A Port Wine Flight for distinctive tastes

A very previous Christmas shopping  visit to Vasques de Carvalho's beautiful space in Vila Nova de Gaia, became an opportunity to get to know the products of a company with very old roots. The visit was made possible by Filipa Correiato, to whom many thanks for her unfailing kindness. The company, since 2015, has established itself as an important player in the sector of high quality Port wines. I was still carrying in my memory the magnificent Vasques de Carvalho "Special Reserve" Organic White Port that notre hôte, le propriétaire Guillaume of Tchin cheese in Tavira had toasted us with back in September after yet another fine lunch chez son fabuleux fromagerie. Having thoroughly enjoyed this digestif I mentioned to Guillaume that we had a trip to Porto planned for the following week and he kindly proffered me contact details so I could make an appointment to visit them.It was therefore with great anticipation that I finally got to visit the House of Vasques de Carvalho.
Even many Port Wine experts I feel might have never heard about this name… it’s a relatively new company, but with some amazing old treasures: a lot of old tawnies. Their history is young but at the same time old. Throughout the 19th century they were suppliers for other companies but in 2015 they established their own brand. Prior to visiting I had understood that they were the only independent port wine house that was untouched by British investment.This is not entirely true, but they remain one of the few. The Vasques de Carvalho's Brand House, located in the historic centre of Gaia, in the area of the famous port wine cellars, takes a very successful gamble on its unique style of tasting. For a customer like myself who seeks to know more about Port wine, what is offered here is from a totally different perspective than that offfered by the more traditional Port houses. Carvalho´s tastings of their range of wines is a more pedagogical approach, aimed at a public interested in the theme of wines, specifically in a space designed for small groups, with a distinctive calm and sophistication created by its ambience and a pleasant garden, where each client has a personalised and exclusive experience.The lodge of Vasques de Carvalho is located right in the centre of Gaia – but somehow it is just a few metres off the well worn route that tourists take when they discover Gaia… and while this might be not so great for the owners (that of course want to sell as much wine as possible) it is good news for the people like myself that are looking for a quiet oasis in the sometimes crazy world of Gaia where they can try peacefully some outstanding Port Wines.

In the summer of 2018 the company opened this very beautiful lodge in Gaia – the wine isn’t aging here, you will not find any barrels… so therefore it might make more sense to say " may i call it a showroom". However, the word “lodge” sounds so much nicer and that’s why I am using it! The place isn’t large – but designer led and beautifully decorated. Three different lounge areas are provided for visitors, one downstairs, one upstairs and one outside in a small patio that we were ushered into for our tasting. 

I loved this place for several reasons… one of course is certainly the quality of the wines . The other is that Gaia unfortunately tends to be on some days over-crowded with tourists. When you visit the large commercial lodges, you see masses of tourists… which kind of takes away a little bit of this magic 
feeling that the tasting of Vasques de Carvalho Port Wines brings with it.

We opted for a four item flight but the Americans I noticed had many more!!! I have tried to make a
 photographic record in my back head but there was a lot to take in. We tasted White Ports 10 and 20 years aged that were served to us by the friendly, amusing (and very knowledgeable) Ana Filipa Correia.I was particularly wowed by the analogy she drew between the yellowing colour taken on by an eight year old T-shirt. and the slow oxidisation 
of an ageing tawny port.
It was great to witness this passion and pride that they have for their wines and their company. In the world
 of high-end-Ports there is a captive audience keen to absorb solid information about the wines, the Douro Valley and the company – and Vasques de Carvalho really delivers on this.

First up was the 10 year old Porto branco seco, a white 10 year old Port: very seductive, aromas of orange peel blended with complex notes of dried fruit, slight spice and oak. Dry and fresh, with strong but elegant acidity that gave it an excellent and pleasant finish .If this was just the start the afternoon was going to be full  of promise.

Second up an eight year old Porto Branco Reserva.A slightly viscous, typically sweet dessert wine that reminded me of a vinsanto, with complex intense flavours of hazelnut and caramel.I was not alone here, my American neighbour made a likewise comment as he coiffed his. For me a trick was missed here in that it could have been served complimented by a Portuguese take on biscotti to dunk into our glasses a la Italian.( note to self to serve with biscotti when serving to guests at home) When paired with biscotti, Vin Santo becomes “Cantucci e Vin Santo” which is inarguably Italy's most famous welcoming tradition.

Our 3rd offering was a vintage ruby port, aged in the bottle.A USP should be mentioned here that Vasques de Carvalho ports are quality aged in French Oak, only relying on natural sugars with no extra 
sugars added.
To end our flight we tried a 20 year old tawny, single harvest, aged for 4 years before bottling.Once again I was hankering after a small cube of fine vintage portuguese cheese on a stick or a bespoke 

chocolate to pair with this magnificent glass of port.
If you find your way to Porto and Gaia and you go to a port wine house for a tasting – spend some time before
researching and find something little more exclusive like this. You don’t want to travel thousands of kilometers to drink bog standard or mediocre wines. You want to have an unforgettable experience instead. Therefore, my recommendation: spend some time here, try in a beautiful environment outstanding wines and go home with a bottle of the 40 year old Tawny and a few of the Special Reserve White Ports… it will be an afternoon to remember. This rising star certainly honoured its reputation as producers of solely quality aged ports with superior distinction.

Our choice of flight was the basic, selected solely to get a broad picture of their range offered and cost 26 euros for two. If you prefer something more specific you can try The Century offering (10, 20, 30 and 40 years old Tawnies), which costs 45 euros . Or, if you also want to get an understanding of the ruby Ports, take the Flyers tasting, which includes these 4 tawnies plus an LBV and Vintage Port and costs ten euros more. Yes, it isa little pricey, compared with the 5 or 10 euro tastings at other places… but you get something special in return.

Recommendation: if you are into white Port (or if you say there is no real good white Port) then please try the Special Reserve White Port (left)   It is an amazing wine and an absolute pleasure to drink. At recommended retail price 31€, fully in line with the quality that it possesses. 


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