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First taste: 2019 Vintage Port x 15

Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 2019

For the fourth year in a row, the Douro has produced Vintage Port quality.  Of those samples I’ve received, the declarations are very much weighted towards Single Quinta Vintage Ports.  Vintage Ports (blends of different quintas) are the outliers.

Whilst there are some excellent Vintage Ports, based on this first tasting of largely cask samples, there were fewer highs for me than in the previous three years.

That said, Quinta do Noval Nacional lived up to every expectation and the ‘regular’ bottling is among the highs too.  It is a super-smart buy at that.

As if to celebrate its 20th vintage under the Graham family’s stewardship, Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha seemed particularly intense and well-structured in 2019.  From the ever classy Symington stable, Dow’s Quinta Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port 2019 was my pick of the bunch.

Here are my notes, together with vintage reports and technical information where made available. Save for the Quinta do Noval Nacional (tasted October 27 to 28th), the Ports were tasted on 3 & 4th September.

If you are wondering about the absence of notes for The Fladgate Partnership’s Vintage Ports, it has declared Single Quinta Vintage Ports in 2019 for release at a later date.  They are Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2019, Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita Vintage Port 2019, Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 2019, Croft Quinta da Roeda Vintage Port 2019.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2019/Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 2019

Quinta do Noval has habitually declared Vintage Port in successive years, so the declaration of the 2019 comes as no surprise.  On the other hand, Quinta do Noval Nacional is declared infrequently; 2019 is a Nacional year.

In the latest press release accompanying the declarations, Noval indicated that “even in the more generous years, volumes of our Vintage Ports are always extremely small: at the very most, up to 15% of the production of our great vineyard terroir.”

In the case of 2019, the selection of 2780 cases represents 14% of our production.

The Vintage

2019 was marked by a mild winter and generally dry conditions, with almost no rain from May to the end of August. While in many parts of Europe producers faced heatwaves, and although we enjoyed prolonged sunny weather, summer temperatures in the Douro were fortunately lower than usual this year, making the absence of rain easier to bear for the vines. Moreover, low humidity led to low disease pressure in the vineyards and beautiful healthy grapes.

Harvest started on September 9th for the red varieties. Harvesting conditions were ideal, with moderate temperatures and overall dry weather. A small amount of helpful rain fell on September 21st/22nd and later between October 14th and 17th.

Yields were slightly higher than our 10-year average and musts showed great natural acidity and freshness.

We finished harvesting on October 18th after 6 weeks of picking. This was a long harvest, but this is not unusual in the Douro, where the diversity of grape varieties, aspects and altitudes results in different picking times for each specific plot.

This diversity represents a challenge for the technical team but also an incredible richness, adding complexity and character to our wines at Quinta do Noval.

Varieties & Vinification

Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinto Cão, Sousão, Tinta Roriz grapes are trodden by foot to obtain the must, then they macerate in the lagares, the traditional stone vats from the Quinta, to ensure the best possible extraction of aromas, colour and tannins during fermentation.

It is matured for 18 months in wooden casks in the air-conditioned cellars of the Quinta, at the demarcated region of the Douro Valley before bottling.

My notes – Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2019

Deep purple, with a narrow pink rim.  On day one, an enticing nose and palate reveals black pepper-edged strawberries, blackberry, orange peel, baking spices and liquorice, with scything grapefruity acidity and sinewy tannins. On day two, it goes into reverse – leaner, drier, distinctly mineral.  The seams – those sinewy tannins (plentiful but fine) – to the fore.  Singular, retro-nasal, lingering and very persuasive, with plenty of time on its side.  19.5%, Residual sugar: 100 g/l, TA 5.55 g/l, pH 3.63 £45/bottle in bond at Lay & Wheeler 

My notes – Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 2019

Famously, a micro-selection from a small area at the heart of the Quinta do Noval vineyard planted with ungrafted vines and untouched by phylloxera. Expressive florals to nose and palate from the off, with Bergamot/Early Grey and violets.  The fruit is wilder and tighter knit than the Noval, seemingly smaller berried/curranty – bilberry and blackcurrant to be precise.  Opening up, plum/ slivovitz flavours lend their weight. With firm, fresh acidity – again, scything, incisive – Nacional has impressive drive and length.  Bitter chocolate, prune and dried herb notes build, as do the sinewy but fine iron-filing tannins, lending a distinctly savoury, mineral dimension.  Powerful and charismatic.  A fine Nacional, doubtless with even more time on its side!  Alcohol: 19,5 % vol, Residual sugar 100g/l, TA 5.40g/l, pH 3.61 £1,180/bottle at Hedonism 

Churchill’s Quinta de la Gricha Vintage Port 2019

Churchill’s has released a Single Quinta Vintage Port in 2019.  Having purchased Quinta da Gricha in 1999, the 2019 vintage represents the 20th consecutive harvest – very well at that!  To mark the occasion, Churchill’s is offering a special gifting edition with three bottles of Quinta da Gricha 2019 Vintage Ports, in a bespoke oak-finished case, with illustrations about the terroir story.

