By The World of Fine Wine Team | April 24 2020
A year ago, the Port industry was contemplating a generationally unprecedented, near-universal declaration of back-to-back Vintages, as one-by-one the houses followed up their widely acclaimed 2016 Vintages with some equally fine 2017s.
Last week, in a much-changed world, leading Port family the Symingtons announced they would be releasing small quantities of Vintage Port from six single quintas in 2018, with a launch via live video on Thursday, May 14, 2020, making it the “world’s first digital Port launch.”
Two wines from estates on opposite sides of the river in the Douro Superior—Quinta do Vesuvio (965 cases, or 3 percent of the estate’s production) and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira (510 cases or 8 percent of production)— have been slated for en primeur release in 2020, a decision that, according to the Symingtons, is based on the wines’ “unique expressions of the lifted aromas that characterize the vintage.”
Four further wines—Quinta dos Malvedos, Quinta do Bomfim, Quinta da Cavadinha, and Quinta dos Canais—will for the time being continue aging in the Symington cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.
“The 2018 Single Quinta Vintage Ports are the result of a rollercoaster growing season—with a prolonged winter drought, a deluge in spring, and heatwaves through the final ripening period. Despite the challenges, the 2018 wines are characterized by a well-defined acidity and marked freshness, reflecting the characteristics of specific parcels of vineyard within each estate,” the Symingtons said in a statement. “The star of the year was the late-maturing Touriga Franca, which excelled in the warm harvest. Yields were extremely low with just 950g (2.09 pounds) per vine—11 percent below the 10-year average from the Symington vineyards—resulting in wines with stunning concentration.”
“Each spring we taste the best young Ports from each of our top quintas from the harvest of 18 months before,” added Charles Symington. “This is the starting point from which we review each year’s Vintage Port potential and, from there, decide what to release, be it a super-blend from each of our Port houses’ principal estates—which we call a “general declaration”—or, as was the case in 2018, as the ultimate expression of Douro terroir as individual Single Quinta Vintage Ports. These exciting, young Vintage Ports represent the absolute pinnacle of the year’s production—vinified on-site in small batches in our specialist wineries—and I believe they will provide fantastic drinking for many decades to come.”
Buyers, journalists and Port lovers can register for the launch via: www.bit.ly/symington-2018-vintage.
Last week, ahead of the traditional St George’s Day date for declarations favored by the British-owned houses, Portuguese producer Sogrape led the way in announcing a hat-trick of fine vintages, declaring the 2018 Vintage for its three houses, Sandeman, Offley, and Ferreira.
“2018 is one of the best, if not the best, vintage years I have witnessed,” the company’s chief winemaker Luís Sottomayor said.
“The special conditions experienced during the 2018 harvest came together to produce wines that combine extraordinary elegance with an unusual structure, thus achieving excellent complexity and balance, with great aging potential.”
In a statement, Sogrape said the vintage had been “challenging for the growers 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,” the statement continued, “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. Sottomayor recognized this outstanding quality at an early stage and was already confident about the 2018 declaration last year, in the midst of the multiple 2017 declarations.”
The company said that the Vintage has allowed each house to express its “signature character and style,” with Ferreira being “hugely complex yet defined by elegance and harmony”; Sandeman having a “more structured, robust profile”; and Offley, “showcase[ing] its famously lighter style with an expressive and fruit-forward 2018 vintage, ideal for those new to Vintage Port.”
“The quality of these three wines ensures they will have a great future,” Sottomayor said.