THE DELIGHTFUL EIGHT – LIMITED EDITION VINTAGE PORTS
There is little in the wine-world which is as exclusive as Vintage Port from a fully declared year. “3 times per decade” was the magic rule, so fully declared Vintage Port is scarce. Even scarcer since in smaller numbers are the Limited Edition Vintage Ports. Normally harvested from small parcels with old vines within the respective Quinta, the microclimates of these plots produce even more special wines. So special, that some producers decided not to blend them into their Vintage Ports, but to bottle separately. Therefore these Limited Edition Vintage Ports are not bound to the years of General declaration and do in fact quite often vary from them.
Owning Quintas for generations, the Port families and leading viticulturalists know exactly their Quinta’s sweet-spots and mostly used these grapes to spice up the blend. In great years these special locations were always the backbone of the Vintage Port. Then, very slowly, producers began to fully understand the potential of bottling these areas by themselves in tiny quantities.
But why produce an even more special Port when the regular Vintage Port represents only 2-5% of the Harvest every other year? Because the wine market demands it and the reputation of the Port houses profits from it tremendously. Although being declared every other year, Vintage Port is not expensive if you compare them to big wines from other famous wine production areas. Fantastic years from big producers rarely hit the shelf with a three digit number price when released. Many times just half of it and their production - even from bigger houses - is rather measured in ten- than hundred thousands of bottles. I am quite sure that there will be more names in the near future to join the “Limited Edition Vintage Port Club”.
Unfortunately it is quite easy to mistake Limited Edition Vintage Ports with the Single Quinta Vintage Ports. Where Limited Edition Vintage Ports are seen superior to the regular Vintage Port, the Single Quinta Vintage Ports are normally bottled if the grape quality is very good, but not exceptional. Sometimes, e.g. with Taylors, Noval and Croft, the labels do look very much alike and have only a small name attached to the regular label (e.g. Vinhas Velhas, Nacional or SERIKOS).
The Original – Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port
First and still “primus inter pares” is famous Quinta do Noval with their Vintage Port Nacional. With less than two hectares, the most expensive Vintage Port very often does not follow the rules of the general declaration. “We bottle Nacional only when it sings” says Noval’s MD, Christian Seely. Approximately 6.000 ungrafted vines produce a very small amount of bottles (in 2017 Noval produced 3.000 bottles of Nacional) and whenever a new Nacional is released to the market, it is almost immediately sold out. The first Noval Nacional was bottled in 1931 and this is probably the rarest and most expensive bottle of Vintage Port in the world. Other years of production are 1934, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1954, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1994, 1996 (LR), 1997, 1998 (LR), 1999 (LR), 2000, 2001 (LR), 2003, 2004 (LR), 2011, 2016, 2017, 2019 (LR = Late Releases)
QUINTA DO NOVAL VINTAGE PORT NACIONAL 2011 – Intense violet reflections in the almost pitch-dark colour. Amazingly concentrated with cassis, liquorice, chocolate and white pepper in the balanced bouquet. Intense structure with perfectly supporting acidity and a fantastic length on the palate. Long and spectacular aftertaste. Child #2 of the legendary 1963. 99
QUINTA DO NOVAL VINTAGE PORT NACIONAL 1994 – Extremely dark-red colour. White pepper, red-berry fruit and a spice mix on the underlying expressive nose. The 94 has not fully woken up yet. Tannic palate with white pepper, raspberry, plums and milk chocolate. Long aftertaste with a lot of finesse. Child #1 of the legendary 1963 98+
QUINTA DO NOVAL VINTAGE PORT NACIONAL 1963 – This is the Vintage Port which most people would like to take to their lonely island. High-scores everywhere and so much life ahead that it almost frightens you: The colour is easily 10-20 years younger of what you would expect. Deep, dark-red colour with lots of reflections. Perfectly balanced bouquet with finesse and intensity. Long and multi-layered aftertaste. Tasted last year at the Quinta. Port-Heaven! 100
Next in line: Taylors Vargellas – Vinhas Velhas (VVV)
Alike the Noval Nacional the Taylors VVV does not strictly follow the General Declaration years. Since its first year of production in 1995 (no General Declaration, great Ports though), vintages 1997, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2017 followed. Most of the grapes are picked from four different very old plots at Vargellas with different altitudes. All of these four plots (Polverinho, Renova do Depósito, Renova do Armazém and Gricha) are either North- or Nortwest-facing and produce fresh and concentrated Ports. Head-enologist David Guimaraens states: “The remarkable characteristic of the Vinha Velha Vintage Ports is their multi-dimensional complexity and their distinctive and subtle personality. This derives from the rich diversity of grape varieties planted on these old terraces, many of which are traditional varieties not widely used today.”
