2020 Quinta do Valle Meão “Meandro” Douro, Portugal (14% alcohol, Residual sugar 1.4 g/l) Noble Estates $29.99 (750ml bottle)
Over the course of any given month, I often have so many bottles of wine lying around that I’m somewhat obliged to taste, it can get a quite overwhelming. I’m sure you aren’t feeling in any way sorry for me here…
Sometimes play a little game with myself: I taste them kind-of blind-ish.
I have a section of shelving in the basement where I place bottles that require my immediate attention, so I knew this was a red from the Douro, but as I opened it I made a point of not looking at the label too much before I poured and sat down for a tasting; doing it in this manner allows one to be slightly more objective in one’s sensory evaluation.
For the record, I clocked this bottling as something in the $45 – $60 range, which, to be honest, says a lot more about the great value coming our of certain Portuguese producers than it does about my lack of tasting acumen, or so I’ll have myself believe.
This wine certainly speaks to the vintage, as I’ve tasted a few of these in the past and it appears that the philosophy is to embrace what nature gives you, and allow that to come through in the glass. 2020 in the Douro was marked by significant spring rainfall, three times higher than the previous vintage. The 2020 summer was extremely hot and dry, with a series of heatwaves causing substantial fruit loss (40%) and leading to extremely small yields from the vines, in particular the Touriga Franca. The resultant cépage ended up being 50% Touriga Nacional, 35% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Roriz, 4% Tinta Barroca and 1% Alicante Bouschet, markedly different from previous vintages.
Despite all that heat, Valle Meão manage to retain an astonishing amount of elegance here. The nose is, as one would expect, a spicy Douro “cooked” dark fruit (blackcurrant) compôte but with some gorgeous herbal/underbrush notes (rosemary/thyme/laurel). There’s still a charming rusticity here, which speaks more to the native varieties/terroir/garrigue than it does the winemaking, which is absolutely top-notch. The fruit is still thrillingly vibrant though, something that is certainly to be admired in a more challenging vintage like this; the pronounced acidity and overall balance belies the challenges of year and speaks to some extremely judicious harvesting/fruit handling. The wonderfully pronounced herbal elements continue to the palate, with smooth, rich, ripe tannins making themselves known. The rewarding mid-palate and finish are undeniably savoury in nature. Very pleasant indeed.
This is an excellent bottle of wine, although if one has the patience to cellar it for 4 – 6 more years (and beyond) the rewards will be all that much richer.
(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)