Some names are especially storied among wine lovers. Portugal’s Quinta do Noval and its celebrated Vintage Port Nacional are certainly among them. Much of Noval’s recent success can be attributed to Christian Seely, who has led and modernized the estate since 1993, following its purchase by French insurance company AXA.
Impressively, Seely also oversees AXA’s other wineries, including Outpost on Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain, Sonoma’s Platt Vineyard, Burgundy’s Domaine de l’Arlot and Bordeaux’s Château Pichon Baron, and operates his own acclaimed estate, Quinta do Romaneira.
Seely’s efforts were on display at the Wine Experience, where the audience tasted the 2011 Nacional (98 points, $650 on release). He explained that the wine comes from the small Nacional parcel at the heart of Noval’s 460 acres of vineyards in the Douro Valley.
“The Nacional marches to a different drum,” said Seely. “What’s special about [it] is, of course, that it is made from ungrafted vines.” Indeed, the Nacional plot was unaffected by the 19th-century phylloxera infestation, unlike the rest of Noval’s vineyards. (It was, nonetheless, replanted to ungrafted vines in 1924.) “It’s an absolute miracle,” said Seely. “Quite frankly, we don’t know why it is that ungrafted vines survive in this parcel.”
Adding to its allure, the Nacional site is also particularly low yielding. In 2011—a challenging but excellent year—Noval only made 220 cases of Nacional. “We’re actually drinking, today, a very significant proportion of what we actually made,” Seely observed to applause.