Port: launch of the 2003 vintage, Fladgate, Symington & Noval

Unsurprisingly, 2003 was a terrific vintage for Port and the vintage was declared earlier this year. The high summer temperatures experienced in 2003 are not unusual for the Douro – the region’s vertiginous slopes mean that the vines have some respite overnight when temperatures drop markedly.  Moreover, good winter rainfall and rainfall in September meant the vines did not get over-stressed and the harvest period itself was dry.

Paul Symington reckons the vintage will stand alongside some of the best of recent decades.  More generally, he believes that changes in vitculture and viniculture over the last two decades outstrip those of the last three centuries, resulting in better balanced, more approachable wines which can be drunk young as well as aged for decades.  That’s got to be good news for the impatient amongst us, not to mention lovers of big Aussie shiraz!

My highlights of the tasting were:

Symington Family Estates

Graham’s 2003 – perfumed, violet nose with typical exuberantly sweet cassis fruit; succulent with good balancing acidity and great length to its peppery finish – very well made, hedonistic wine.

Dow’s 2003 – a drier style which works well in a fruit-driven year like 2003 – compact, focused style, almost silky, with savoury red and black fruits and pronounced black pepper on the finish.

Warre’s 2003 – higher, East-facing vineyards produce an elegant style, with delicious plummy fruit, pepper and chocolate.

Quinta de Roriz 2003 – fragrant violets on the nose, fine, tight-knit palate showing minerally, graphite notes – elegant.

The Fladgate Partnership

 Croft 2003 – very fruity and soft with succulent black cherry and a vein of eucalyptus on a quite lengthy finish; dangerously drinkable!

Fonseca 2003 – really gutsy, yet complex loaded with wild blackcurrant and blackberry fruit liquorice, eucalyptus – very good indeed.

Taylors 2003 – focused and elegant, excellent structure with plenty of gravitas, rich black fruits and enticing eucalyptus and coriander seed notes on the finish.

 Quinta do Noval

 Silval 2003 – very straight down the line with terrific fruit purity with raspberry, chocolate and coffee notes and fine-grained, velvety tannins.

Quinta do Noval 2003 – eucalyptus nose, which follows through on the tight, inky palate with coffee grindings.

Quinta do Noval Nacional 2003 – the estate’s most famous Port, made from 5 acres of ungrafted vines – great depth and structure showing lots of coffee, eucalyptus and mocha on the nose and palate – weighty with a long life ahead.


Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
May 2005

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