The vintage

Founder and head winemaker Johnny Graham describes Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2019 Vintage Port as “Brimming with quality….This is a typical Quinta da Gricha Single Quinta Vintage Port. Black-inky colour, intense blueberry aromas, herbal and spicy flavours and that vibrant natural acidity that brings a tannic structure and finish to the wine that we like to refer to as ‘Tension.’

Churchill´s Quinta da Gricha 2019 Vintage Port was the result of an overall dry viticultural year in 2018/2019, with lower precipitation levels and higher temperatures than average, with January and June being colder than average, while December and May were hotter than usual. Despite heavy rainfall in April, good weather conditions in the months that followed allowed the bunches to be in excellent shape to start picking in the middle of September. Some rainfall occurred during the harvest, which had a positive impact on the maturation, allowing for the production of wines with good colour intensity and natural acidity and lower alcohol levels than average.

We picked our oldest vines, that form the backbone of our Single Quinta Vintage Port, on the 20th September under perfect weather conditions. Grapes were crushed later in the day after cooling down in our cold storage container. After being sorted and crushed without destemming, the must fermented naturally for a period of five days, being pressed and fortified on the 25th of September.

Vinification

Produced with minimal intervention: grapes are hand-picked, and foot treaded in traditional granite ‘lagares’. Prolonged natural fermentation process, using only native yeast, results in the house’s drier style.  Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2019 Vintage Port total production is 565 cases (6 x 75cl equivalent), representing 10% of the estate’s port production that year.

My notes

Impressive depth of colour.   Brooding, inky, the black berry and currant fruit is layered with crystallised ginger, bitter chocolate, liquorice, esteva and bergamot.  Powerfully concentrated with well-structured, burly tannins and juicy, leavening acidity.  Charismatic. 19.5%, 100g/l residual sugar.  £195.00/gift edition 3-pack at Vintage Port & Wine 

Symington Family Estates

The Symington family bottled six Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2019, of which two will be released en primeur – Quinta do Vesúvio and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira.

The other Quinta Vintage Ports produced in 2019 – Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais – will age in the Symington cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for future release.

The Vintage

Fourth generation winemaker Charles Symington oversaw the 2019 harvest, one of the longest harvests in recent years, and decided to bottle these six estate wines, instead of blending to create a ‘classic’ Vintage Port from each port house.

The 2019 Quinta Vintage Ports are the result of an erratic growing season, with a little over 50% of the average winter rainfall in the Douro and almost none in the summer. Fortunately, showers at the end of August helped the grapes achieve more balanced maturations. Head Winemaker, Charles Symington, exercised patience and precisely timed the picking over six weeks – making it one of the longest harvests in recent years. The reward was a collection of perfectly ripe grape varieties in good quantities (averaging 1.27 kg/vine) delivering lively and exuberant wines. This was in contrast to the concentration of the exceptionally small years in 2017 and 2018.

Charles Symington, fourth generation winemaker, commented, “when reviewing the top wines from 2019, we felt that the best expression of our grape varieties came from our six principal quintas. These estate wines are always the starting point from which we judge the year’s Vintage Port potential and, from there, decide what to bottle. In 2019, the various plots of vineyards within each of these estates delivered small volumes of wine with fantastic depth and complexity. We believe these wines could not have been enhanced by blending across each of our port houses’ top quintas to produce a ‘classic’ Vintage Port. Instead, we decided to blend the best performing components within each of our estates and bottle six Quinta Vintage Ports.”

My notes – Grahams Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port 2019

Inky purple, this is an exuberant, velvety Malvedos with a violet-scented bottomless pit of crushed black berry and succulent black cherry fruit, with sweeter crème de mure, liquorice, garrigues and sweet baking spices.  Harmonious ruffled tannins – textural, but ripe and grainy, support and bed down the fruit on a long finish.  Youthfully concentrated, but balanced and accessible. Lovely.

