Tasting the Superb Single Quinta 2018 Vintage Ports from the Symington Family Estates…

With Covid-19 making a traditional tasting of the new Single Quintas Vintage Ports from the Symington Family Estates impossible in London, we fell back on the services of Zoom to listen to the facinating story of the 2018 vintage from Johnny Symington, group Chairman and Joint Managing Director and Harry Symington, the Symington group Communications Manager and also a 5th generation family member working with the Symington Family Estates. Cask samples were generously couriered from Portugal to allow a group of notable journalists to taste together including Port specialist Richard Mayson, Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin from Vinous.

So 2018 is another superb Single Quinta Vintage Port declaration for the Symington Family after doing the double with a classic Vintage Port declaration in 2016 and 2017. Like in 2015, another Single Quinta Vintage Port declaration year, the 2018s did not show quite enough consistency in quality across all the Douro Valley and across all their estates to merit another Vintage Port declaration. But as we alluded to over our Zoom tasting, the excellent quality of the 2015 Single Quinta Ports was often remarked upon by many consumers and journalists at the time and still today. But of course, this is the essence of the system that ensures which ever wines are released, Single Quintas or classic Vintage Port estate blends, the quality will be exceptional. The Single Quinta vintage wines do however represent excellent value for money with bottle quality that is certainly capable of outshining many other producers classic Vintage Ports.

The future of long distance tasting… Zoom!

With finished wines bottled in May, the Symingtons were pleased to launch their 2018 Single Quinta Vintage Ports. Only small quantities of these Ports were produced from six of their principal Quintas in 2018 and they selected two to release En-primeur this year – Quinta do Vesuvio and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira. Both are situated in the Douro Superior on opposite sides of the river, one north-facing and the other south-facing. These estates delivered unique expressions of the vintage with lifted aromas that characterise the year. The other Single Quinta Vintage Ports produced in 2018 – Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais – will age in their cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for future release.

The 2018 Single Quinta Vintage Ports are the result of a rollercoaster growing season – with a prolonged winter drought, a deluge in spring, and heat waves through the final ripening period. Despite the challenges, the 2018 wines are characterised by a well-defined acidity and marked freshness, reflecting the characteristics of specific parcels of vineyard within each estate. The star of the year was the late-maturing Touriga Franca, which excelled in this warm harvest. Yields were extremely low with just 950g per vine – 11% below the 10-year average from their vineyards – resulting in wines with stunning concentration and piercing intensity.

Tasting by Zoom

Quinta do Vesuvio 2018 Vintage Port

Considered to be one of the most magnificent estates in the Douro Valley, Quinta do Vesuvio is the last major property in the region to produce its Ports exclusively using the traditional method of treading in granite lagares – an unbroken tradition since the winery was built in 1827. 2018 delivered a notably more elegant Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port with incredible concentration on the palate, beautifully balanced by the freshness from the high-lying Touriga Nacional and Sousão. I found the wine to possess a super elegant expression while showing massive concentration. Very impressive indeed. Always a dense, powerful wine, the 2018 has a hint of extra tenderness and generosity on the palate.

(Wine Safari Score: 97-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira is one of the classic riverside Douro Quintas and has belonged to Dow’s Port since 1890. Famous for being one of the two principal estates that make up the legendary Dow’s Vintage Ports, the Quinta is also renowned for producing magnificent Single Quinta Vintage Ports. The late-ripening Touriga Franca from the south-facing ‘Pedreira’ vineyards thrived in the warm harvest in 2018. The warmer conditions in 2018 are reflected in a much riper style of Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port with more muscular and generous black fruit flavours. This 2018 is true to form showing the extra palate tannin grip, endless layers of broody black and blueberry fruit concentration and a spicy liquid minerality on the long, distinguished finish. Lovely.

(Wine Safari Score: 95-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Other wines tasted but not being released for 2020 En-primeur:

Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta dos Canais is laid out on a natural amphitheatre overlooking a pronounced bend in the Douro River. The estate has a large proportion of mature Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca which provide an essential component of Cockburn’s Vintage Ports. This 2018 Vintage Port is characterised by the estate’s signature aromas of esteva and cinnamon spice, delivered by the mature Touriga Nacional vines. With the warm final ripening period and low yields in 2018, the wine expresses a wonderful ripeness and concentration and plenty of dense meaty rich power and fragrant Touriga Nacional exoticism.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta dos Malvedos has been the cornerstone of Graham’s Vintage Ports ever since it was acquired in 1890. The Quinta still contains large areas of traditional vineyard laid out on terraces supported by dry-stone walls, which face north-east, east and west, giving the estate wines a unique identity. This fabulous expression is driven by the superb Touriga Franca (50%)  in the blend supported by the floral and aromatic blueberry fruited Touriga Nacional from the stone terraced vineyards which thrived in 2018, delivering the estate’s signature notes of eucalyptus and mint, a fine freshness and a lovely long and generous velvety finish with a sweet, minty, chocolately length.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim 2018 Vintage Port

One of the finest Douro estates, Quinta do Bomfim is at the heart of Dow’s, providing the main structure for its legendary Vintage Ports since 1896. The estate is situated in the Upper Douro Valley with schist slopes arranged in vineyard terraces, which have yielded Dow’s most memorable wines for over a century. The sister estate of Senorha, the south-facing vineyards give fine even ripening with excellent ripeness. This wine shows plenty of muscle and power, spicy tannins and freshly cut hedgerow sapidity supported by notable freshness, sweet cassis and blackberry fruit and prominent palate texture and definition. Focused, powerful and very long. Plenty of the Dow ‘dark horse’ broody character.

(Wine Safari Score: 95-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha 2018 Vintage Port

Quinta da Cavadinha is the foundation of Warre’s Vintage Ports. A considerable proportion of the estate is made up of old, mixed vineyards, some of which are over half a century old. Yields are rarely above 1kg/vine and these grapes provide superb complexity and structure to the wines. The estate’s east-facing and high-lying vineyards played an important role in balancing the wines from 2018, with a well-defined acidity. The 440 metre altitude vineyards are always some of the last to be harvested with its wonderful mixed plantings of old vines. Notable elegance and freshness, purity and finesse with the most wonderful perfumed and complex ethereal aromatics of violets and lavendar. Extraordinary balance and harmony but also reveals an atypical exoticism and late season long hang time ripeness and complexity from the east facing vineyards.

(Wine Safari Score: 93-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

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