Sogevinus is a bit unusual as a holding company in Porto, as it is neither Portuguese-owned nor shows a British connection. Owned by a Spanish bank, it holds four Port houses, Kopke (which claims to be the oldest Port House), Calem, Burmester, and Barros. I visited at Calem, which has a prime position on the waterfront in Gaia, but we went next door to Kopke for quieter surroundings in which to taste a series of Colheita’s from the four houses.
Each has its own style. “Barros is the easiest style, round and velvety, you don’t really feel the acidity,” says Tania Oliveira. “Kopke is always balanced and complex, Burmester is always elegant, more complex on the nose, the most feminine. Calem is more aggressive, more masculine, spicy with evident acidity.” She adds, “Calem is the number one in Portugal, which is a good representation of how Portuguese people like their Port.”
What is responsible for the differences? Sources are generally different. For Kopke and Barros grapes come mostly from Cima Corgo. Kopke is always a blend from low altitude vineyards (to give concentration) and high altitudes (to give freshness), but Barros comes from high altitude vineyards. Calem and Burmester are sourced more from the hotter and drier Douro Superior and always have a blend from different altitudes. There are also differences in grape varieties.
We tasted a range from Kopke’s 10- and 30-year white Ports (like aged Tawnies but a bit livelier due to the white grapes, to Coheita’s ranging from 1974 to older than I am. here are the standouts.
Kopke, White 30 year
Light caramel color. Nose is a little spirit and a little spicy. Not quite grapefruit, but citric impression to nose. This has a similar sweetness to the 10 year, but more depth and complexity, coffee and marmalade, with nice acidity giving lovely balance.
Burmester, Colheita, 1952
Dark caramel color but sill some rosy hues. The nose has what would locally be called a slightly chemical note – this begins to develop after about 45 years. A very fine delicate impression in the house style, justifying the description as feminine, with extremely refined texture. A delicious sweet/sour balance develops in the glass.
Kopke, Colheita, 1941
Dark caramel color. Much more subtle on nose and palate than 1957. Sweet, luscious, piquant, coffee, marmalade, great depth – yet it stays fresh. Lingering finish coats back palate with chocolate. This would have been a field blend, probably including white grapes, which may be why it has stayed so fresh.