Quinta do Noval is perhaps the most emblematic estate in the Douro. Since the property changed hands in 1993, Christian Seely has been, in his own words, ‘putting things right’. He is candid about the past. From 1920 until the late 1960s under the ownership of Luís Vasconcelos Porto the property was subject to ‘very good vineyard management’ but it suffered in the 1970s and 80s and this is reflected in the quality of the wines. ‘Since we took over we have changed 100s of details’ he declared, right down to relaying all the stones in the hallowed lagares, swapping schist for granite. From 1994 onwards much of the vineyard has been replanted and Noval’s domain has extended over the hill into the Roncão valley (‘roasted Roncão’ as it is known by shippers due to its meso-climate). But Noval’s Vintage Ports (including the legendary Nacional) are products of the quinta bearing the same name. There are still plenty of plots of old vines including 80 year old vines that go into making Nacional where the average age of the 2ha of ungrafted vineyeard is around 40 years. Declarations are much smaller than they were in the old days with just 900 cases of 1994 produced compared with 5,000 cases in 1985. But perhaps the most fascinating revelation to accompany this tasting is the so called ‘Secret Nacionals’. The last Nacional to be declared was 2003, prompting the question what happens to the Nacional from other vintage years (for example 2004, 2007 and 2008 which Noval also declared)? I had always assumed that the Nacional wine from these years went into the vintage blend but Christian Seeley explained that these wines have been retained, with the intention of releasing some of them in 20 years. Interestingly he suggested that there might even be a Nacional Colheita in future!