First taste: Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2018 Vintage Port
Continuing my coverage of 2018 Vintage Port after the holidays, Churchill’s have not declared a classic vintage in 2018, however they have declared a Single Quinta Vintage Port from their top estate – Quinta da Gricha – the jewel in the crown. Founder and head winemaker Johnny Graham describes Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2018 Vintage Port as “a well-structured and elegant wine, with the freshness, purity of fruit and tension associated with Quinta da Gricha wines.” I found its freshness and accessibility striking.
Churchill’s 2018 Vintage Report
Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2018 Vintage Port was the result of an atypical growing year, when compared to previous years’ cycles.
The winter was cold and dry, with high rainfall in the spring. Summer started out cold and rainy but ended up extremely hot and dry. This climatic instability led to varying vineyard performance in the Douro region.
In the case of Quinta da Gricha, vineyard yields were down by 30%, but the north-facing exposure and the breezy location allowed us to obtain a balanced and complete maturation, and to produce a wine that fully expresses the unique potential of this terroir.
In 2018, Churchill’s did not declare a house vintage, due to the varying performance of vineyards in the Douro region, however production director Ricardo Pinto Nunes reported that Quinta da Gricha’s grapes “fully expressed the unique characteristics of the terroir.”
Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2018 Vintage Port
Sourced from the old vineyard (average age 80+ years) at Quinta da Gricha, located in the Cima Corgo sub-region in the Douro Valley. According to Churchill’s the varietal split is 20% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Roriz, 20% Tinto Cão, 20% Tinta Barroca.
Quinta da Gricha Vintage Ports are artisanal wines, produced with minimal intervention: grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and foot trodden in traditional granite ‘lagares.’
Churchill’s allow for a prolonged natural fermentation process, using only native yeast. This extended period of fermentation in lagares limits the amount of brandy required in fortification, leading to a drier style of port.
The young port spent its first winter in the Douro and then was transported in the early spring to our ageing lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto). Here it matured in seasoned oak vats for one year, at which point it was bottled and stored in our cellars.
Churchill’s have been bottling small quantities of Quinta da Gricha vintage ports every year since 2001, save 2002 and 2010. Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2018 Vintage Port total production is 454 cases (6 x 75cl), representing 8% of the estate’s port production that year.
All Churchill’s ports are made from Grade-A grapes that are hand-picked, hand sorted, and foot trod in the ancient granite lagares (treading tanks) at Quinta da Gricha in the Douro Valley.
My tasting note – Churchill’s Quinta da Gricha 2018 Vintage Port (cask sample, half bottle)
Deep, inky purple, with plenty of upfront black cherry, cassis, lilac and violets to the nose and palate. Lovely purity and marked freshness to the sweet, black-fruited palate, with liquorice and mineral undertones. The tannins are fine, but deceptively plentiful, sneaking up on you on the lilac-accented finish. With open-knit, fleshy ripe fruit and lovely freshness, it strikes me as an elegant mid-term proposition. With those stealthy tannins, maybe longer? Johnny Graham certainly thinks so. My half bottle sample remained intensely fruity and well-focused over four days; first tasted 4 September. 19.5%; 100 g/l residual sugar. £234/6 (75cl) bottles en primeur at Tanners.