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One of the oldest port houses, Quinta do Noval is also arguably the greatest. It is unique among top port houses in that most of the ports are made from estate-grown fruit and, notably, all of the vintage Noval wines are from the single Quinta do Noval vineyard. In addition, it is difficult to elaborate on Quinta do Noval without mentioning Nacional, the legendary port made from a 6 acre parcel of ungrafted vines. When declared, only 200-300 cases of Nacional will be made, and instantly become the most sought after port in the world. Many vintages of Nacional are considered as the finest ports, and some of the finest wines, ever made.
The 2004 Vintage Port "Nacional" is a declared Vintage Port aged for 18 months in wooden casks. An old vines field blend, it comes in at just 79 grams per liter of residual sugar, rather dry on paper and in perception. Typically graceful and leaning on elegance in the mid-palate, it is laced with some herbs and rhubarb up front. It is very aromatic and it opens with a distinctive flavor profile compared to others in the Vintage Port lineup that I had open. In the mid-palate, it seems like a very fine table wine in some ways, showing remarkable finesse and focus, and a rather dry finish. It is completely closed and gives little. The structure and the underlying concentration are all obvious, though. They are classic and they make this a cellar candidate from the get-go. Despite being over a decade old, this is tight, firm, powerful and too young. After playing around with it for several days, I saw it finally begin to blossom, to show fresh fruit and something besides austerity. By the end of the week, it was far more evolved, showing its wonderful concentration, increasingly interesting intensity of flavor and a long finish. It is never obvious, but it is always quite gorgeous. This is an old school Port on an old school schedule. It needs cellaring. If extended aeration makes it at least a bit approachable, it is not exactly showing all it has and all it can be. Be patient--even if it is more approachable in a decade or so, that won't be even close to its peak. If you're patient and young, give it a try around 2040.