VINTAGE PORT VARGELLAS VINHAS VELHAS 2017 – The first VVV after 2011, hence the longest gap since 1995: Violet reflections in the pitch-dark colour. Reductive spicy fruit, the nose shows that there are lots of layers underneath. Tobacco, cherry, dark chocolate and redcurrant. Fantastic complexity on the palate with white pepper, tobacco, lots of red-berry fruit and cherry. Perfectly structured tannins and acidity. Long, multi-layered aftertaste. A little more than 5.000 bottles. 96
VINTAGE PORT VARGELLAS VINHAS VELHAS 2011 – Also from a fantastic year, this VVV shows a deep, dark-red colour. Same stylistic on the bouquet with a complex, but balanced spicy fruit. Raspberry, chocolate, white pepper, tobacco and cherry with very nice integrated acidity. Long and adstringent aftertaste. 95
VINTAGE PORT VARGELLAS VINHAS VELHAS 2007 – If you taste this side-by-side with the regular Taylors Vintage Port from the same year, it immediately reveals that this is his bigger brother: Floral, complex nose with tobacco, cherry and blackcurrant. Concentrated and intense on the palate, the bouquet is reductive in the beginning, but develops very nicely with every minute aerating. After two hours: fantastic complexity with cherry, chocolate and liquorice. Long aftertaste. Port of the vintage. 94
Quinta do Tedo – Savedra Vintage Port
Already in 2000 the Bouchard family decided to bottle the small Savedra-plot by itself and not to blend it into the Vintage Ports. Exposed almost fully south and very close to the river, Savedra only produces Port as winemaker Jorge Alves uses to say: “In the first years we have left too many raisins in the blend, but learned this with further harvests”. Years of Savedra production were 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Savedra directly faces Dirk Niepoorts Quinta de Napoles on the easterly side of the Rio Tedo.
VINTAGE PORT SAVEDRA 2017 – Intense violet Reflexes in the almost black colour. Fresh-floral bouquet with elegant liquorice, cassis and tobacco. Present ripe tannins and very good supporting acidity. Fresh red-berry fruit, cherry and chocolate. Long aftertaste with a hint astringency. 93
VINTAGE PORT SAVEDRA 2000 – Transparent dark-red colour. Fresh-fruity nose with noticeable acidity. Cherry, plum and chocolate, a hint jammy with some mineral notes. Complex and structured palate with chocolate and hints of plum. Very fine tannins. Long and fresh aftertaste. Already developed. 91
Niepoort Pisca/Bioma Vintage Port
With the harvest 2007 two more big names in the Port world joined the “Limited Edition Vintage Port-Club”: The Symingtons at their Quinta do Vesuvio and Dirk Niepoort with his Pisca Vintage Port. Niepoort bought the vineyard Pisca in 2003, but its grapes have been part of their Vintage Ports for a very long time. With some 7,5 hectares, Dirk Niepoort’s intention was to prevail the uniqueness of the vineyard with bottling Pisca/Bioma rather than selling it as a Edition Vintage Port. He started in 2007 with “Pisca”, but due to some legal constrains he re-named this to “Bioma” in the years 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. With the fantastic harvest 2017 Niepoort finally decided to bottle it as “BIOMA – Vinha da Pisca” and to sell this on a Noval-Nacional Price level. The production varies between 2.000 and 5.000 bottles and the Pisca vineyard is situated between the beautiful Quinta do Crasto and Quinta Nova on the north side of the Douro. Vinha da Pisca lies approximately 150 meters higher than the Douro, but being fully south facing and framed by the surrounding terraces, temperatures in the vineyards are often higher than close to the river. “You only can make fantastic Ports, but no still wines there. Port vineyards like exaggerated conditions” Dirk Niepoort states. Bioma Vinha da Pisca is also one of the few exceptions which uses the maximum legal ageing for Vintage Ports in cask for up to three years before bottling.
VINTAGE PORT BIOMA VINHA DA PISCA 2017 – Deep violet reflections in the concentrated, dark-red colour. Rustic, complex bouquet with tobacco, liquorice and tar, balanced red berry fruit. Rough, ripe tannic structure in the palate with perfectly supporting acidity. Cassis, cherry, chocolate and liquorice. Long and multi-layered aftertaste. Fantastic old school Port. 99
VINTAGE PORT BIOMA 2011 – Dark-red colour. Intense, but balanced spicy bouquet with cherry, blackcurrant and tobacco. Noticeable tannic structure on the palate, chocolate, red-berry-fruit mix with a spicy background. Long and complex aftertaste. Great ageing potential. 97
Hidden Champion: VINTAGE PORT BIOMA 2008 - Although 2008 was a rather cool year and produced somewhat one-dimensional Ports elsewhere, the 2008 Bioma Vintage Port shows a fantastic liveliness: Already somewhat transparent colour at the rim with little reflexes. Seductive floral bouquet with some hints of cassis, vanilla, tobacco and cherry. Perfectly integrated acidity in the palate with cherry, chocolate, hints of cassis and white pepper. Long aftertaste, very nicely supported by the acidity. 94
Vesuvio Capela de Vesuvio
Also in 2007 winemaker Charles Symington chose three top parcels within the Quinta do Vesuvio: Vinha da Capela, Vinha da Escola and Vale da Teja to produce a Limited Edition Vintage Port. With an average of 3.500 bottles in the years 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2017 Capela de Vesuvio perfectly shows this combination of concentration and freshness. The century-old field blend of Vinha da Capela, longer skin contact in smaller lagares add concentration and the freshness is received from the Vinha da Escolha, which lies much lower between the house and the railway.