My notes – Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim Vintage Port 2019

Fulsome Touriga Nacional orange blossom/bergamot to the nose, with sweet, ripe black and red fruits.  Sinewy, spicy, liquorice tannins lend grip, direction and charge to the well-defined, concentrated core of blackcurrant fruit. Excellent fruit intensity and structure bode well for ageing.  20%  

My notes – Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Port 2019

Expressive, characterful, with floral, bergamot, chocolate orange, sage, liquorice and menthol notes to the juicy but rich mulberry, blackberry and plum fruit.  Persistent, long and layered with a ripe backbone of malty, savoury tannins.

My notes – Dow’s Quinta Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port 2019

To swirl is to robe the glass with purple and unleash flamboyant black cherry, dark chocolate, orange blossom and bergamot, which follow through in the mouth.  Saturating acidity lends juicy persistence, animating the fruit and flowers.  And a clean pair of heels to the finish.  Fine powdery tannins – elegant underpinning (the swan’s paddle) – offer little resistance, making for a long finish.   On day two, notes of liquorice, sage, pithy orange and shrub emerge.  Bold.  Terrific.  £120/3 bottles In Bond at VinQuinn

My notes – Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais Vintage Port 2019

A Port for Negroni lovers, with botanicals, bitter herb and orange peel aromats, grapefruit acidity and a kick of kirsch to the sweet black and red fruit.  Exotic, with a firm underpinning of tannin. Intriguing. 20%

My notes – Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 2019

Polished yet generous, with concentrated, opulent cassis, blackcurrant and blackberry, with savoury liquorice, tobacco pouch and charry undertones and mineral dry extract.  Long leash, supple tannins give free rein to the fruit.  A powerfully built, satisfying Port.  20% £264/6 bottles In Bond at L’Assemblage 

Sandeman’s Quinta do Seixo Vintage Port 2019

Sandeman’s declared a Single Quinta Vintage Port in 2019.

The Vintage

Rainfall was below the climatological normal and temperatures were mild in the spring, with the exception of April, which enabled budburst in good conditions. The temperatures were mild in the summer, with no great heat spikes and with some episodes of rain, which favoured a long and balanced end of maturation, allowing wines of great quality to be produced.

Varieties and vinification

Vinified at the Quinta do Seixo using selected grapes from existing plots at the Quinta (35% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 25% Vinhas Velhas, 10% Sousão). The grapes were sorted at the vineyard and on arrival at the winery. After soft-crushing and destemming, a gentle maceration took place via treading in traditional granite lagares at controlled temperatures.  After the harvest the wine remained in the Douro where it was subject to its first racking. It was transported to Vila Nova de Gaia the following spring to enter the traditional ageing process in oak barrels. During this period, the wines were subject to further racking, analysis and tests to monitor their evolution. The final blend was obtained further to rigorous selection of the wines, in order to ensure the best possible quality.  Bottled 21 April 2021, 12,000 bottles produced.

My notes

A deep hue.  Backward, the spirit elbows the crème de mure out the way on day one, albeit affording glimpses of sage, orange blossom, liquorice, crystallised ginger and cinnamon. On day two, the spirit has settled down, revealing pronounced bergamot, orange peel and blossom to nose and palate, with plush milk chocolate-edged raspberry and crème de mure going through.  Tapering iron filing tannins bring focus to the crystallised ginger-accented finish.  Attractive.  Alcohol 19.5%, TA 5.8 g/L, Residual Sugar 100 g/L, pH: 3.5 £64.95 at Vintage Port & Wine 

Ferreira Quinta do Porto Vintage Port 2019

I don’t believe I’ve tasted this Single Quinta Vintage Port before.  Initially very slippery – hard to get purchase – with a one-dimensional liquorice finish.  Much more expressive on day two, with concentrated raspberry fruit, bitter chocolate, sage, esteva and lashings of liquorice.  The spirit is round and warming to the finish.  £89.95/bottle at Vintage Port & Wine 

Quinta do Passadouro Vintage Port 2019

Owned by AXA Millésimes (owners of Quinta do Noval) since 2019, this is the first release under the new regime from its second Pinhão Valley acquisition.

Varieties & vinification

Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinto Cão, Sousão, Tinta Roriz was harvested from 9th of September to 18th of October.  The grapes were trodden by foot to obtain the must, then macerated in the lagares, the traditional stone vats from the Quinta, to ensure the best possible extraction of aromas, colour and tannins during fermentation.  The Port was matured for 18 months in wooden casks, before bottling.

