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Vintage Port 2018 round up – 20 Ports reviewed

Top tier – Quinta do Noval terraces and Vintage Port…

As usual, I’ve collated my reviews of the latest Vintage Port releases from the brilliantly fresh 2018 vintage.  There are some great finds here, although the vintage was not generally declared because, as Ramos Pinto’s Ana Rosas pithily put it,  “you will find many site specific setbacks causing this heterogeneous declaration.” 

My top picks?  Four Ports really stood out to me for their charisma, power and finesse – Quinta do Noval, Taylor’s, Sandeman and Wine & Soul.  However, in such a heterogeneous year, there are some great releases across the price spectrum and some great surprises too.  Imposing in structure, Sogrape’s trio, need time; the Offley knocked it out of the park  compared with previous releases I’ve tasted.  Quinta do Bom Retiro from Ramos Pinto looked very complete too.

The prices haven’t yet been released (as far as I know) for Fonseca Guimaraens, but it strikes me as  a potentially great buy – very much in tune with the flagship Fonseca (not released in 2018).   I loved the Croft Quinta da Roeda for its uncommon perfume and drinkability.  The Poças was also very broachable, but in a plush, velvety mode, as was Quinta do Vesuvio – seemingly more forward than usual, but lovely with it.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2018

A tight, sooty, mineral nose and attack, with a plume of powdery tannins.  Sturdy, tightly coiled, with bitter chocolate and fleeting glimpses of blackberry and violets, making for an emphatically mineral-tasting palate. An hour later, opening up a touch, blackcurrant, mulberry, blackberry, violets peek through, with citrus hints – orange blossom/peel and grapefruit oil – to the back palate. On day two, it has moved into a different gear.  Parrying tannin and acidity animate the palate – a vigorous swirl of chocolate and liquorice-edged plum and red and black berry and currant fruits, with violets, orange blossom and grapefruit peel lift.   It finishes long, spicy, very deep, with lashings of fine, fine cocoa tannins, minerals and spice – great sense of tip-to-toe dry extract. Residual sugar 100 g/l, TA 4.8G/l, pH 3.58, 19.5%  Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2018 is a release of 1,600 cases, representing 7% of production.  £540.00/12 bottles in bond at Farr Vintners & BI Fine Wines, £270/6 bottles at DBM Wines, Lea & Sandeman & L’Assemblage.   See my original post with Quinta Noval’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Port here.

Sandeman Vintage Port 2018 (cask sample)

Sandeman Vintage Port 2018

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 WinesRRP £110 (Gift boxed RRP £120); £435/6 bottles in bond at Lea & Sandeman.  See my original post with Sogrape’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Port here.

Taylor’s Vintage Port 2018

A deep, inky hue, the nose exceptionally tight  – its smells of tannin and minerals.  Adopt the brace position, I thought, prior to partaking.  Sure enough, a touch velcro, the tannins are palapable.  But they are not aggressive.  Rather, tightly wound, like the blackcurrant, making for a rather inscrutable palate, the spirit savoury, a little proud on the attack and into the mid-palate.  It comes together going through.  Sluicing, fresh acidity teases out notes of crushed stones, spearmint and sage.  The fruit sweetness brings a sweet overlay to the finish, balancing the mouth-coating cocoa dust tannins.  With time in glass, violet top notes emerge.  On day two, the acidity seemingly buoys the fruit, the tannins, the guiding backbone.  Great intensity, juice and flow within the tannin structure to the polished blackcurrant, with its minerals, floral and herbaceous notes.  Bridge describes the acidity as ‘wiry,’ which captures it well.  The tannins clasp the wine on the finish, making for a classic Taylor’s dryness, austerity.  A keeper.  7,800 cases.  See my original post with the Fladgate Partnership’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Ports here.

Wine & Soul Pintas Vintage Port 2018

Purple and lustrous – the hue of shiny blackcurrants – with great depth (opacity) of colour and a very narrow bright pink rim.  Tight knit to the nose on day one though, on days two and three, it reveals pronounced violets.  In the mouth, the freshness, biting almost, fair takes your breath away.  With a long, precise javelin throw to the attack, its sweet scented blackcurrant and blackberry fruit barely lands.  Rather, the fruit is buoyed along – kept in suspense – by grapefruity, mineral acidity.  Hints of Earl Grey tea, smoke and crystallised stem ginger flash by.  Spicy liquorice and the fine, sooty underlay of mineral tannins build on the finish.  Terrific purity and intensity fruit, energy (freshness) and structure – surely the springboard for a long life ahead.  Deeply impressive, Pintas Vintage Port hails from the Pintas vineyard’s 88-year-old field blend vines in the Vale de Mendiz, Pinhão Valley.  It has 96g/l residual and 20% alcohol by volume.  In this low-yielding vintage, I understand that only 2,000 bottles were produced – half the production of 2017.  Wine & Soul Ports & Douro DOC wines are imported into the UK by Corney & Barrow.  See my original post with Wine & Soul’s vintage report here.

