But after enough sardines and some sleuthing, Sur Lucero found this bottle stored in the coolest corner of the restaurant, in the dark underneath the booths, and we all took the gamble!
In fact, we took just as much of a chance as Fernando Nicolau de Almeida did when he first conceived of this wine. Almeida first made this dry red wine to showcase the possibilities of dry, non-port-style wines from the Douro region. With his experiments, he re-cast what Douro wines could be in the eyes of export markets, and his son, João Nicolau de Almeida (winemaker at Ramos Pintos), continues his work with dry reds today. It's a historic label that has helped reshape the current production of the Douro.
So-- given the environmentals-- the bottle was a roll of the dice for us, and sometimes, you rake in the winnings. We all gathered around the decanter in anticipation; we decanted the bottle over someone's iphone flashlight...... and we were in luck! The bottle was singing, and it was so special to drink this on the banks of the Douro. In fact, I'll never forget it: while we were drinking it, someone paid an accordionist to perform by our table. We all expected to be lulled by a magical Amelie-like waltz as we drank this lovely wine, but instead, we got a 15 minute long rendition of accordion Macarena! Yet even that couldn't tear our noses from the glass. In a way, it seemed right: iphone flashlights and historic wine, the Macarena from an accordion, the past and the future colliding in such a way that tradition and modernity are obscured, and this bottling-- once revolutionary and a signal of a new era-- is now an historic marker of a new tradition on the Douro's ever changing timeline.
Thinking about it now, I'm curious to compare Barca Velha pre-Sogrape and post-Sogrape; to compare Fernando's vision of Barca Velha with Luis'. An old wives tale states that Fernando knew it would be a Barca Velha vintage when he'd bring home a shiner to his wife-- if they finished the bottle before dinner was over, he knew it was good enough to be Barca Velha!
Barca Velha is only made in certain vintages. This is what I could piece together about which winemaker participated in the individual Barca Velha vintages:
1952- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida
1954- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida
1964- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida
1965- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida
1966- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida
1978- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida*José Maria Soares Franco joins Ferreira in 1979
1981- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, with José Maria Soares Franco participating
1982- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, with José Maria Soares Franco participating
1983- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, with José Maria Soares Franco participating
1985- Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, with José Maria Soares Franco participating
*the family sold the winery to Sogrape in 1987
*Luís Sottomayor joins the company in 1989
1991- José Maria Soares Franco / Luís Sottomayor
1995- José Maria Soares Franco / Luís Sottomayor
1999- Luís Sottomayor
2000- Luís Sottomayor
2004- Luís Sottomayor
2009- Luís Sottomayor