AGEING THE PORTS
After vinification comes the ageing stage. The wine, which is now in barrels or wooden vats, is pumped up so that the grape spirit added during the drawing-off phase will mix perfectly into the must. All the necessary analyses and adjustments are made over the next few weeks, so that the Port may then at last be left to rest on its lees ...
The first racking generally takes place four months later. At this stage the wine is tasted with particular attention, and some of the blending begins: the wines from the Ruby and Tawny categories are the first to be selected and blended. The most spectacular wines, meanwhile, will be left a little longer to refine their aromas separately, and it is only later, depending on how their qualities evolve, that they will be guided towards the Vintage or other prestige categories.
Racking, which involves moving the wine from one container to another, plays an extremely important role in achieving the final quality. At Quinta do Noval, four rackings are carried out the first year, three the second year, and two the third year. Further racking then takes place whenever necessary, and sometimes younger wines are added at the same time as the racking in order to preserve all the freshness. What is the point of racking? It makes it easier to fill the various vats, prevents the wine from acquiring a bad taste, and more generally helps it evolve in the right direction. The Port is therefore prepared under the best possible conditions for the next stage: blending.
QUINTA DO NOVAL NACIONAL
No other vintage port attracts more attention than Quinta do Noval’s Nacional and its collectability can be partly attributed to its
tiny production. Only 200 - 300 cases are produced in a declared year.
This represents a tiny percentage of Quinta do Noval’s production of vintage port (between 1,200 and 5,000 cases in each declared year). Nacional’s two and a half hectares of ungrafted vines are almost indistinguishable amongst the estate’s spectacular amphitheatre of immaculate, terraced vineyards, set high above the Pinhão Valley in the Cima Corgo region of the Douro.
The precise origin of Nacional remains unknown as most of the quinta’s records were destroyed in 1981 when a catastrophic fire swept through Noval’s headquarters in Vila Nova de Gaia. Most of Noval’s vineyards were severely damaged by phylloxera when it ravaged
the Douro region during the 1880’s and 1890’s.
Along with every other grower, António José da Silva (who bought the estate in 1894) began to replant his vineyards with American vines, grafting on vinifera types. It seems that da Silva selected a tiny parcel of the quinta’s vineyards and began extensive fumigation of the soil with a sulphur solution. The first Nacional vines were planted in 1925. The legendary quality of 1931 Nacional is even more
remarkable if one takes into account that many of the vines were between four and seven years old.
The estate of Quinta do Noval includes about 6,000 Nacional vines, with an average age of
30 years. Rows of Nacional alternate with rows of grafted vines in a section of the estatejust
below the house, with an exceptional south west exposure. The vines are planted at a density of c. 2,000 vines per acre in traditional terraces with each vine having a space of approximately 3 x 4.5 feet. Like the rest of the estate, the soil of the Nacional plot is essentially infertile schist. It is high in potash with tiny amounts of nitrates, phosphates and organic matter. Although phylloxera is endemic, Nacional vines live just as long as grafted ones: 50 years or more. Their very existence remains a viticultural mystery and triumph. Most Nacional vines are widely acknowledged as some of the best grape varieties for Port:
Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa and Tinto Cão, as well as Sousão.
What are the declared vintage years for Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional ?
2011,2003, 2000, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1991, 1987, 1985, 1984, 1983, 1982, 1980, 1978, 1975, 1970,
1967, 1966, 1964, 1963, 1962, 1960, 1958, 1955, 1950, 1945, 1934, 1931
Nacional GRAPE VARIETIES
It is produced using several grape varieties and not just from Touriga Nacional, as it name might suggest. These varieties are some of the noblest to be found in the Douro valley: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Sousão.
WHERE THE GRAPES COME FROM
All the grapes come from the Nacional plot in the Quinta do Noval vineyard.
The wine is made in the same way as all the other grapes from the Quinta do Noval vineyard. Grapes are trodden by foot to obtain the must, then during fermentation are pressed in lagares, the traditional stone vats from the Quinta.
The Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage is matured in seasoned oak vats with a capacity of 2,500 litres.