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THE SUPREME EXPRESSION OF THE TERROIR OF QUINTA DO NOVAL
Quinta do Noval Vintage Port is characterised by its purity of fruit and a fine, delicate quality that is typical of the wines of the property in general, but which finds its most remarkable and enduring expression in the Vintage Ports. Equilibrium, harmony, finesse and elegance characterise our great Vintage Ports, which are declared only when we are certain that the year has produced a blend, however small, that is worthy of bearing the name of Quinta do Noval Vintage Port.
Noval follows its own path in its approach to Vintage Port. If we believe that we have wines of the quality and personality to join the ranks of the Quinta do Noval Vintage Ports of previous years, we will bottle it and declare it, even if this means declaring several years in a row, and even if it means, as is often the case, bottling only a few hundred cases of Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, representing a tiny percentage of the total production of the Quinta.
Of course, in very great years, when there is unanimity among Port producers, and a General Declaration results, Quinta do Noval will declare its wine also, and perhaps with a little more wine than usual. But whatever the year, the standards of selection in the Noval tasting room are extremely rigorous, and even in the more generous years volumes of our Vintage Ports are always extremely small: at the very most, less than 20% of the production of our great vineyard terroir.
The name of Quinta do Noval first appeared in land registries in 1715. The property was owned for more than a century by the Rebello Valente family, who were given it by the Marquês do Pombal, Portugal’s all-powerful prime minister. In the early 19th Century,the
estate passed by marriage to the Viscount Vilar D’Allen, who was renowned for hosting wild parties at Noval, transporting dancing girls from the Folies Bergères.
By the 1880s the Douro had been ravaged by phylloxera and, like many estates, Quinta do Noval was put on the market.In 1894 it was bought by the distinguished port shipper António José da Silva.
Da Silva breathed new life into Quinta do Noval, replanting the vineyards and renovating buildings on the estate. His work was continued by his son-in-law, Luiz Vasconcelos Porto, who ran the company for nearly three decades. He was responsible for an extensive programme of innovation, transforming the old narrow terraces into the wide white-washed ones seen today, which allowed for better use of space and more exposure to the sun. At the
time, this was considered revolutionary thinking. He also built Noval’s image in the UK, focusing his attention on Oxford,Cambridge and private clubs.
Noval made its reputation with the declaration of 1931 - arguably the most sensational port of
the 20th Century (and certainly the most expensive).Due to world recession and vast shipments of 27’s, only three shippers
declared 1931. To this day, Quinta do Noval remains the only Portuguese house to have made its name to any great extent in the British
and US vintage port market.
Throughout the century, other port shippers have followed where Noval has led. For example, the first stencilled bottles were introduced by Noval in the 1920s; Noval pioneered the concept of Old Tawnies with an indication of age (10, 20 and over 40 years) and in 1958 was the first house to introduce a late-bottled vintage: 1954 Quinta do Noval LBV.
Vasconcelos Porto retired in 1963 and his grandsons, Fernando and Luiz Van Zeller,took
over the company. Another extensive programme of modernisation was embarked upon, including new vinification equipment, new vine plantations and bottling the vast majority of
wines in Vila Nova de Gaia (in 1963 only some 15% of Noval ports were bottled there; fifteen years later the figure was 85%).
In the autumn of 1981 a catastrophic fire swept through Noval’s lodge, bottling plant and
offices in Vila Nova de Gaia, destroying 350,000 litres of stock, 20,000 bottles of the 1978 vintage and more than two centuries worth of records. The following year a new generation of the family entered the company: Cristiano and Teresa Van Zeller, great grandchildren of Luiz Vasconcelos Porto, then aged 23 and 22 respectively.
In 1982 building began of a vast lodge at Quinta do Noval. In 1986 the Portuguese
government changed the shipping laws, allowing port houses to export directly from the Douro. Noval was the first major house to be able to take advantage of the new legislation and announced in 1989 that it would be moving most of its stock to the Douro.
In May 1993 the Van Zeller family sold the company to AXA, one of the world’s largest insurance groups. The deal included the 145 hectare estate, together with stocks and production facilities.
In October 1993 Englishman Christian Seely was appointed Managing Director of Quinta do Noval. In 1994 Noval began a major programme of technical improvements, including replanting and renovation of the vineyards, a new vinification centre, improvements to the Douro Lodge and the construction of a new warehouse and bottling plant in the Douro.
Thisprogramme completes Noval’s move to the Douro, making it the first traditional shipping
company to move its stocks and operations from Vila Nova de Gaia to the Douro Valley.In January 2001 Christian Seely was appointed Managing Director of AXA Millésimes with over all responsibility of all the AXA properties replacing the recently retired Jean Michel Cazes.
Remaining Managing Director of Quinta do Noval, Seely has strengthened the management team: António Agrellos as Technical Director, with overall responsibility for production, winemaking and blending, Filipe Salgado as Finance and Administration Director, Aymeric de Gironde as Sales Director.