The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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50 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 { steven spurrier's letter from london } VINTAGES IN PORTUGAL'S Douro region are "universally declared" two to four times a decade when the quality of the harvest is perceived as being as good as it can be. This rule has to be respected, for the wines are deemed to improve for decades in the purchaser's cellar. The 2016 vintage is only the second general declaration this decade after 2011, so when I attended a May tast - ing focused on that year's releases from The Fladgate Partnership, Sym- ington Family Estates, and Quinta do Noval, I was very impressed indeed. According to the tasting book: "In the Douro Valley, no two vintages are ever alike and for the 2016s the keynotes are refinement and harmony. With all their elements in perfect alignment, the wines show exceptional balance and poise." Fladgate Par tnership CEO Adrian Bridge acknowledged that the com - pany placed the 2016s alongside such classic vintages as 1846, 1896, 1906, and 1966, while Charles Sym- ington merely stated that "these are the best Vintage Por ts that [he has] ever made." For such quality, the prices are rea - sonable—around £50 a bottle in bond. I have not added a drinking window to my accompanying tasting notes, but the general opinion is that these wines will be ready in ten years (as opposed to 20 in the past) and stay the course for at least two more decades. This is ideal, as a bottle of vintage Port is meant to be kept in pleasurable anticipation for years and then enjoyed around a table for a memorable end to any meal. Taylor Fladgate Lots of depth; exceptionally well- balanced with typical Quinta de Vargellas grip on the finish, yet with more grace than usual. 97 Fonseca Rich and deep with all the exuberance and spice of Fonseca compared to the firm restraint of Taylor ; purity and structure indicate a long life. 96 Croft Lots of lush yet firm fruit; dense with very ripe tannins, this is a totally "British" Port with a floral touch present through notes of violets. 93 SYMINGTON FAMILY ESTATES Graham's Dense and rich with the habitually seductive Graham's fruit character ; both floral and fleshy with ripeness, structure, and hints of dark chocolate; almost too good to wait for, but waiting is essential due to the length and complexity. 97 Dow's Fragrant and lifted nose; opposite to the richness of Graham's, it's fresh and even lean with a typically dry Dow's style. The violet notes from schist-based soil will show very well, making this a match for the superb 2011. 96 Warre's The charmer from the Symington port - folio; lovely taffeta nose with great purity and lift; slightly restrained and perfectly balanced with a good grip. 93 Cockburn's Lovely floral character and solid grip from 62% Touriga Nacional, but not over- balanced; with hints of ginger and clove preceding the most elegant finish, this is an exceptional release. 96 Quinta do Vesuvio From one of the Douro's historical es - tates, Vesuvio has been bottled on its own for some years. This shows why: It's big but not massive with a "garriguey" Mediterra- nean nose, lots of flesh in the middle, and a muscular grip on the finish. 95 Quinta do Noval Full, rich, and very pure black fruit conjures blackberries with dark chocolate. Smooth and spicy with a lovely texture, it's a classic Noval, whose single vineyard always stands out. 95 Quinta do Noval Nacional From a 5-hectare plot of ungrafted vines; dense colour with equally dense yet floral fruit; abundant elegance and lift make this a vineyard wine of stunning quality. 98 Universal Declaration REVIEWING PORT FROM THE 2016 VINTAGE

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