First taste: Sandeman Vintage Port 2018
In April, Sogrape announced that all three of its houses had declared classic Vintage Ports. What a striking contrast with 2017 – a generally declared year – when neither Sandeman, Ferreira or Offley declared classic Vintage Port. I speculated about Luís Sottomayor having kept his powder dry for 2018. Exceptionally concentrated and long, Sandeman Vintage Port 2018, explosively reinforces the Head Winemaker’s pronouncement that “2018 is one of the best, if not the best, vintage years I have witnessed.”
That is no small claim in such a heterogeneous vintage or, for that matter, for a veteran of over 30 vintages, but Sottomayor has highlighted the “unusual structure” and “great ageing potential” of 2018 Vintage Ports. Qualities which very much play into the style which he has sought to revive at Sandeman since it was acquired by Sogrape in 2002. At an extensive (1955 to 2011) Sandeman Vintage Port vertical tasting in 2014, Sottomayer asserted that “[I]t must be robust and strong – a great wine” which, in his definition, can age for more than 30 years in bottle.
Below, you’ll find Sogrape’s report on the vintage and vineyard sources for this outstanding 2018 Vintage Port.
Sogrape Vintage Port 2018 Report
2018 was a challenging vintage in the Douro due to unsettled weather at the beginning of the growing cycle. An extremely dry and cold winter delayed budburst and a particularly rainy spring led to increased disease pressure in the vineyards, which resulted in lower yields. Nevertheless, these lower yields and a long and steady ripening period during the hot, dry summer resulted in top quality grapes with great concentration – ideal for the production of Vintage Port. “2018 is one of the best, if not the best, vintage years I have witnessed”, claims Sandeman head winemaker Luís Sottomayor.
Sandeman Vintage Port 2018 vineyard sourcing
The grapes for Sandeman’s Vintage Ports are sourced from the best plots at the Quinta do Seixo and the Quinta do Vau estates in the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro near the town of Pinhão. These prime vineyards are on the steep, stone-walled terraces of the south bank of the River Douro and are planted on schist – a slate-like metamorphic rock which fractures vertically and allows the vine roots to dig deep to access water and nutrients. The vines are tended to manually following sustainable practices and the grapes are harvested by hand.
Sandeman Vintage Port 2018 is a blend of 50% Touriga Franca, 40% Touriga Nacional, 5% field blend & 5% Sousão
My tasting note
Sandeman Vintage Port 2018 (cask sample)
An incredibly uniform, inky dark purple – formidable. Though violet-scented, on day one its brooding dark fruits are tightly-coiled on nose and palate. But the concentration of fruit is palpable. In the mouth, the violets mingle with liquorice, bitter chocolate and, opening up, bergamot and dried rose nuances, which build, as do the tannins, layer by layer. Of the cumulative, ripe but fine, millefeuille variety, the tannins make for lovely mouthfeel, (graphite) minerality and spiciness. On days two to four, it reveals great intensity of ripe, bright ‘n buff fruits – black cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry. The perfume ratchets up a notch, with inky violets, bitter chocolate violet creams and orange blossom; pronounced liquorice spice too. The finish is dryish in flavour profile/texturally, with a strong sense of dry extract, but no grip or chew, all of which contribute to this splendid Vintage Port’s tremendous poise and length. Impressive and, for all its concentration, surprisingly detailed, with surely a long life ahead. Mission accomplished. 20% alcohol, 106g/l Residual Sugar, 4.6g/l Total Acidity, pH 3.6. 14, 500 bottles produced. Imported by Liberty Wines; RRP £110 (Gift boxed RRP £120); £435/6 bottles in bond at Lea & Sandeman