We had this amazing experience a couple of months ago. We were visiting wineries in Portugal. Portugal like Spain, Italy and France, has an amazing amount of wineries producing an amazing number of different varietals, many not known to us here in the United States. One of the wineries we were visiting was Vidigal in the town of Leiria (north of Lisbon about 1/3rd Oporto). After a wonderful visit of a couple of days, tasting Vidigal wines and enjoying some of the most incredible grilled octopus we have ever had, Antonio, the winemaking and managing partner for Vidigal, gave us 1918 LICOROSO that his grandfather or great grandfather had made. He told us there were only 200 bottles left and to please enjoy it. We then flew to Italy and after the flight we became aware that the old cork was leaking and the bottle might not make it back to America in good condition. What could we do?
Later that week we were visiting the Gemma winery in the Barolo viticultural area of the Piemontese region of Italy. We had a wonderful tasting of family owned Gemma wines (they also have a winery in the Veneto that makes Amarone and Volpoicella). Here we were with wonderful people at an antipasti lunch, with wonderful local wines made by this Italian family, maybe they would enjoy a taste from the bottle of 1918 LICOROSO made by an equally delightful Portuguese family. There were six or seven of
us in the room, all either wine makers, winery owners, or wine marketing and distribution executives. All
knew how and what to taste.
We opened the bottle of 1918 LICOROSO, poured and passed the glasses. First of all we noticed that wine was still pure of color, it was not maderized or oxidized, defects which normally manifest themselves by a flat raisiny or cooked taste to the wine (maderization, the result of heat damage), or
evidenced by a brown ring around the top of the wine, or even in older and more oxidized wines, a dull brown tinge throughout all the wine (oxidation, leaky cork, oxygen damage). This was still a deep red/purple/burgundy color. Then we sniffed it, and savored it, and took a taste. Still round and full bodied,
and amazingly perfectly balanced.
Everyone in the room went silent, as the aromas filled our senses, our sinuses (remember we only taste four tastes but we smell maybe 2000 essences). This wine was so perfect none of us were going to open
our mouths and ruin the sensation. No one wanted to put any other food or drinks into their mouths. There we were, six or seven of us, standing around looking each other in the eye, communicating but saying nothing. We wanted to savor this incredible bottle and the taste experience. By the way, that flavor lingered on in the mouth for an extended period of time, an hour or two. It was quite a sensation.
This was truly an “Ah Ha Moment” in the world of wine (as in “Ah Ha, this is truly an extraordinary experience, a truly unique bottle of wine”. Most professional tasters will tell you that they have only had a few “Ah Ha Moments” in their professional careers and that these moments are to be savored and shared.) This was one of those experiences, this one really was fantastic. My compliments to Antonio and his family, and his heritage of great winemaking.
Watch for one of our later blogs where Antonio will tell us more about the winemaking, grape selection, ripening process, and the history of LICOROSO. By the way I now own a 1982 LICOROSO sitting on my desk courtesy of Antonio. Antonio, thank you. We hope each of you readers will be able to so enjoy one of these one day.