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 2018

A focused nose, initially quite restrained/inward-looking, compared to the Croft. Similarly, the attack.  Plentiful and fine, the tannins cradle the fruit and, rising in a spicy, tensile, graphite arc, cloak the finish.  The dark, brooding core of blackberry, with hints of blackcurrant/blackcurrant bud fruit, powerfully intense, with terrific  juicy persistence.  Notes of esteva, liquorice and bitter chocolate bring nuance. Unleashed on day two, the dynamic tannins  – fine but firm, very tensile – cut a swathe through the wine, making for a mouth-coating, long, impressive finish with lashings of liquorice.  Concentrated, powerful, an excellent vintage for this second Vintage Port – very Fonseca in its bold fruit, structure and complexity.  4,700 cases.  See my original post with the Fladgate Partnership’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the vintage here.  See my original post with the Fladgate Partnership’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Ports here.

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.  £195/3 bottles inc duty & VAT at Vintage Port & Wine. See my original post with Ramos Pinto’s vintage report and Ana Rosas’ personal take on the vintage here.

Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port 2018

A blend of 45% Touriga Franca, 40% Touriga Nacional  and 15% Alicante Bouschet/ Sousão (co-fermentation) , the Dow’s is a deep, inky purple, with more opacity than the Vesuvio.  Wake up and smell the tannins!  They impact on the colour, nose and palate of this vigorous Single Quinta Vintage Port, with its markedly minty, cool nose and palate and ever-present undertow of parma violets/bitter chocolate violet creams. A bottomless pit of concentrated black berry, cherry and currant fruit is well supported by firm acidity and a sturdy fretwork of graphite/iron filing tannins (great sense of dry extract).  Bolder of structure and more brooding of fruit than the Vesuvio, the finish is drier-seeming, more imposing than the Vesuvio.  Even the heady farewell kiss of kirsch finds cool foil in the mint.  Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port 2018 is a release of 510 cases of 12, representing just 8% of Senhora da Ribeira’s total production.   20%, Total acidity: 3.73 (g/l), Baumé: 3.30  Bottled: June 2020 (no filtration).   RRP £126.00/3 bottles in bond;  £161.92/3 bottles inc. VAT & duty (£53.97/bottle).  Current stockists include The Wine SocietyTannersVintage Wine & PortFarr VintnersClarion Fine WinesClick here for a detailed review of the vintage, tasting notes on Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 1998 and a link to a video tasting with the Symington family.

Offley Vintage Port 2018

Offley Vintage Port 2018

Ripe, sweet, dense raspberry and black cherry fruit, nicely balanced by a bitter chocolate, liquorice and black pepper, a hint of earth and a fretwork of mineral tannins.  The dark, brooding finish reveals grippy, touch velcro tannins to the finish.  Expressive, but well-structured too.  An impressive release of Offley. 20%; residual sugar 102g/l, TA 4.8g/l, pH 3.6.  £325/case of 6 inc Duty, VAT & delivery at Vintage Wine & Port.  See my original post with Sogrape’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Port here.

Ferreira Vintage Port 2018

Raw, spiritous, spicy and dense, with graphite tannins and firm acidity, this (sample) came across as quite old school, gruff and bluff, quite blocky, and bluff, quite blocky, the fruit yet to come out to play, although there are flashes of sweet raspberry, blackcurrant and damson, with lashings of liquorice, black pepper and bitter chocolate.  Primordial from day 1 through day 4.  Luis Sottomayor has described it as very true to the house style –  “defined by elegance and harmony” – so perhaps my sample was going through a dumbed down patch. One to review, but no shortage of structure here!  20% residual sugar 103g/l. TA 4.6g/l, pH 3.7.  See my original post with Sogrape’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Port here.

Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 2018

This blend of 54% Touriga Nacional, 40% co-fermented Touriga Franca & Alicante Bouschet and 6% Sousão is a deep, opaque hue, with crimson, red flashes.  The Vesuvio has a more open knit nose and palate than the Dow’s, with esteva-edged, raspberry, black berry and currant, sweeter jammier notes and dried rose lift to the nose.  In the mouth, it is impressively smooth and biddable, with supple tannins, fleshy, really slinky, ripe summer pudding/red and black fruits of the forest compote, a moreish chocolatiness and savoury pouch tobacco kick to the back palate.   On day three, a hint of orange blossom.  The tannins catch up going into the finish, lending focus and light grip but, having tasted it over three days, the overwhelming impression is of velvet-smooth, supple red and black fruits.  Generous of expression, lithe of structure and harmoniously balanced, I could not agree more with the Symingtons that this is a “notably more elegant Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port,” also Rupert’s observation that Vesuvio is more red-fruited than is typical in 2018.   It is dangerously drinkable and, I might add, the 1998 tasted alongside was in fine form, similarly wild fruited, floral and thoroughly delicious – the family resemblance self-evident.  Quinta do Vesuvio 2018 is a release of 965 cases of 12; it represents just 3% of Quinta do Vesuvio’s total production. 20%, Total acidity: 3.96 (g/l),  Baumé: 3.60  Bottled: June 2020 (no filtration).  RRP £282.00/6 bottles in bond; £359.82/6 bottles inc. VAT & duty (£59.97/bottle).  Current stockists include The Wine SocietyTannersVintage Wine & PortFarr VintnersClarion Fine WinesClick here for a detailed review of the vintage, tasting notes on Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 1998 and a link to a video tasting with the Symington family.

Poças Vintage Port 2018

Deep purple, with an expressive, peppery, floral (dried rose) nose and palate, assertive tannins and fresh acidity to the attack, becoming creamier, with velvety, milk chocolate-edged red and black fruits – mulberry, raspberry, black berry – going through.  Sumptuous, but with good tannin underpinning, freshness and persistence.  Finishes long, fine, well-focused.  Lovely intensity.  On day two, violets bring heady lift to nose and palate and the tannins seem better integrated, making for a long, seamless palate – velvety, without detracting at all from its lovely vein of acidity or subtle mineral nuances.  Impressively consistent over four days, this lifted, long, layered Vintage Port beautifully reflects the winning qualities I am seeing in 2018 Vintage Port – fruit intensity and sweetness with freshness.  The supporting fine but focused chassis of spicy (liquorice) tannins suggests it will age well into the mid-term.  Perhaps longer.  Poças Douro wines and Ports are imported into the UK by House of Townend.  See my original post with Poças’ vintage report and winemaker insights about the Port here.

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.  See my original post with Churchill’s vintage report and winemaker insights about the Port here.

Croft Quinta da Roeda Vintage Port 2018

Deep purple, exceptionally, beguilingly, aromatic – so pretty and perfumed – with bergamot and orange blossom lift to its intense berry fruits.  I thought initially black (berry and cherry), but opening up, the emphasis is on velvety red fruits, especially raspberry, deliciously inter-twined with lively dried sage, pine needle, esteva, sandalwood, liquorice and black pepper top notes. Milk and bitter chocolate nuances bring richness.  The prominent yet fine fretwork of tannins put me in mind of whole bunch wines –  animated, spicy  and (ripe/dried) herbaceous, with light grip.  On day four, it was still singing, with zesty bergamot and orange blossom, a lush core of raspberry and chocolate, the tannins and acidity persistent.  Just lovely and very accessible.  2,000 cases.  See my original post with the Fladgate Partnership’s vintage report and winemaker insights on the Ports here.

Quevedo Vintage Port 2018

Quevedo Vintage Port

Like the label, this Port is suggestive of a cocoa pod/cocoa beans, with bitter chocolate to the nose, together with stalky blackcurrant fruit, bay leaf, dusty, schistous minerality and, on day three, hints of bergamot to the nose.  Notes which follow through on the palate, together with sweet raspberry, mulberry and plum.  On day two, the pure core of soft, ripe fruit whisks me back to the 70s – a cheeky childhood memory of eating a cube of Rowntree’s blackcurrant jelly! A fine but firm backbone of tannin and markedly fresh acidity bring focus and persistence.  Lovely fruit purity and elegant structure.  Retains poise and fruit intensity on day four. 19.5%  £36.95 at The Vintage Port Shop 

Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port 2018

Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port 2018

An open knit, relatively broad, soft palate with perfumed, sweet, ripe wild bilberry and mulberry to nose and chocolatey palate, with savoury black olive and grainy, graphite tannins. On day two, violet, black pepper and orange blossom notes emerge, with dried herbs on day three.  Upfront, if lacking a little freshness.  A medium-term prospect.  19.5% 555 cases of the 2018 Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port were bottled.  Imported and retailed by Lea & Sandeman – £160/6 bottles in bond/en primeur. See my original post with Quinta da Romaneira’s vintage report and insights on the Port here.

