Historical tasting in historical surroundings! To taste the Buçaco wines is to taste history, it is an ultra rich experience. To taste them exactly in their birthplace and noble home it's simply legendary. We received this ultra honourable invitation from João Rico to be present at a special tasting at Bussaco Palace Hotel, organised by the wine organisation Baga Friends, which included a grand master tasting of several of Buçaco's vintages and with the extra bonus of tasting some older vintages from other producers of the for mentioned cluster.
Rare are the wines that have a track record of 9 decades, that were served to kings and queens, rarer the ones that can show themselves in perfect or improved conditions, but a particular rarity is to find this wines in Portugal outside Port and Madeira. This is what happens at Buçaco, a mystical winery belonging to the homonymous Palace Hotel and created by the visionary original owner Alexandre de Almeida.
If we analyse the track record of Portuguese wines, the regions most known for offering us famed long lived wines are Dão and Bairrada, the latter even thought too impenetrable before 10 to 20 years of bottle maturation. Taking this in mind this most certainly must be one of the Buçaco's secrets, their wines are made from grapes sourced in both of these wine regions, from the best selected vine sites, as the Palace stands right in their frontier.
White wines are made from Encruzado, Bical and Maria Gomes and reds from Baga and Touriga Nacional. All of them ultra traditional and top quality Portuguese varieties, that blended assure a perfect final result. This associated with traditional, careful wine making offer us winelover's a rare opportunity to drink fabulously well matured wines that maintain their vibrancy but attain a unique complexity that only age can impart. They are really a match made in heaven, pairing the elegance and refinement of Dão with the intensity and muscular structure of Bairrada, ageing gracefully and full of character.
This memorable experience of enjoying this finely matured wines used to be an exclusivity of the hotel guests, which is still pretty much in force, nevertheless nowadays there are a minute number of retailers where we may have the privilege to acquire some of this gems to enjoy as we wish. I recommend you check the Niepoort Projectos website and buy any of the available vintages, none will fail to amaze a true winelover. Below are my views on the ones we had the privilege to taste at the Palace, for sure one of the references you'll find the most is synonyms of freshness!
Buçaco Reservado white 1955 Medium gold, sweet intense notes of honey, hazelnut, marzipan, sun dried orange peel and a hint of burnt sugar. Just a trace of petrol. Dry, medium plus acidity, round body and medium alcohol. Medium plus flavour intensity showing fantastic freshness. Long length, incredibly intense and fresh. One just can't help to fall in love with a 58 years old white with such complexity and breath of life
Buçaco Reservado white 1956 Medium gold. Fresher nose with more floral notes and the fresher citric orange touch. Also some kernal hints an a note of tea leafs. More lifted and a tad volatile. Citric palate, much more austere and fierce than 55 on the palate, not as intense but full of life. Medium plus length.
Buçaco Reservado white 1967 Pale gold. Less expressive, a hint of a rubbery note, lots of ripe stone fruits. Lovely palate mixing up very nicely a piercing fresh acidity with a smooth mouth-feel. On the palate more of the citric character with the stone fruits just on the background. Saline notes. Long fresh after finish. A wine that still shows room for development.
Buçaco Reservado white 1978 Pale gold. More delicate nose, some notes of almonds, some iodine and citric notes of ripe lemon and lime. The most saline wine of the bunch, light and fresh. Bone dry palate, still in need of bottle time to mellow. Very persistent after-taste, finally a wine from my vintage that I can hope to accompany my celebrations for a while, just have to find a way to get some bottles...
Buçaco Reservado white 1985 Strangely medium plus gold. Ripe stone fruits wrapped in mineral notes of rubber and some petrol. A little stale. Probably prematurely over oxidized Although fresh is lacking some fruit to back up the acidity. Medium length showing mostly dried fruit notes. It showed much less in shape than the rest.
Buçaco Reservado white 2000 Intense lemon yellow. Very slightly hazy. Delicate notes of apricot, some ripe lemon, flowery, some fresh herbal notes and some stony minerality. Some tropical notes of pineapple. Very persistent palate, fantastic wine.
Buçaco Reservado white 2001 Pale golden colour. Ripe but fresh palate, intense fruit notes from the stone fruit family. Just a trace of vanilla. Creamy palate with medium acidity. A note of orange jelly on the finish. The riper and heavier of the bunch, should be enjoyed soon.
Buçaco Reservado white 2003 Medium plus lemon yellow. Some ripe stone fruits, some cooked notes and a little toast. Enters the palate with the ripe notes of the nose but ends fresh and lively with more mineral and herbaceous notes. Stony. Lots of life and vibrancy echoing on the long citric finish, nobody would see this as hot vintage wine, loved it!
Buçaco Reservado white 2005 Medium minus lemon. Toasted nose, reminding pain grille from burgundy whites, citric and dried fruit notes of almond and hazelnut. Sweet lemony palate, some toast, a mineral stony streak, freshly herbal, ends with notes of bitter almond and orange zest. Medium plus length. Elegant wine just showing a little to toasty for now, needs time to mellow, which it will for sure.
Buçaco Reservado white 2008 Light notes of vanilla from new oak, flowery, white peaches, fragrant and ethereal. Very fresh delicate palate with sweet peach on the palate. Citric notes tangled in the oaky creamy notes. Long length with notes of orange peel. Needs time to develop to show its potential complexity, it surely shows a fantastic structure and acid backbone to achieve this. Buçaco Reservado white 2009 Lemon green. Sweet oaky notes well balanced by medium plus acidity. Lemony fresh palate with notes of oaky Vanilla. Long length. Still very primal but showing everything in place.
