First taste: Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro Vintage Port 2018
It was good to taste my first cask sample of Vintage Port 2018 this week – Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro Vintage Port 2018. This vintage is the most perplexing I can recall in terms of the heterogeneity of declarations, not to mention a third successive classic Vintage Port declaration from Taylor’s when, not so very long ago, the no back-to-back rule seemed deeply entrenched. I was eager to start tasting and find out more.
The clue is in the name. Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 2018 Vintage Port is a Single Quinta Vintage Port, as opposed to a classic blend (of quintas), from Ramos Pinto’s historic south bank Cima Corgo estate. Very delicious it is too, clearly showing the ripeness of the year in its remarkable depth of colour, powerful fruit and ripe tannins. Surprisingly lovely freshness too.
You’ll find my full note below and watch this space for upcoming reports on Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 2018, Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 2018 Vintage Port, Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2018, Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port 2018, Kopke Quinta de S. Luiz 2018 Vintage Port, Burmester Quinta do Arnozelo 2018 Vintage Port , Cálem 2018 Vintage Port & Barros 2018 Vintage Port.
Let me start with Ramos Pinto’s vintage report, then the insightful reply I received from Ramos Pinto’s Master Blender Ana Rosas and fellow Port blender, Thomas Rogerson, to my questions about the heterogeneity of the declarations, erosion of the back-to-back rule and the precise composition of this Vintage Port.
Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 2018 Report
2018 was one of the most challenging years for viticulture, however the wines produced were very pure and had exceptional fruit.
“The winter of 2018 in Quinta do Bom Retiro was cold and dry, with low rainfall. The start of spring brought intense and heavy rains, with cool temperatures that both delayed the harvest and hampered work on the vines. This was a major challenge overcome by the Ramos Pinto viticulture team.
August and September, the two crucial months for grape maturation, were extremely dry and hot, with the desired conditions being attained for the harvest.
The harvest at Quinta do Bom Retiro began on 21st September and ended two weeks later than usual, on the 10th October. The plots with old vines were harvested almost at the end, as was Touriga Franca, producing wines of an intense colour and excellent structure.
Jorge Rosas, CEO of Ramos Pinto, commented that the 2018 vintage was ‘the definition of elegance. It is the perfect fingerprint of the exceptional and unique vineyards at Quinta do Bom Retiro.’
‘2018 was one of the most challenging years for viticulture, however the wines produced were very pure and had exceptional fruit.’ Ana Rosas, Ramos Pinto Master Blender.”
Heterogeneity: Vintage Port 2018 declarations
You will find many site specific setbacks causing this heterogeneous declaration
“It was a mega challenge for the viticulture team to ward off mildew attacks and at the same time cut back all of the weeds during the spring. We think you may be right about the replenishing of water in soil [impressed by the freshness of this 2018 Vintage Port, I had wondered if the wet spring had charged the soils and helped the vines survive the subsequent heat]. The grape maturation was very even and quite slow in spite of high temperatures. The cool nights in September meant the grapes arrived at the winery with fantastic ripeness.
It was a very heterogenous year in general and in our case the Bom Retiro vineyards held themselves extremely well and the idea was to reflect than in this Single Quinta. Ervamoira came through the spring magnificently and was looking very good coming into the hot summer months. Probably a combination of higher temperatures and a scarce labour force in August meant that the wines didn’t hold the freshness we would have liked for Vintage Port.
2018 will be remembered for hail, downpours, heat waves and reduced labour in the Douro, yet each House may have been impacted in different ways during the year. It looks like a great vintage year for the Douro, but you will find many site specific setbacks causing this heterogeneous declaration. The 2016 hailstorm in July at Quinta de Ervamoira springs to mind.”
Vintage Port – Back to back declarations
Viticulture now allows to produce Vintage Port more often and each House will declare when the quality is there, rather sticking by the 3 times a decade rule
“We think that the viticulture now allows to produce Vintage Port more often and each House will declare when the quality is there, rather sticking by the 3 times a decade rule. For Ramos Pinto we are in our tenth year of having abolished herbicides in our vineyards and we are starting the see this in the wines. Slowly we are replacing the patamares, which reduced planting density drastically and replacing them with vertical vineyards. In the winery we are looking to work with traditional lagar fermentations, rather than the stainless steel tanks of the 1980/90s.”
The master blender’s work
Franca seals the wine’s ageing potential and complexity
Quinta do Bom Retiro, in the Torto Valley, dates back to 1789, when Queen D. Maria I included the Quinta in the Feitoria Demarcated Region. It totals 110 hectares, with 64 hectares planted to vines with an average age of 40 years.
“In terms of the blend itself, the backbone of this Bom Retiro Vintage is provided by three small north-east facing Touriga Nacional parcels (53% of the final blend – very aromatic and vibrant acidity wines) which are co-fermented in granite lagars with Sousão (10% of the blend). Averaging 40 years of age, these adult vines are very resistant to drought and continue to produce outstanding wines.
We also have the influence of ancient low altitude (Vinho do Rio) and high altitude (Alhais) field blends which average over 90 years of age which in 2018 produced concentrated, balanced and very complex wines (8% of the blend). They add power and finesse to the wine, respectively.
Lastly, the perfume and tannic presence of the late ripening Touriga Franca (29% of the final blend) providing wines with good colour, intense aroma and great body and structure. Franca seals the wine’s ageing potential and complexity.
Tinta Barroca was excluded from this blend because of an overripe presence due to high temperatures in August and September.
3.500 Kg / hectare was the small yield we had to produce the 2018 Bom Retiro Vintage Port, below the average of the Quinta.”
Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 2018 Vintage Port (half bottle cask sample)
A blend of 53% Touriga Nacional, 29% Touriga Franca, 10% Sousão and 9% old field blend vines; foot trodden in lagares for four to five days. Strikingly deep in hue – a mark of this vintage – with powerful, very supple ripe fruit and tannins and impressive freshness. A heady nose with violets and bergamot which follow through on the palate, with concentrated, fleshy, slippery black cherry, blueberry, damson and raspberry – motile, not dense. Smooth, without being unctuous. Bitter chocolate, mint, esteva and liquorice notes meld harmoniously with the fruit, bringing complexity and savoury nuance. Fresh underlying acidity and a charge of fine powdery tannins makes for a long, neatly structured finish. Lovely fruit, structure and balance. This cask sample held together superbly over 4 days – a measure of this delicious 2018 Vintage Port’s power and finesse. 19.43%, Residual Sugar 79g/l, TA 5g/l, Ph 3.69. Available in limited quantities, Ramos Pinto Ports and wines are imported into the UK by Maisons Marques et Domaines.