The Art of Blending – Kopke Port.
On a chilly yet sunny Monday morning in the earliest of February, our Jelena was part of a select group of wine professionals that gathered in Amsterdam. It was on this occasion that the majestic Sofitel Le Grand hotel hosted a Port Master Class by Kopke (the oldest port wine house in the world, est. 1638): ‘Kopke’s master blending 50 years old’.
Kopke’s 50-year-old Tawny Port
Kopke’s Master Blender Carlos Alves attended this event and shared with us his long experience in blending wines and the renowned success of Kopke’s 50-year-old Tawny port. Kopke’s 50-year-old is blend from rare wood-aged ports that matured for five decades in oak casks. 50 years is only the average age of this wine and Kopke blends several vintages. Which ones were used is only revealed at the end of the event leaving us in doubt in the matured ingredients in this delightful Port. First things first, Carlos Alves granted us a possibility to taste the rare Kopke’s 50-year-old Tawny Port and then presented us with a Master Blender kit to try to recreate the blend.
In the glass: On the nose it has a gastronomic pleasure of several layers of aromas; roasted almonds spiced by cinnamon. Strong undertone of dried apricot and orange peel sprinkled by dried herbs, dried mint chaperoned by a cup of bergamot tea with toffee. The palate is silky with high electric acidity.
Finale is sparkled by caramel with dash of iodine salinity.
The Master Blender
Every success has its own recipe, and the rules of blending are the framework for the result. However, to become a Master Blender, you cannot attend a school or follow courses. Master Blending is a tradition, a vision shared by the forefathers and their next generation. The art of blending rests in your DNA.
Carlos Alves has shared the three most important rules that a Master Blender must keep in mind. First, to have a great understanding about the cellar stocks; to be able year in year out to produce consistency. Secondly, the origin of grapes; meaning only indigenous grapes from Douro. Thirdly, the wood for ageing; the resulting blend expresses the characteristics given by the ageing in wood. The producer seeks micro-oxygenation, no new oak aromas, therefore very important, no new oak ageing!
As it is seen, the art of blending comprises of a vast and diverse range of activities. People are crucial for the qualitative value of any Port wine House’s heritage and thus they eventually create that special moment we enjoy in our glass.
Everyone can Blend
The participants all received a case with five batches in it, each representing different characteristics: alcohol, total acidity, total sugars and tasting notes.
- ‘Batch A’ – sweet aromas of ripe fruit. Fresh and young.
- ‘Batch B’ – notes of dried fruit and spice. Harmonious.
- Batch C’ – wood. Dried fruit and hints of smoke. Balanced.
- ‘Batch D’ – refined. Mysterious and fresh, with notes of caramel and chocolate.
- Batch E’ – coffee, with balsamic and salty notes. Exuberant and persistent.
Carlos Alves has given us some advice into how to match the colour, the aromas on the nose and of course flavors on the palate.
We created 4 blends that afternoon and my most successful, which has left a hint of surprise on Carlos Alves’ face, was our number 2 blend. He said we came very close to the original Kopke’s blend. We used: 15ml of ‘batch C’, 5ml of ‘batch D’ and 5ml ‘batch E’. Shortly after, the moment of truth, the actual blend has been revealed!
- A – 0% (22y)
- B – 14,5% (48y)
- C – 25% (49y)
- D – 27,5% (50y)
- E – 33% (53y)
Carlos shared that you could reach the same outcome of consistency with different components, however one must always pay close attention to the structural elements and what they add to the final blend.
We very much enjoyed this insightful session and opportunity to learn from and work with Kopke’s Master Blender Carlos Alves. Port remains a very interesting wine, which is very versatile and of course extremely age worthy.
This event was covered by our own Jelena van Eerdenburg. Thank you, Kopke Port, Wijnhandel van Ouwerkerk (importer) and Pitch PR (in particular Amber Molenaar), for organizing this excellent masterclass.