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Port - Tawny or Ruby? - 2016 Port Vintage reviewed

As mentioned in my previous article Portugal is famous for Port, however, it is producing some phenomenal dry red wines. If you have not already done so, I would highly recommend enjoying still wines as well as Port wines from Portugal.

 

My trip to Portugal would not be complete without a tasting of the best 2016 Vintage Port's. These Ports are now being released to the International market. So the question everyone is asking. Should I buy the 2016 vintage Port?

Points on Wine - Top 2016 Vinage and Ruby Port

The 2016 growing season did not start out as it was meant to. A warm and wet winter, followed by a cool and damp spring, meant flowering occurred later than normal. Luckily a hot summer was around the corner which helped to ripen the grapes quicker than normal. The wet winter and spring meant the soil had more than enough water, to provide sufficient relief from the hot heat spikes. Without this water being present, the vines would have struggled and the 2016 Vintage would not have been declared. September brought additional sunshine but rain as well and so the winemakers had to choose exactly when to pick, ensuring not to pick too early. Timing is everything, picking too early means you do not get the residual sugar and the acids might be too high. Picking too late means over ripen grapes. The harvest started in the second half of September, due to the slopes in the Douro, most picking is done both during the day and by hand. This is a labor-intensive process. The treading of grapes still occurs in the majority of Port houses, as this is seen as the best way to slowly extract the best color, tannins, and flavors out of the wine. Machines will never be able to produce the same quality of the wine, I was told by many winemakers. Once pressed and fermented the Port is then aged in cask for around 2 years prior to bottling. 

 

What many do not realize is that Vintage Port is not produced every year, some producers do, however, the top producers will only produce it when the conditions are perfect. This can be around twice a decade! When all of the top Port houses produce a Vintage Port, a 'Declared Vintage' is announced. The previous 'declared vintage' was in 2011, and so there was a lot of excitement around the declared 2016 vintage. Was it as good as 2011? My impressions, and having spoken to many winemakers, is that 2016 is similar to 2007 with a little more freshness, not quite as elegant as 2011 though. This is definitely though a vintage to get excited about, and there is a purity in fruit and freshness which allows these wines to be enjoyed young. However, care should be made, since these wines will go through a dormant period between 4-8 years after the vintage. The wines will close up, so try to not open than during these years! If wines are opened, make sure to properly decant. This will allow the wines to properly open.

The other style of Port I tried were Tawny Ports. These Port's were aged in cask for 10,20 even up to 50+ years. These styles of Port will taste more oxidized with more nutty, caramel and butterscotch notes. The year on the bottle will state the minimum time that these wines would have been aged in cask for, however, most producers will age them a lot longer. One of the Tawny's I tried at Quinta do Vallado which stated 40 years, actually had an average of over 60! 

 

My tasting took me to Quinta do Vallado, Quinta Vale Dona Maria, Graham's Port Lodge and Quinta do Noval. The recipe for the Tawny Ports had changed very little, however, I felt a smoother, round and more complex style of Tawny than what I remember. The producers seem to be aging the Tawnys for longer than the minimum requirement, as well as the care during the aging process, really showed a better final product. As for the 2016's as I mentioned above, I was impressed to see at the quality of these vintage port's at this age, I will also be following these Vintage Port's through their lives to see how they evolve.

At Quinta do Vallado, the 40-year-old Tawny(95 points), showed wonderful age and texture with notes of tobacco, coffee, caramel, and salted butter. The requirement here was 40 years, however, the average age was much higher.  Their Vintage Adelaide 2015 (95 points), Port was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the purity of fruit, the length, and finesse.This wine saw no oak.  

Tawny Port's were also tasted and rated

At Quinta Vale Dona Maria, I experienced a very smooth and refined 30-year-old tawny (94 points), which was less on the toffee and more white chocolate and vanilla, this showed wonderful balance. The 2016 Quinta Vale Dona Maria Vintage Port (96 points) was just sublime, with lush fruit and fresh herbs along with velvety tannins, this Vintage Port is just beginning its life. Try not to pop the cork too early on this one!

Quinta do Vallado Adelaide 2015, 95 points. The purity of the fruit was just sensational!

Points on Wine - Top 2016 Vinage and Ruby Port

Cristiano van Zellar proudly presenting his 2016 Vintage Port

Back in Porto, and I went straight to one of the most Famous families in the Port business. The Symington family owns a number of Port houses, and I tried 3 of their most famous Vintage Port's. Dow's, Warre's and Graham's 2016 Vintage Ports. The three vintage Port's showed completely different characteristics. The Dow 2016 Vintage Port (91 points) showed leather and dried flowers along with the classic red fruit profile, this had very grippy tannins which were very much present. This is one for the cellar and needs time to settle out. Graham's 2016 Vintage Port (94 points) showed notes of lush sweet red fruits along with candied cherries and ripe tannins. This had more of a sweeter profile than the other Vintage Port's tried, again very different and very unique. I enjoyed this a lot.

Port of the 2016 Vintage: Quinta do Noval - 97 Points

The final Vintage Port tried was the Warre's 2016 Vintage Port (95 points), this was very approachable, and showed notes of nutmeg, black fruit and was powerful yet refined. This was rich, layered and delicious. I also was lucky enough to experience the 1994 Single harvest Tawny (95 points). This showed incredible balance and a wonderful display of dried fruit, caramel, nutmeg, and a smooth finish.  

