I first came across the glamorous Julia Kemper (fetchingly pictured by weinplus.com) when in Portugal last year and it was already clear that her wines were as distinctive as she is. She makes her money as a lawyer. She presumably spends it via her revival of viticulture on the family estate, Quinta do Cruzeiro, in the granitic Dão region of northern Portugal where she has planted 15 ha of vines and cultivates them organically. Much quoted is that a distant relative entered a wine in an exhibition in Berlin in 1903 and found it hailed one of the best in show.
Her wines have impressive confidence, even though the vine age is relatively young. The blended Julia Kemper, Tinto 2008 Dão, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Alfrocheiro and Jaen, is admirably well integrated but still firm with the granite underpinnings shining through. I'd ideally wait a year or so before drinking this wine, which is currently on sale for just under £20 a bottle at Planet of the Grapes and the Oxford Wine Company. Here's a picture of Julia Kemper's red wine grapes being trodden in the granite lagares in her winery shown below.
A varietal Julia Kemper Touriga Nacional 2009 Dão is also very accomplished, with no rough edges and already quite mellow with only 13.5% alcohol. But however winning it is now, I would prefer to let it develop a little more in bottle before drinking it if I had only one bottle. Indeed, I suggested 2014-19 as the ideal drinking period (as opposed to 2013-18 for the red blend).
But the wine that shone out at this week's generic Portuguese wine tasting which I attended, selflessly leaving the Château Margaux tasting to Richard, was the white Julia Kemper, Branco 2010 Dão. It's a blend of equal parts of the top-quality Encruzado and Malvasia Fina grapes that are characteristic of Dão and a little Verdelho. Some of it was barrel fermented and this is clearly a wine of substance and potential. I loved its hint of leafiness, it very firm structure, its smoky but not exaggerated pungency and its real weight in the mouth. It tastes as though it just avoids being oily and heavy but is an admirably interesting and satisfying mouthful. I thought it would drink well over the next three years - preferably wth some quite assertive food. This is the sort of wine that would very happily stand in for a white burgundy.
As you can see from Julia's tasting notes on Portugal Top 50 2011, her immediate foretaster as Portuguese Wine Journalist of the Year Tom Cannavan identified the 2009 vintage of this exciting wine as one of his top 50 and Julia liked it as much as I like this 2010 version - to the extent of giving it 17 points out of 20 for what that is worth. You can also read what Portuguese wine enthusiast Sarah Ahmed has to say about Julia Kemper at www.thewinedetective.co.uk. The winery at Quinta do Cruzeiro is shown above.
The following are all the vital stastistics published on Julia Kemper's website about this wine:
Harvest evaluation: The wine year provided the production of excellent grapes, with no record of disease given the favourable climate during the year. The cool nights allowed for a harvest of healthy grapes, ripened by a great amount of sunlight and water availability throughout the year, giving the wine a concentrated and fruity flavour. In addition to the particular terroir prepared for the varieties planted, the climate and the careful harvesting and selection of grapes produced high quality wines with unique aromas and flavours.
Name of the farm: Quinta do Cruzeiro
Location of the winery: Quinta do Cruzeiro, Mangualde
Total number of wine producing hectares: 15
Foundation of the winery: Mid-19th century
Owner of the winery: Júlia de Melo Kemper and CESCE Agrícola, SA
Wine makers: Júlia de Melo Kemper and Vines & Wines [consultants who helped her develop the vineyards too]
Demarcated region: Dão (Portugal)
Classification: VQPRD (Vinho de Qualidade Produzido em Região Demarcada) Dão
Grape composition: 50% Malvasia Fina, 50% Encruzado
Type of fermentation: Temperature controlled in stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels
Alcohol (%): 13.5
Residual sugar (g/l): 1.7
Total acidity (g/l): 5.6
Volatile acidity (g/l): 0.45
Dry extract total (g/l): 20.1
SO2 free (mg/l): 35
SO2 total (mg/l): 138
Available in bottles of: 0,375 l, 0,75 l and 1,5 l
Quantity of produced bottles:
0,375 l - 500
0,75 l - 6,312
1,5 l - 150
Age of the vines: 7/8 Years
Training system: Royat and Guyot
Plant density (plants per hectare): 4,000
Type of soil: Granitic origin
Liters per hectare: 4,000l
Orientation of the vineyard: Half-hillside
Height above sea level: 450 m
Harvesting method: By hand into small harvest baskets
Harvest time (month): September
Rainfall per year in mm: 1,100 mm average
Irrigation: Drip irrigation
Characteristics: Lemony-coloured wine with a wonderful bouquet of white pulp fruit with seeds, passion fruit and orange blossom. The i'n mouth' sensation is fresh, long and well balanced.
Aging before sale:
In stainless steel tanks: 3 months
In bottle: 2 months
Recommended drink temperature: 10ºC - 12ºC
Storage potential: 4 to 5 years
The wine is relatively easy to find in Portugal but is also distributed in Belgium and Germany - where prices vary between €13.50 and €16.95 a bottle. Julia Kemper wines have been imported into the UK by Alliance Wines of Scotland since late last year and I am assured that this white wine is already a firm favourite with the Alliance staff. It is available at £17.99 from the following stockists: the Oxford Wine Company (Witney), Planet of the Grapes (London WC1) and The Vineking (Horley). Corking Wines of Yorkshire sell it but only by the dozen bottles at £179.88.
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