Portuguese Notes - Quinta da Leda, Discovery Tasting

When I first visited Quinta da Leda near Almendra in the Douro Superior in 1982 it was the ‘wild east’. There really wasn’t much there. I recall around 25 ha of vines (planted three years earlier) and a shack that served as a house and the only shade from the fierce July sun.  I also recall my fascination with the terrapins in a small stream at the bottom of the vineyard.  Quinta da Leda was a pet project of the late Jorge Ferreira at a time when the Ferreira, Ramos Pinto and Cockburn Port houses were pioneers in the Douro Superior. It seemed a brave or even foolhardy investment at the time but it has paid off for each of them in a different way.   Thirty-four years later and the place isn’t quite so wild. Quinta da Leda now has 160 hectares of vines, a proper house and more importantly a state of the art winery built in 2001. Leda is also the home of Ferreira’s flagship red, Barca Velha, whereas back then it came from Quinta do Vale Meão which has now made its own way as a separate family estate. 

Billed as a ‘Discovery Tasting’ this is a line up of wines from 1997, the first Douro red from Quinta da Leda, through a number of landmark years to the present day. It charts the evolution and Leda and the wines and mirrors many of the changes in the Douro over the last twenty years. 

The property lies 150 – 300 metres above sea level in an area known for its hot, arid climate.  Vintage consequently starts in late August, when in the Cima Corgo (the heart of the Port region) picking usually begins a good two weeks later in mid-September. Nonetheless there is considerable climatic variation from year-to-year and this is reflected in the character of the wines. Barca Velha (which starts life designated ‘Douro Especial’), is based on a similar lote to Quinta da Leda. However B.V. is supplemented with grapes form higher vineyards giving the wine more acidity and staying power. Barca Velha is not released until it is considered ready to drink (2004 is the current vintage) whereas the 2014 Leda has just been bottled and will be released later this year (see below).  All the early wines are similar blends of or around 60% Touriga Nacional  (TN) with 30% Touriga Francesa (TF) and 10% Tinta Roriz (TR), bottled after 12 months in new French oak. Later wines include much more Touriga Franca with longer ageing in a higher proportion of used French oak. 
As always the wines are presented in the order they were tasted, in this case from old to young. 

Quinta da Leda 1997  ***

Just 7,000 bottles produced from a declared Port vintage that, in general, produced well balanced wines after August rains: deep but ageing colour; mature, leathery aromas, evolved but still altogether on the nose; rich, ripe, still quite tight knit with a savoury, gamey character, still hanging together on the finish.   15
 

Quinta da Leda 2001 **

The first wine vinified at the new adega on the Quinta, a relatively cool year for the Douro Superior which shows in the wine: still deep in colour but ageing on the rim; very gamey, rather ‘brettie’ and high toned on the nose, hollow and lacking the substance of the 1997; fresher on the palate with some berry fruit showing through, still firm though drying out on the finish. 13.5    

Quinta da Leda 2004

A warm, dry year when the Douro Superior performed especially well after a dousing of rain in late August (a Barca Velha vintage). A blend of TN, TF and TR, including some from newer vineyards, with 12 months in new French oak: deep centre, thin maturing rim; lovely, open, ripe, lifted aromas, full with a touch of spice; quite big and rich in style, leathery-savoury fruit character with full, plummy length. A point. 17 

Quinta da Leda 2007 

This is the first vintage with Luis Sottomayor in overall charge of the wine making. A relatively even, cool growing season produced Ports with wonderful expression and purity, a characteristic that is also evident here: lovely youthful colour; fine, still quite subdued on the nose with berry fruit evident; linear, almost Bordelais in style with fine grained tannins and considerable finesse on the finish. This wine would be better still with another year or two in bottle. 18 

Quinta da Leda 2011 ****

An outstanding vintage throughout the Douro, universally declared by the Port shippers. A blend of 45% TF with 40% TN and 15% TR, aged for 18 months in new and used French oak: deep, youthful and nearly opaque in colour; still very youthful on the nose, closed but with underlying purity of fruit: blackberry with a touch of hedgerow; firm, knit together with big, ripe though fine grainy tannins, long, linear and well defined, this wine probably needs another five years to come round for drinking. 18 

Quinta da Leda 2013 ****

The most recent vintage of Quinta da Leda, now all but sold out. This is a blend of 70% TF with 15% TN, 10% Tinto Cão (TC) and 5% TR, aged like the previous wine for 18 months in new and used French oak: deep and youthful in colour; lovely, open, ripe berry fruit aromas and flavours, big, youthful dusty tannins, but not sacrificing elegance and finesse, fruit verging on plummy on the finish. 17.5    

Quinta da Leda 2014 ****

Bottled a month before the tasting wine will be released at the end of this year. 2014 was a challenging year, not least because it rained heavily during vintage but, by picking earlier than most, Leda escaped the rain. A blend of 60% TF with 15% TN, 15% TC and 10% TR. Deep, young and vibrant with heady, slightly raw but with fine berry fruit aromas; lovely fleshy fruit character, naturally sweet and ripe in style, backed by full, ripe tannins but showing characteristic length and finesse. Needs a year or two to settle down. 17.5 +?  

Location: M Restaurant, Victoria, London SW1

Scoring

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