Chris Wilson declares 2016 a game of two halves after all the top port houses declares 2016 a vintage – the first time since 2011. The good news is that the wines are truly exceptional; the bad news is that yields are low which makes being quick off the mark with your buying decisions all the more important. Catch up then with Wilson’s top 12 ports of the vintage.
All the major houses teamed up to showcase their latest vintage port under one roof at the recent 2016 Vintage Port Preview tasting in London.
There are two sides to every story and indeed every calendar year, and 2016 is no exception. Yes 2016 saw Brexit and the deaths of Bowie, Cohen, Prince et al, but some good things happened too; giant pandas became un-endangered, the Paris Climate Change agreement came into force, Leonardo di Caprio finally won an Oscar and exceptional port was produced across the Douro Valley.
Only in April this year was it officially confirmed that 2016 was a great year for Port across the board when the first general declaration since 2011 was made.
All major Port players – Fladgate, Symington, Quinta Do Noval and Churchill’s – have declared vintages and organised trade tastings to showcase wines from this ‘exceptional’ year, the only slight problem being low yields which have markedly affected quantities available.
Weather played a significant part in this respect with growers having to cope with a cold, wet spring, a hot, dry summer and rain in September, but they were rewarded with exceptional quality fruit (albeit at the expense of high yields).
Taylor’s reported that production was down by more than half for an average year to just 6,000 cases, while Symington’s volumes were down by 20-30% on its last vintage year of 2011.
For the first time in its history the Symington Family Estates has listed on the front label of all its vintage ports how many cases have been produced:
- Graham’s: 6,325 cases; Dow’s: 5,480 cases; Warre’s: 4,250 cases; Cockburn’s: 2,450 cases; Smith Woodhouse: 1,500 cases; Quinta de Roriz: 390 cases.
Ahead of releasing the wines Symington, along with The Fladgate Partnership (Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft) and Quinta Do Noval teamed up to organise a tasting of all of their freshly bottled 2016 vintage ports. Here’s a look at these wines.
Fleshy and leafy with a whiff of the winery about it. Deep purple hue with abundant berry fruit and hedgerow aromas and flavours. A bite of acidity and a long muscular finish.
Mulberry and freshly cut herbs hit first, followed by cherries and berries and a heady alcoholic heat. This is soothed by mint and lavender. Long, clean, lush finish and delicate balance.
More savoury on initial taste with liquorice and seaweed punctuating the crème de cassis and ripe plum characters. Wonderfully textured with grippy tannins and carefully judged acidity.
Bright and showy with raspberry and blackcurrant fruit as well as a minty, green profile. Tannins are full and ripe and add to the complexity and texture.
The first wine where the mineral characters really shout to be heard. There are herbs too and dark plum fruit. It’s fresh and weighty in the mouth; a port of real authority.
There’s a saline edge to this incredibly fresh wine. Then come the violets and rose along with a whack of black fruit and plums. There’s a greenness too and a deft elegance.
Aromatic and spicy this is clean cut with ripe raspberry and cherry characters. The tannins are tight and ever present as is a vein of minerality which underpins the fruit and sweet spice.
This is less fruit-forward than most with floral and savoury green characters more immediate. So there’s violets and green tea as well as a suggestion of black pepper and a delicious creamy finish.
Quinta Do Noval 2016
There’s a delicious and comforting warmth about this; all the fruit (damsons, cranberries, raspberries) is ripe and full-bodied and it’s balanced well by black pepper spice and a chewy ‘greenness’.
Quinta Do Noval Nacional 2016
More brooding that the Noval and richer with black rather than red fruit. There’s spice too (clove, cardamom) and generous acidity which makes for a super-fresh finish.
Quinta Do Vesuvio 2016
A bold, brazen port with sticky red fruit as well as floral and pine-forest characters. There’s heat here too and keen tannins, all masked by an overwhelming smoothness.
This is expressive and intense with red and black berry fruit and a herby tingle around the edges. There’s candy floss too and a velvety texture; very drinkable now and so light-footed.