is not currently sold in the UK.
Quinta do Noval 2004 **/***
Noval’s first attempt at a Douro red from a challenging year. 70% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinto Cão and 10% Touriga Franca: deep and still youthful in colour, open, ripe, quite hefty (beefy) and verging on jammy on the nose (plum jam); sweet and rich in style, plummy fruit with some quite bold tannins on the finish. Overall rather disjointed and I doubt if this will ever really come together. 14 .5
Quinta do Noval 2005 ****
From a drought year which produced wines with pronounced tannins. 50% Touriga Franca, 40% Touriga Nacional and 10% Tinto Cão: very deep in colour; withdrawn, tight knit but seemingly quite heady on the nose; big and ripe on the palate, fleshy with lost of peppery fruit, full and Porty with ripe tannic grip through to a long savoury finish. 17
Quinta do Noval 2007 ****
Having bypassed 2006, Noval produced a red in 2007 (a declared Port vintage)from 50% Touriga Nacional, 40% Touriga Franca and 10% Tinto Cão: good deep colour; lovely fragrant, well defined fruit with a fresh berry character and a sense of the Douro’s terroir; similarly well defined on the palate with lovely savoury-cedary flavours and fresh acidity to back it up, quite a big wine (14.5%abv) with firm tannins but with lovely balance and depth. 17.5
Quinta do Noval 2008 ****
The same assemblage as the successful 2007: deep and youthful; still fresh and vibrant on the nose, well defined both on the nose and palate with firm tannins, tight knit, still with much more to give showing finesse and restraint. Lovely fresh berry fruit mid palate and on to the finish. The best so far. 18
Quinta do Noval 2009 ****
Very deep, opaque colour; big, bold, ripe upfront fruit with Touriga Nacional dominating (this wine is a blend of 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Touriga Franca), minty ripeness; naturally rich and fleshy with both breadth and depth, firm fine grained tannins onto the finish. A little more forward than the 2008 and already approachable. Should develop well. 17.5
Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional 2009 ***/****
Mid-deep colour; fragrant without being too perfumed, just a touch of characteristic bergamot but showing restraint and finesse; fresh, ripe berry fruit, a touch minty with a firm backbone and showing restraint again on the finish. I am not usually a fan of varietal TN but this works well. 16.5
Cedro do Noval 2009 ***/****
Mid-deep in colour; lovely open, ripe aromas showing dark chocolate depth; rich and supple, smooth ripe tannins with lovely length. Already very approachable. 16.5
Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional 2010 **/***
Slightly paler than the 09 with a wet wood nose, not nearly so fragrant and verging on vegetal; firm but without the sweetness and elegance of the 09 TN, finishes well but seems to lack something in the middle. 14.5
Cedro do Noval 2010 ***
Not quite as concentrated as the 2009, but still quite rich and dense, more acidity and minerality showing towards the finish, this still has more to give. 15
Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional 2011 ****
Mid-deep youthful crimson; fine, fragrant aromas, floral, crushed rose petals, already open and refined; lovely long, linear character defined by fine grained tannins, not big but elegant and restrained: should develop very well. 17.5
Cedro do Noval 2011 ***/****
Mid deep youthful colour; closed on the nose, winey, just a suggestion of cedarwood, with more to give; supple yet firm and minerally with a long, linear character, balanced with plenty of finesse. Excellent value! 16.5
Quinta do Noval 2011 ****+?
Having bypassed the rather stretched 2010 vintage (and made a varietal Touriga Nacional), 2011 is a blend of 70% Touriga Nacional and 30% Touriga Franca: very deep, dark and youthful; rich, ripe but introverted on the nose, underlying ripe plummy fruit; firm, dense and tight knit with good, broad fruit – this needs time to show and will be very impressive. 18 +?
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty