Chow Town

Sampling port wines that have been around for a long time

Colheita port is a single-vintage tawny port. Colheitas are aged in wood for a minimum of seven years, but often are aged much longer.
Colheita port is a single-vintage tawny port. Colheitas are aged in wood for a minimum of seven years, but often are aged much longer.

It’s not often in a wine lover’s life, at least in this wine lover’s life, that you get to sample wines older than you.

I was fortunate enough to taste a Madeira produced in 1800 that was once in Thomas Jefferson’s personal wine cellar.

I sipped that piece of history while filming an episode of my television show, “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” on location in Las Vegas. It wasn’t the best wine I ever had, but it was definitely the most interesting.

Recently, I had the opportunity to taste three wines with a combined age of more than 220 years!

A lot of folks I’ve spoken with, even fellow wine aficionados, view older wines as little more than a curiosity. But these wines, all Colheita ports, proved they can be much more than that.

I’ll be leading a tasting of ports at Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 10. Call Tannin at 816-842-2660 for details.

The ports I recently sampled all represent the history of the vintage during which they were produced and the sense of place from the vineyard from which they emanate. They are also living, breathing examples of the category!

In many ways, the tasting of these wines: a Burmester 1952, a Kopke 1941, and a Kopke White Port 1935, surpassed that Thomas Jefferson Madeira. Even with all of their history, these wines are, quite simply, delicious!

Colheita port is a single-vintage tawny port. Colheitas are aged in wood for a minimum of seven years, but often are aged much longer. Colheitas have a consistent nutty, oxidized character.

While tawnys can be aged 10, 20 or 30 years in wood, they are blended wines created in a “house style” much like a Brut Champagne.

The wines I tasted were part of the Sogevinus Fine Wines Group, the leader in the Colheita port category. I was unaware of Sogevinus prior to the tasting, but I will be actively seeking out their products moving forward because these wines were stunning.

I’ll start with the Calem 2000, by far the youngest of the Colheitas. Not surprisingly, the Calem was also the most powerful of the four. Brown with hints of orange, the Calem is complex with notes of spice and wood, buttressed by good acidity and strong tannins. This wine will be drinking well for decades!

Next was the Burmester Colheita 1952. Amazingly fresh and supple for its age, this is an incredible wine! Jammed with ripe fruit and overflowing with flavors of toffee, the Burmester 1952 is rich and intense — many years from its zenith. This wine blew me away.

The Kopke Colheita 1941 was next. Only bottled in 2015, the Kopke 1941 is another deft and nimble wine considering its age.

Both complex and elegant, it’s difficult for me to say if I enjoyed the amazing aromatics or the enticing flavors more. Let’s call it a tie. In any event, the Kopke Colheita 1941 may be the best port I’ve tried in any category! Bravo!

Last was the Kopke White Colheita Port 1935. I have not had a great amount of experience with white port, but if they all tasted like this, that would change in a hurry! Like its sibling, this was bottled in 2015.

Tasting a bit like smoked orange marmalade, the wine is layered with complex aromas followed by structured but approachable flavors. Of the four Colheitas tasted, this was by far the most ready to drink.

I’m certainly no expert on Colheita ports, but after tasting these four, I can’t wait to try more.

Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.

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