Barros Vintage Port 2018 (Cask Sample)

Sogevinus Vintage Port 2018 releases

A blend of Cima Corgo fruit, comprising Touriga Nacional (35%), Touriga Franca (30%) and Tinta Roriz (30%) and Sousão (5%).  A flamboyant, juicy cassis and mulberry nose and palate, with good freshness, contouring powdery cocoa tannins and a velvety finish.  Reveals hints of esteva and violets opening up, then spicy liquorice.  More concentration, more structure than the Calem.  A touch boozy too, but well matched by the fruit depth.  Well made.  3,734 bottles produced, ABV: 20%, pH: 3.47, TA: 5.5 g/dm3, RS: 104 g/dm3  £39.95/bottle inc Duty & VAT at Vintage Wine & Port

Kopke Quinta S. Luiz  Vintage Port 2018 (Cask Sample)

A tight nose, with quite an assertive, grippy tannin structure, indeed, chewy on the finish.  Reveals concentrated, well-defined, persistent black berry, cherry and mulberry fruit, with liquorice and clove.  Violets, bergamot, lively black pepper and orange blossom notes emerge on day two, together with red and black fruits of the forest and dehydrated sweet raspberry with chocolate.  Sinuous, the fruits weaves in and around the sinewy tannins, making for a well-structured, elegant palate, despite the chew, which will mellow with time.  A lovely mid-weight Single Quinta Vintage Port – very Kopke.  My pick of the bunch of Sogevinus 2018 Vintage Ports.  4,783 bottles produced, ABV: 20%, pH: 3.50, TA: 5.6 g/dm3, RS: 109 g/dm3.  £44.95/bottle inc Duty & VAT at Vintage Wine & Port.  See my original post with Sogevinus’ vintage report and insights on the Ports here.

Quinta da Pedra Alta Vintage Port 2018

Due for launch in Spring 2021, this blend of 49% Touriga Nacional, 27.5% Touriga Franca, 9% Sousão, 8% field blend (mainly Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca) & 6.5% Tinta Roriz hails from this estate which,  located in Soutelinho-Favaios, near Alijó in the Cima Corgo, rises from 230-550m.  Sixty percent of the blend was foot-stomped.  It is a deep purple hue, quite tightly coiled initially, with parma violets on day two to the nose.  The palate is fresh, defined, seemingly relatively dry (although it has 104 g/l residual sugar), with blackcurrant, raspberry and sweet mulberry fruit, touch of hedgerow, bitter chocolate and liquorice.  Fresh, quite firm acidity speak to the vintage and provenance.   With a medium finish, it is a touch lean on days two and three.  The lightest of the Ports reviewed.  Production: 2,000 bottles.

Cálem Vintage Port 2018 (Cask Sample)

A blend from different Douro Superior plots of Touriga Nacional (15%), Touriga Franca (45%), Tinta Roriz (30%) and Sousão (10%).  A deep hue, a touch of green to the nose (morphing into pepperiness on day 2), with violet-edged, round, succulent black cherry and berry fruit, supported by grainy tannins and fresh acidity. Finishing sweet; although the spirit sat a little heavily on day one, by day two, it seemed better integrated, as the fruit came up.  A fruit-driven, very approachable Vintage Port.  4,435 bottles produced, ABV: 20%, pH: 3.5, TA: 5.4 g/dm3, RS: 115 g/dm3.  See my original post with Sogevinus’ vintage report and insights on the Ports here.

Burmester Quinta do Arnozelo Vintage Port 2018 (Cask Sample)

Characterful, as you might expect from a Single Quinta Vintage Port – more elbowy, with sturdy bitter chocolate tannins and a broader, mouthfilling, quite slippery (glycerol) palate, with mint-edged, liquorice-spiced red and black fruits.  It is a touch raisined and baggy, not as fresh as the others. Bitter chocolate finish, with menthol lift. 6,405 bottles produced. ABV: 20%, pH: 3.56, TA: 5.2 g/dm3, RS: 112 g/dm3 .  £49.95/bottle inc Duty & VAT at Vintage Wine & Port.  See my original post with Sogevinus’ vintage report and insights on the Ports here.

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