VINTAGE PORT 2017 CAPELA – Deep, dark red colour with medium intense violet reflections. The nose reveals cherry, cassis, milk chocolate and precise minerality. Perfectly supporting acidity and ripe tannins on the palate, nice structured casiss, black currant, green tea and liquorice. Long, fruit-driven aftertaste. 97(2019)
VINTAGE PORT 2016 CAPELA – Tight, almost black colour. White pepper, a mix of red-berry fruit and tobacco on the nose. Slightly sharp, but fresh palate with cherry, chocolate and fresh tobacco. Long aftertaste. 94
Born in one of the biggest years in the 21st Century: Grahams The Stone Terraces
“Two small 18th century schist stone-terraced vineyards at Graham’s flagship Quinta dos Malvedos have constantly produced extraordinary Ports” Henry Shotton stated when asked about the origins of “The Stone Terraces Vintage Port”. “Port Arthur”, a 1,2 hectar plot east-facing at around 110 meters altitude and “Vinha dos Cardenhos”, just 0,6 hectares, facing west and perfectly surrounded by stone walls, are the two chosen plots, providing just 3.000 vines in total. Although planted in the old vinhas velhas style, Touriga Nacional is the predominant grape of the two vineyards. “None of these vineyards is facing south, which enables us to bottle a Port not only with a huge concentration, but also some balancing freshness” says Charles Symington.
VINTAGE PORT 2011 „THE STONE TERRACES“ – Almost black colour with a violet rim. Fresh and spicy bouquet with chocolate, violets, tobacco and white pepper, the red-berry fruit is currently reductive. Soft and structured palate with an intensive complexity, ripe tannins and a perfectly integrated acidity. Chocolate, cherry, violets, plums and tobacco. Long, fantastically structured, multy-layered aftertaste. Only 3.000 bottles produced. 98+
VINTAGE PORT 2017 „THE STONE TERRACES“ – The most recent Vintage Port differs a bit from the classic line of the three predecessors. Bright violet reflections in the dark-red, almost black colour. Mango and passionfruit in the nose, behind this the classic cassis- and dark-berry aromas and milk-chocolate. The palate transports the tropical fruit of the nose to the tongue, noticeable ripe tannic structure, tobacco and liquorice. Long, complex and fresh aftertaste. A bit funky, but on a very high level. 96
A bit under the radar – Ferreira Vinhas Velhas Vintage Port
Just once and just 4.000 bottles, Ferreira launched the 2016 Vinhas Velhas Vintage Port in certain markets a little bit after the regular Ferreira Vintage Port. Also belonging to the Sogrape Group, Ferreira and Offley always have to bow for their bigger company-brother Sandeman and are always a bit left in the shadow, so that some countries did not have a proper introduction to the market.
Ferreira’s top enologist Luis Sottomayor has planned the Vintage Port Vinhas Velhas project already for some years and was only happy with the grape quality in 2016 with grapes originating mainly from Quintas do Porto and do Caêdo. Vinhas Velhas actually means “old vines”, but rather corresponds to the mixed plantations that the old generations used in the Douro Valley and are still in effect nowadays. To spice up the VV blend, Sottomayor selected an additional of 5% Sousao for colour and acidity and 10% Touriga Nacional for fruit and freshness.
VINTAGE PORT 2016 VINHAS VELHAS – Big, matt dark-red colour. Liquorice, tobacco, cassis, violets and milk-chocolate on the very complex, but balanced bouquet which is getting more complex with every minute “on air”. Strong, juicy and spicy red-berry fruit, milk-chocolate, liquorice and firm tannins. Extremely long and multi-layered finish. A terrific start into the world of Limited Edition Vintage Ports. 97
Croft Quinta da Roêda SERIKOS Vintage Port
Vintage 2017 generated the last and most recent member in the Limited Edition Vintage Port-family. The parcels Benedita, Ferradura and Galeria contain the oldest vines (planted between 1889 and 1900) and always produced very intense Ports at Croft’s Quinta da Roêda. Therefore head-winemaker David Guimaraens picked the grapes for the Sērikos exactly from these areas. The name reflects a dark part of the history of the quinta, since it was almost transferred to a silk plantation, but luckily the vines prevailed. Produced from the famous five grape varieties Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinto Cao, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz, Guimaraens states: “The ﬁrst Sērikos has all the typicity of Roêda, with its opulence, silky texture and ﬁne scented quality.”
VINTAGE PORT 2017 SERIKOS – Black-violet colour with little reflections. Complex, but little reductive bouquet, which does not show everything it will offer in the future yet. Cherry, cassis, violets and tobacco. Soft, multi-layered palate with fresh coffee, cassis, cherry and a perfectly supporting acidity. Long, complex, multi-layered aftertaste. 2.425 bottles. 98