Celebrating the art of blending tawnies with Kopke – a Masterclass
Karin van de Water @waterbijdewijn attended a port blending masterclass for Winespicegirl.
Not a typical Monday morning, but this messy chaos resulted in a certificate for 50 years old port blending.
In the Sofitel Legend (The Grand Amsterdam Hotel) in the beautiful Alderman room we were assigned the task of recreating a 50 year old Tawnies Kopke port. This under supervision of the Master Blender of Kopke himself, Carlos Alves. He works for the oldest port wine house Kopke Founded in 1638. The creation of this blend usually takes Carlos over 2 weeks of constant tasting and mixing to get the perfect blend. We have got 15 minutes to do the same.
Kopkes story dates back as far as 1636, which makes it the oldest port house in the world! Nicolau Kopke (a German businessman) was appointed as a consul in Lisbon and created a company that exported wine to Hamburg. In 1781, Kopke purchased a vineyard in de Douro valley, the first step in its transition from a trading company to a major wine producer.
50 years old Tawny port
First, I got the amazing opportunity to taste the 50 years old Tawny port from Kopke, pronounced as cop-key. It was mind blowing. Flavors of dried fruit, caramel, hints of roasted coffee, but still with a huge amount of fresh acidity, citrus and balsamic notes. Generously intense and lusciously deep! Port always has something coddling sweet. Although the older ports have the real “savage” taste of the Douro valley in Portugal where the grapes grow. (Travel tip! ) Tawny is named after its color; it matures in wooden barrels. By the time it is bottled, much of the original bright red color has been lost. This port: 20% alcohol, ph 3,50, total acidity 5,64 g/dm3 reducing sugars 140g/dm3.
The 50 Year Old Tawny port is the latest addition to the Kopke range. This category has been approved since January 2022 by the IVDP, Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto. This port, aged in small wooden barrels, is a blend of different vintages. Grapes grow at an altitude of 600 meters and are hand-picked at optimum ripeness, after which the grapes ferment in granite troughs at 28-30°C and are then fortified with aguardente, or cognac.
Where to buy Kopke 50 year old Tawny
Kopke 50 Year Old Tawny is available at Wijnhandel van Ouwerkerk for €185. Wijnhandel van Ouwerkerk has been a specialized family business since 1860, where the enthusiasm and expertise has been passed down from father to son from 1860 to the present day. Just like the port blending process is.
Blending port is a real art. You must mix wines of different aging, maturation, and even different origins to produce a consistent final product. You have to make sure it will keep its specific style and profile. Each port house has its own style. In other regions, wine makers learn the job at a famous winery and keep moving wineries every 4 to 6 years. Port blenders learn the job from generation to generation, they don’t job hop! It takes a lot of time to the learn the style of the Port house. You have to stay in the company for a long time. Because of the large aging process, making port is creating something for the next generation. Every year, the wines produced by that year’s harvest require the expertise and experience of the Master Blender and his team. They evaluate the traits and aging potential and assign the young wines to the profile of the port House. This quality control is crucial for maintaining the qualitative value of winery. The profile and style of Kopke is dry, fruity, spicy and very fresh!
Recreating the best
Then it was up to us, we received a beautiful nostalgic suitcase with 5 mystery pots labeled from A to E, containing each a different port. 2 Erlenmeyers (those glass bottles you used to use in chemistry class and see in movies at labs) a notebook, a pencil and a whole lot of glasses! Although Carlos explained a lot.. this was a very challenging job on the Monday morning.
3 blending tips from the master!
1:Check the color. 2: Image the taste by the smell, let the nose to the job. 3: Check the taste and make sure you can find all the layers.
Creating/replicating my own blend of the 50 year old port.
Step 1: (The best part) Tasting the 50 year-old Tawny port.
Step 2: Taste and check the batches A to E and write down tasting notes.
Step 3: Combining different quantities of the 5 available wines. Pour from test glass into small Erlenmeyer, check the amount, write down, add to larger Erlenmeyer.
Step 4: pour the end result into a new glass. let the master blender check!
In my first creation I was too eager with the younger wine. The second creation was much closer to the real one.
If a label on port says 20,30,40 or 50 year. It is always a blend. The oldest wine it contains must not be more than 4 years older and the youngest not less than 2 years older than what is stated on the label. In our box there was a young wine, of 22 years. If you mixed it (which I did in my first batch) it made the whole blend too fresh. It really overruled the older wines. The real blend… I will keep a secret…
Is Port wine?
If alcohol is added during vinification, you speak of “fortified” wines. With port, the alcohol is already added during fermentation. As soon as the fermenting wine contains about 6%, pure wine alcohol is added. This increases the alcohol content to 18 to 20 percent. Yeast cells will not survive (they die at 14 to 15 percent). So the fermentation stops immediately. The unfermented sugar remains in the wine and give the port that wonderful sweet taste.
How to drink port?
This port is best combined with old and hard cheeses, such as manchego. They really enhance each other’s creamy caramel- and nutty like taste. But this port also matches chocolate, so here you go: the best Valentines match.
If you ever get the chance to drink this port, it is half a century of history in your glass, you really drink a piece of art, enjoy!
Thank you for the invitation Wijnhandel van Ouwerkerk, Pitch PR, Carlos Alves and Sogevinus Fine Wines.