July 09: A vast majority of Ports (not Goan- but Real McCoy from Porto/Douro ) are Tawny, Ruby, Reserve, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) but a tiny fraction is Vintage Port made from single vintage in excellent weather but generally 3 times in a decade; back to back Vintage is practically unheard of so after 2016 Vintage, the declaration of 2017 as a Vintage year has been unusual but welcome news for the Porto producers with many claiming it to be the vintage of the century, vying with the top vintage 1945. Subhash Arora reports about Taylor and Niepoort Vintage Ports 2017 he tasted recently
The 2017 is undoubtedly a vintage that is extremely impressive in the Douro region. It’s not only the still red and white wines that show excellence balance, homogeneity and potential for maturing but even the Ports have been simply sensational.
Port wine has many things common with Bordeaux apart from a supportive market in UK and the en Primeur campaign of both the wine regions. However, when a vintage is universally declared for Port it is because the wine is of such superior quality that it warrants a special recognition. Generally, only 3 years in 10 are declared Vintage by most Port producers and it is rarely in back to back years.
Thus 2017 vintage is an unusual happenstance after an excellent 2016. Initially, the producers were cautious in declaring it as a Vintage but decided that it bucked the tradition and deserved to be a Vintage too. And many already feel it is the best Vintage of the century, vying to share the honours with the 1945, considered the best Port of 20th century,
For Taylor the vine growing season was superb. The fruit had extremely high sugar and potential alcohol, with small berries with extremely thick skins. This meant the wine would ferment longer and ideal for a fuller and more vinous style which both Taylor and Niepoort like. Internally, the winemakers feel it is closest to the excellent 1945 vintage.
In addition, Taylor’s is delighted to announce that it will bottle a Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port. This will be only the eighth Vargellas Vinha Velha (old vines) ever to be released.
According to David Guimarāes, Chief Winemaker for Taylor Fladgate, “The thick skinned, beautifully ripened grapes have produced dense, firmly structured wines, quite reserved at this early stage but with impressive depth and reserves of aroma. The 2017 is classic Taylor’s, with fine, linear fruit and the signature floral scent.”
Regarding the Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port 2017, he opines, "I think 2017 Vargellas Vinha Velha is a superb example of what the old vineyards are capable of achieving. The wine has all the density and depth of the 2017 vintage but is wonderfully multidimensional, the diversity of vines varieties in the five historic vineyard plots contributing to its aromatic complexity."
Taylor’s Vintage Port was declared to be a classic vintage on 23 April, 2019 according to the traditions of the house but will be released later this year and will be priced at around €100. Vargellas Vinha Velha 2017 Vintage Port will be priced at around €130.
Dirk Niepoort, one of the five Douro Boys, is a highly respected winemaker who is well-regarded for his excellent quality of Ports, but also makes excellent dry wines-and not only with indigenous grapes. I tasted an excellent Niepoort Pinot Noir 2006 with him. He has been working with a producer in Vinho Verde and convinced him to make red wine in a region where it is considered almost sacrilegious to make reds. He might be avant-garde in his demeanour but one of the revered winemakers of Douro.
The fifth generation family winemaker is proud of the fact that the Niepoort1863 Port that he had re-bottled in a Lalique glass container fetched over $150,000 each at a Hong Kong auction in November 2018, making it the most expensive Port bottle in the world. ‘It was in demijohn. I had got it filled in 6 beautiful Lalique Crystal bottles. Two were sold at this auction and 4 are lying at Lalique, duly packed and ready for sale. He had a small quantity in n unmarked bottle which he was happy to share with me. It was really a historic moment to taste and sip the 100 pointer from James suckling and the 20/20 awarded wine by Jancis Robinson, matured for 155 years and still so fresh and not too sweet elegant moniker with excellent balance and brick colour.
That’s when he mentioned about the 2017 Port of which he had a cask sample, being perhaps the best vintage port of the century-it would come very close to 1945. At my request he brought the sample and I could understand what he meant. A perfect example of a well-made Port, thanks in part to such perfect weather that most producers had asked for their Port to be labelled as Vintage Port. The dense wine is very vinous, pure with firm structure and great balance. It may be mentioned that for a Port to be declared Vintage the producer must approach the IVPP (Port and Douro Wine Institute- Instituto do Vinho do Porto) with his sample 2 years after fermentation.
Dirk feels it is the best Vintage produced by him-he joined the family business in 2012. It is in fact, the winemaking journey that encompassed a total of over 30 years and culminating into the perfect wine for him. However, you must pay a pretty penny to acquire it at € 90 a bottle, he says. But with an ageing potential of 40-50 or even possibly a 100 years or more, the price is bound to appreciate, though it may not reach the astronomical figure of 1863 vintage.
If you really want to own a little bit of the future now, buy a case or two of Dirk Niepoort’s Vintage 2017. It is apparently also available at cheaper price if you can get it @ £245 for a case of 6, which is much cheaper at €46 a bottle.
Both these wines display a fine focused fruit and floral dimension typical of Taylor and Niepoort but with much better scale and depth which is a specialty this year. This is truly an exceptional Port that shows a great promise for the future both in terms of quality and price appreciation.
For earlier related Articles, please visit:
MUST Wine Summit: Future of Fortified Wines like Port
Croft Pink Port: Selecting The Pink Cadillac
Croft Port: The Pink Cadillac
Portugal: Dedicated Band of Douro Boys
Porto: Enjoying Port in the Cellars
IVDP: Multi-faceted Regulator of Port and Douro
Primer: Port not Only for Portly
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