Buçaco Reservado white 2010 Lemon yellow. Toasty oak notes, citric. High acidity, tingling and fresh, little spicy but all well balanced on the nice fruit weight and the creamy oaky notes, which are not a bit overpowering. Long length. Flowery. Lemon zest and lime. Needs time to mellow. Showing the new wave has at least as much potential as the elders, a wine to follow closely upon market release.
Buçaco Reservado red 1949 Beautiful medium minus tawny hue. Intense, pungent aromatics. Marked black and red currant aromas, touch of raspberry, beautiful fresh undergrowth, some smoky nuances and sandalwood. On the palate linear and straight, some coffee notes on the background, cassis, intense smoked notes, earthy and kernal. Perfectly matured and quite fresh. Long rewarding finish, absolutely love it. Once more, as the white 1955, age here is grace and pleasure, great respect.
Buçaco Reservado red1958 Medium tawny hue. Fresh leathery notes. Some cassis and a little spicy liquorice. Stony, brick like minerality, calcareous "Barro" notes. Just very slightly smoky. Super fresh and mineral. Lots of powdery tannins, which are well supported by some creamy fruit. Medium plus lively length. Classic.
Buçaco Reservado red 1960 Medium plus tawny colour. Again lots of blackcurrant, rounder and sweeter. Suave smoky notes. Sweet cinnamon spices, reminding a still Coke (a precise suggestion from Paulo Silva/Niepoort). Round and full palate, creamy with lots of fruit weight. Ripe black fruits and ripe, big, tannins. Medium length. Candid and mellow, ready to drink.
Buçaco Reservado red 1962 Medium minus garnet colour. Some brett, giving character. Closed nose. Mainly minerally in character, not that much fruit. Some smoke notes, very stony. Super fresh. Sinewy tannins, clearly would stay well further in bottle. Puzzling wine, would like to re-taste alone.
Buçaco Reservado red1964 Smoked, cassis. Very sweet palate, soft and tender. Seemed less interesting than most, but had no time to be precise here.
Buçaco Reservado red1983 Medium minus garnet. Some smoky character, zingy blackberry fruit, a fresh leather note. Super fresh, lots of stony minerality, leathery and some sweet spices. Smooth palate but tense and vibrant. Medium plus length with evident smoky notes. Enjoyable now, but still some ageing potential. Sweet coffee notes after some time in the glass. Lovely wine to drink.
Buçaco Reservado red1996 Medium minus ruby. Intense notes of red & black fruits and undergrowth. Following these same notes on the palate, with marked freshness. Bitter coffee notes well supported by the fruit weight. Medium plus refreshing acidity and marked tannin structure that leads to a medium plus length.
Buçaco Reservado red 2000 Medium plus garnet. Intense black fruits, clearly reminiscent of cruising a forest. Slight smoky notes. Very fresh palate, mixing the fruit notes with some ground coffee, flowers and fresh undergrowth. Powdery tannins with marked presence but well balanced on the fruit weight. Fresh and lively, marked minerality. Keep it in bottle for extra harmony, but it is drinking perfectly.
Buçaco Reservado red2001 Vinha da mata (wine made out of grapes sourced from a single vineyard, just put out in very special vintages) Medium plus garnet. Lovely intense sweet nose, mixing the forest notes of black fruits and undergrowth with elegant oaky notes. Blackcurrant and marked sweet spice. All this is confirmed on the palate but much more fierce and energetic yet balanced. Tense and mineral with high tannin structure but full of lovely fruit weight. A sweet giant that let's itself be enjoyed for now but will age with seamless precision for ages. Love it intensely!
Buçaco Reservado red2005 Medium ruby. Ripe nose with some cooked black fruits. Clear note of saffron. A sweet but fresh palate full of sweet spice. Sinewy, chewy tannins, ripe and integrated. Medium plus acidity balancing out the sweet character. Muscular structure, needs bottle time to mellow and bloom, but is pretty much approachable and rewarding right now
Buçaco Reservado red2007 Medium plus ruby. Intense and ripe black fruits. Sweet oaky spice, some vanilla and cinnamon. Full body, rounded palate, intensely fruity, but fresh black fruit. It is very fresh but with a medium acidity. Some steely minerality, inky. Long length. Marked tannin structure but with a velvety feel, very well integrated. Joining the 2005 in a clear shift in terms of oak management, but the wines have everything to withhold the new maturation philosophy and render them approachable to a wider public sooner.
Buçaco Reservado red2010 Vinha da Mata Deep ruby. Pronounced aromas, black fruits, oaky vanilla, some primal lagar aromas. So youthful! Lots of flowery notes, probably the most marked by Touriga Nacional. All this prolonged in a smooth luxurious palate that is nevertheless fiercely structured with marked ripe tannins, full body and medium plus alcohol. Vinous and indulgent. Shall age gracefully but gives fantastic pleasure right away. A modern approach with classic elegance. Powerful, tasty, elegant and age worthy. Still to be released I'm waiting eagerly!!
I would really like to express my sincere gratitude to Baga Friends in general and to João Rico in particular for the privileged opportunity to have been a part of this historical and unforgettable tasting. One thing is for sure, these wines have a glorious past, a gorgeous present and a promising bright future!