The 2018 Port vintage is being widely heralded, as the leading Port houses start to make their annual declarations. Taylor’s Port has taken the decision to declare a classic vintage for a highly unusual third consecutive year, following its declaration of the 2016 and 2017 vintages.
‘Although a Classic declaration normally only happens about three times a decade, the exceptional run of years has meant that Taylor’s is able to make a third in a row,’ said Taylor’s managing director Adrian Bridge.
‘This is very unusual but our principle is that we only declare a Classic Vintage when the quality is there and this is dictated by the year, not by any other consideration.’ Bridge added that in light of the current global situation the house would bottle in July as usual, but not offer the wines for sale until early 2021.
Fonseca and Croft, which like Taylor’s are owned by The Fladgate Partnership, will also be releasing 2018 bottlings. Commenting on the general quality of the vintage, head winemaker David Guimaraens said: ‘The 2018 harvest has produced outstanding vintage Ports, although the year was not without its challenges. These included the severe hailstorm which devastated many Pinhão Valley vineyards on 28 May.’ He noted that 2018 Ports have ‘the highest colour intensity of recent vintages, always a sign of good extraction and longevity’.
Guimaraens highlighted ‘exceptional’ growing conditions in the Douro Superior in particular. ‘The Douro Superior enjoyed the combination of abundant ground water and hot summer weather which often produces great vintage Port. It has given us the excellent phenolic maturity typical of a hot ripening season but the fine multi-layered fruit, fresh acidity we normally see in cooler years.’
Fonseca will release a 2018 Guimaraens vintage Port; the first bottling under the Guimaraens label since 2015. ‘The Guimaraens concept is unique; a wine with the same make up and character as the classic Fonseca Vintages but made in a more approachable, early-drinking style,’ explained Bridge.
Single-quinta 2018 Ports
Croft will be releasing a single-quinta 2018 vintage from its Quinta da Roêda estate. It joins releases from six of the principal quintas owned by Symington Family Estates. Two of the company’s Douro Superior estates – Quinta do Vesuvio and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira – will be released en primeur this year.
Symington, like Taylor, made its first back-to-back general declaration last year. Charles Symington, fourth generation winemaker, explained that for 2018 the decision was taken to focus instead on single estates, which he described as ‘the ultimate expression of Douro terroir’.
As well as the 965 cases of Quinta do Vesuvio and 510 cases of Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira released this year, Symington has selected four other 2018 vintage Ports – Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais – which will age in the company’s cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for future release.
Available now, in limited quantities, Ramos Pinto has also declared its Quinta do Bom Retiro 2018 vintage Port. Jorge Rosas, CEO of Ramos Pinto, described the 2018 as ‘the definition of elegance’.
Quinta do Noval
Quinta do Noval has also been declared, with 1,600 cases set for release. Managing director Christian Seely commented: ‘It will perhaps come as no surprise that we are declaring the Quinta do Noval 2018 Vintage Port. Like 2017, 2018 was a year of low yields, but for different reasons. 2017 was a year of extreme drought, while 2018 was marked in the first part of the year by heavy rainfall. This meant that potential yields were naturally much reduced by the difficulties of the flowering period. Subsequently however, a long hot dry summer ensued.’
Seely added that this ‘excellent ripening period’ produced a ‘magnificently ripe, profound and expressive’ Quinta do Noval 2018 blend, derived from a strict selection of the quinta’s top lots.
‘Both Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa flourished in 2018, in particular the Francesa which benefited from the ideal ripening conditions, and this vintage Port blend is dominated by these two varietals,’ he noted.
These latest announcements follow on from news earlier in April, when Sogrape announced the declaration for its estates Sandeman, Offley and Ferreira. ‘2018 is one of the best, if not the best, vintage years I have witnessed,’ stated Sogrape’s winemaker Luís Sottomayor.
‘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 ageing potential,’ he added.