The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2010

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Page 24 of 112

PORT Seven current single-quinta vintages from The Fladgate Partnership (shown as 3 .5 cl. cask samples in the front row) and Symington Family Estates (in standard 50 ml. bottles, back row) are fitting companions for medium-full cigars. Single-Quintas V story and photos by Richard Carleton Hacker intage ports are not an easy pour. For one thing, they are fortified wines, and most customers (and often servers) do not understand the con- Ramos Pintos currently offers their 200 Quinta de Ervamoira single-quinta vintage, along with 10 Year Old Quinta de Ervamoira and 20 Year Old Quinta do Bom Retiro tawnies. All three are best showcased in a Riedel Vinum port glass. cept, even though vintage ports are simply extra-heavy reds with a slightly higher (19–20%) alcohol content. But unless you know the category, it makes for a tough sell, which is why many restaurants and bars do not stock vintage ports. Thus, the customer is deprived of an enological discovery, and a potential sale is lost. But there is another take on vintage ports—one that offers greater variety and a back story to entice customers and which is often sold at lower prices than vintage ports, yet is a wine with all the flavor, depth and complexity of vintage ports. We’re referring to single-quintas, vintage ports that only come from a single quinta, or farm. Think single-estate wine. While there have only been 25 vintage ports declared in the last century, there have been innumer- able single-quinta declarations. But unlike a classic vintage, which is a blend of wines from multiple quintas and encompasses declarations from the majority of labels throughout the Douro, a single-quinta need only be declared by one port house. “The process of ‘declaration’ is an individual house choice, so we could make vintage port every year or we could make single-quinta vintage ports every year,” says Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of The Fladgate Partnership, which produces Croft, Fonseca and Taylor Fladgate port and owns 11 quintas. “It is completely our choice. What we chose to do is make the truly exceptional years into a classic vintage, the great years into single-quintas and make no vintage ports in the simply ordinary years. Single-quinta 24 / the tasting panel / september 2010 vintage ports from our group [Vargellas, Panascal and Roeda] are of exceptional quality and represent the complete expression of the terroir of the vineyard from which they are made.” Like vintage ports, a single-quinta must be barrel- aged for two years, then bottled and released during the third year. However, unlike vintage ports, which are often aged for decades by the consumer, single- quintas are at their optimum within five to ten years, and many, such as the spectacular 2007 Quinta do Vesuvio or the just-released 2008 Quinta de Vargellas, can be consumed now. “Generally speaking, single-quinta vintage port rep- resents a true bargain for the consumer,” says Rupert Symington, Joint Managing Director of Symington Family Estates, whose labels include Graham’s, Warre’s, Dow’s and Smith Woodhouse. “In years that are not declared, leading shippers typically release these wines some years after the harvest at half the price of a declared vintage. Even when conditions in the Douro are not propitious for a full-blown declaration, the fruit from these top estates is usually excellent and the resulting wine outstanding. Typically the ‘secondary’ years in the Douro will produce wines that age faster, so a consumer can enjoy a bottle of Malvedos 1998, for instance, that is offered straight from the Graham’s cellars perfectly ready to drink at 12 years old.” Like vintage ports, once a bottle of single quinta is opened, it must be consumed within 24 hours. Otherwise oxidation will erode its rich plum and cherry characteristics. Even with pumping or nitrogen gas, a single-quinta’s life can only be extended by a week or so. Consequently, restaurateurs are better off selling the bottle rather than the glass. But like any fine wine, when pouring by the glass, showcase single- quintas with appropriate glassware such as a Riedel Vinum port glass. “Single-quintas represent exceptional value for money for those consumers who understand them and have the confidence to buy them,” notes Bridge. THE OTHER VINTAGE PORT

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