TNs: 1997 Ramos Pinto Douro Duas Quintas Reserva & 1998 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière

After seeing an opportunity to buy a dry 1997 Portugese Douro Red from a well-known family-run port house, Ramos Pinto, I contacted resident expert Tomas Costa who said it was probably a good buy. I went ahead and purchased it and opened it about a month later. To have a bit of a baseline comparison I included a right bank Bordeaux of similar age. To my surprise I didn’t really care for the Bordeaux, which was overly oaky. By contrast the Ramos Pinto surprised me in how elegant it was (when the reputation for the Douro is for bigger reds). While it didn’t have huge complexity the profile was extremely enjoyable. I wish I had more than the single bottle.

  • 1998 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (1/9/2021)
    This wine pours medium, almost light ruby with light bricking. After decanting for 3 hours the nose shows sawdust, fresh split pine, gravel, red currant, plum, celery seed. The palate enters on bright sweet red fruit but the finish is dominated by wood, which lends bitterness and astringency. Acid is medium. It’s a shame this wine was so heavily oaked as what is underneath is quite appealing. (91 pts.)

  • 1997 Ramos Pinto Douro Duas Quintas Reserva - Portugal, Douro (1/9/2021)
    This wine pours light ruby in the glass with very light bricking. The nose is deep and complex, not massively powerful but very appealing. It shows animal fur, raspberry, red plum, fresh mushroom, white pepper and a touch of purple licorice. The palate enters light with very pure fruit. The acid and tannin are in nice balance, both medium. The finish is medium plus in length repeating the bright red and purple fruit with plenty of secondary character. This is drinking fairly young considering the age. In a nice spot! Love it. Almost 93. Another taster, tasting blind said either northern rhone or burgundy. (92 pts.)

Glad the wine was showing nicely, Chris. I find your note very representative, but I’m not sure what your friend pinpointed as Northern Rhone or Burgundy, though. I’d love to know.

The Douro has huge geographical extension, variety of altitudes and diversity of soils, and is definitely capable of a myriad of wine styles which transcend the image it has acquired abroad. I taste a lot of Douro wines blind and almost always find them to be lively and fresh, even when they are also structured, tannic and powerful.

Thanks again!

I personally didn’t understand the Northern Rhone comparison as the secondary markers weren’t there for me (no smoke, olive, pepper), however I understood the comparison to Pinot Noir (or perhaps a low octane Grenache). To me the wine was very light and elegant, red fruited, with elevated acid and moderate tannin. The label said 12.5% alcohol which I think was accurate. So I think the Burgundy comparison is really just trying to grasp at a familiar grape variety and region that might explain the elegance.