My notes

Initially quite sullen and sweet, but pulls itself together on day two, showing more interest and layer, with gliding, brambly fruit, liquorice and ripe but present tannins.  19.5%, Residual sugar 96g/l, Total Acidity 4.87g/l, pH 3.63

Sogevinus

The group has declared two Single Quinta Vintages – Kopke Quinta de São Luiz 2019 and Burmester Quinta do Arnozelo 2019.  Additionally two Classic Vintages under the seal of Casas Cálem and Barros.  I struggled to get purchase with the Cálem and Barros which have been well received elsewhere, especially the Barros, so I have not written up my brief impressions of the cask samples.

The Vintage

In 2019, “the diversity in soil types, grape varieties, sunlight exposure and altitudes enabled a gradual maturation of the grapes, an important factor for achieving high quality grapes”, explains Márcio Nóbrega, Head of Viticulture at Sogevinus Fine Wines. “The long period of ripening in 2019, the attention to detail in each plot and close monitoring of the grapes’ maturation, were all key factors for achieving very aromatic wines with freshness, assertive tannins and a great depth of colour, thus producing Ports with great ageing potential.  The Vintages from these four historic houses will be available to the consumer in the last quarter of 2021.

Kopke: In 2019 the Port wine harvest began on September 9th with dry weather and moderate temperatures, that allowed for gradual maturation.  The thermal variations recorded in August and September were very favourable for the ripening of the grapes. The absence of rain accompanied by high temperatures, normal in the Douro region, along with cool nights, contrasted with the excesses seen in the summers of recent years.  Therefore, for this Vintage, grapes were selected from the lower and middle parcels of the hill, with north / north-west exposure, and only from vines planted between 110 and 135m altitude. The blend includes Touriga Nacional, giving it freshness and notes of fruit, blended with a field blend of very old vines (over 80 years old), which give the wine assertiveness and concentration.

Burmester: A limited edition of a Single Quinta Vintage, with the distinctive character of Casa Burmester. At Quinta do Arnozelo, located in the Douro Superior sub-region, the harvest of Port wine grapes started on 16th September with the harvesting of the Touriga Nacional first, those exposed to the northeast at 280m altitude, then on to Touriga Franca, at 200m altitude and facing east, and finally, Tinta Roriz facing northwest with an altitude of around 250m.

Kopke Quinta São Luiz Vintage Port 2019

A deep, purple crimson hue, with lifted florals, bergamot and black pepper to the red and black berry and damson fruits, with bitter chocolate nuances, spicy, sinewy tannins and fresh acidity. On day two a touch of warming kirsch doesn’t detract from the vitality or elegance; for mid-term ageing. 4,153 750ml bottles and 231 Magnums were produced £49.95/bottle at Vintage Wine & Port 

Burmester Quinta do Arnozelo Vintage 2019

A deeper purple hue than the Kopke, with a sweeter, broader palate of mint-edged dark berry fruit, with black pepper, orange peel and bergamot.  Still a little raw and brusque of spirit and tannin.  Coming together, but promising.  6,591 750ml bottles and 91 Magnums of Quinta do Arnozelo were produced.  £59/bottle at The Vintage Wine & Port Company 

Niepoort Vintage Port 2019

For more details about this vintage, click here for my full report of a Zoom tasting of Niepoort Vintage Port 2019 and Niepoort Vintage Port 2000 hosted by Niepoort.

My notes – An inky hue, but it moves freely in the glass, throwing a purple cloak.  Profusely aromatic, with a marked citrus-accent – bergamot, orange blossom – and flashes of grapefruit citrus to the acid-driven palate.   The fruit is plush and succulent, with black cherry and berry taking the lead, some raspberry too.  In line with that ease of flow in the glass, it feels lively in the mouth – fine and fresh, lithe and slippery.  Hums with black pepper going through.  Acidity is the arrowhead, with a tail of fine tannins – a plume.  Hints of gingerbread, sappy cedar and scented violets emerge with air.  On days two and three, the fruit plushes out, similarly the tannins – still fine, but more mouth-coating.  More to this than initially meets the’ tip of the iceberg’ eye. Very promising, with gorgeous aromatics and lovely detail.  Oh, and it finishes ‘dry.’  I couldn’t help but observe that, analytically, it is a fair bit drier than the 2000 at 88g/l residual sugar versus 103g/l residual sugar.  Around 100g/l residual sugar looks like the norm for recent vintages up to and including 2015; the 2017 Vintage Port had 89g/l.   Niepoort Vintage Port 2019 was sourced from 80 to 100-year-old vineyards in the Cima Corgo.  19.5%, Dry extract 116.5G/DM3 Residual Sugar 88G/DM3 pH 3.46, TA 5G/DM3  28,000 bottles produced.  £455/6 bottles at The Vintage Wine & Port Company 

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