At Quinta do Noval, I tried their range of both Port and dry still wines. The dry wines have been covered in the previous report. The highlight of the Port range was the Quinta do Noval 2016 Vintage Port (97 points), this was my Port of the Vintage. It had everything you could want from a Vintage Port. Notes of lush fresh fruit, raspberry, strawberry and nutmeg, the tannins were refined and smooth and even though. a little shy at this age, there was enough acidity to show there was a long life ahead for this wonderfully rich and balanced Vintage Port.

Bottom Line

Port has been made for centuries, and even though the traditions of foot stomping and hand harvesting have not changed, the quality has improved vintage after vintage. I cannot point my finger on it, but the Port producers have found a way to mix the modern winemaking techniques with the traditional methods to produce wines which are truly sublime and improve year after year. The 2016 Port vintage was hugely anticipated, and with the quality available on the market this is definitely a vintage Port enthusiast will embrace. My Port of the Vintage goes to Quinta do Noval 2016 Vintage Port (97 points). This has all of the qualities of a legendary Port, which will be enjoyed for decades to come. 

Quinta do Noval Porto Vintage 2016

97 points

Port of the vintage! Beautiful ruby color, ripe cherries, and strawberries on the nose, followed by a less sweet more refined palate of spice, red fruits, a little nutmeg, well-balanced tannins along with acidity, purity of fruit is impressive, finish is long and elegant. This should be kept for 15-20 years before it hits its peak.

Quinta Vale D. Maria Porto Vintage 2016

96 points

Pure elegance, blackberry, racy velvety tannins with chocolates and a wonderful purity of black fruits. Elegant finish, not overly sweet, everything well balanced. This is textbook Port and I can only see this getting better and better.

Quinta do Vallado Porto Adelaide 2015

95 points

Fantastic bouquet of fruit! Made from Touriga Nacional (40%), 60% mixed old vineyards. These grapes were trodden along with 50% bunches which allowed for a slow extraction. The wine was then allowed to age for 20 months in stainless steel, no wood was seen! This ensures the purity and freedom of the fruit and allows for the fruit to be front and center. There are, of course, little and soft tannins, and tastes lighter compared to other ports, however, the bouquet of fruit which settles on the palate is just phenomenal. Dark and red fruits, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries. Do not expect to have to age this for 30 years, you can enjoy this now or wait 10 years to drink it at it's prime.

Warre Porto Vintage 2016

95 points

My favourite from the Symington Family, very approachable at this age. Black fruit, cloves, nutmeg, powerful yet refined on the nose. On the palate, I found a bouquet of raspberry, chocolate, velvety texture with an elegant finish. The highlight of the tasting, This just sings and is beautifully balanced from A-Z. Rich, layered and delicious.

Quinta do Vallado Porto 40 Year Old Tawny

95 points

Excellent tawny! Was told the average age was close to 60 and not 40 as what was stated, this was much darker with notes of tobacco, coffee, caramel, salted butter. The finish was phenomenal and lasted for well over 45 seconds. This was so wonderfully balanced, silky and soft, yes soft! No hard edges just elegance.

Graham Porto single harvest tawny 1994

95 points

This was really singing with well balanced smooth tannins, the classic dried fruits, caramel, spice, nutmeg, vanilla with a delicate smooth finish. No effort is required to fully enjoy this tawny, the sugar content is significantly less as well, the only question, shall I have another glass?

Graham Porto Vintage 2016

94 points

 

Sweet notes of black fruit, burnt oranges, strawberries, on the palate I found lush sweet fruits, candied cherries, mint with gripping ripe tannins. The palate was lush, round and enticing. This is one for the cellar and to re-visit in 10 years. Impressive layers of sweet fruit.

Quinta Vale D. Maria Porto 30 year tawny

94 points

Wonderful tawny with notes of white chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch elegant and toffy finish. Not overly toffy, very smooth.

Graham Porto 30 Year Old Tawny

93 points

Dried candied fruits, heavy figs, caramel, herbs with a finish of butterscotch, this has a light delicate finish for a tawny of this age. The notes of vanilla and nutmeg also complement the finish. Well balanced.

Quinta do Noval Porto Late Bottled Vintage 2012

93 points

A lot more round and refined than other LBV's this has been aged for 6 years, however, unlike other LBV's this can easily age for another 5-8 years for further enjoyment. This had notes of caramel raisin bread, dates and blackberries followed by a wonderful lush finish.

Quinta do Noval Porto 20 Year Old Tawny

93 points

 

Smooth and refined with caramelized bramble apple, butter, burnt sugar round and smooth finish

Quinta do Vallado Porto 20 Year Old Tawny

92 points

Quite dark in color with notes of caramel, cinnamon, sugar tart, dried fruit, and figs. Nicely balanced with lowish acidity. Smooth finish and no hot aftertaste. Well made

Churchill/Graham Porto 20 Year Old Tawny

92 points

Light color, heavy on the figs, orange peel, candied dried fruit with a caramel style finish. I found this more on the fruit that the 10-year-old.

Dow Porto Vintage 2016

91 points

 

Dark ripe fruit of blackberry and cherry, leather notes, dry flowers, quite lively with dry grippy tannins. Tart fruit and spice fill the mouth, this is one for the cellar, would not touch this for 15 years. Do not drink young

Quinta do Noval Porto 10 Year Old Tawny

91 points

Amber colour, the nose had notes of fig and caramel, the palate had a light delicate apple, butterscotch with an easy finish, approachable and smooth.

Graham Porto 10 Year Old Tawny

90 points

10-year-old tawny with a balance of figs and honey, caramel finish. Nice length

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