Tasting Blind, and Noval Black
Earlier this week I took part in a blind wine tasting. I did not do well. So I'm not going to blog about it, other than to say that I am proud that I didn't wuss out (as I have been known to in the past), went with my gut instinct, and guessed incorrectly on every wine put in front of me.
Instead, let's talk about a brand new Port that just hit Binny's shelves last week: Noval Black.
This new non-vintage Port is a great example of the style for less than $20. The nose is typical for fortified wine: lots of alcohol along with candied cherry and plum, hints of herbal notes and maybe mineral, like pencil lead. On the palate, though, the wine explodes: A serious tannic spine frames everything candied, jammy raspberry fruit and sugar dominate the midpalate, backing off at the finish to expose the more delicate vanilla and orange peel, but still framed in tannins. This is a big Port, and drinks like a compact version of a 2007 for a fraction of the price.
I wanted to know how well it would stand up to my benchmark for non-vintage Port, the Graham's Six Grapes, so we opened a bottle. The experience suddenly got a lot more intimidating when two glasses were set in front of me with no indication of which was which.
It was the tannic frame of the Noval Black that gave it away. The Six Grapes, which I still hold as an excellent value for Port, especially one that is drinkable now, shows much more plush fruit with a softer body and lighter, more sweet and spicy (baking spices like nutmeg) nature. By contrast, the Black is big and sturdy, less pretty and more muscular.
I'm always puzzled that Port isn't selling better as a category. Not only are vintage Ports some of the most unique and ageworthy wines in the world, but the non-vintage blends offer some of the best values out there. Stopped up and stored in the fridge, a bottle can last for a week or two (though it will evolve over that time), compared to the one or two day lifespan of a table red. Port pairs well with nuts and cheese, or maybe chocolate or cheesecake, or maybe just the relaxing end to your day.