The Port vintage of 2018 was born as the two-year drought in the Douro Valley broke in March, massive amounts of heavy and sustained rain hitting the vineyards for the next ten weeks. Local erosion caused damage to the terrace walling and vineyards, while the rain inhibited flowering and damaged vines as the damp let in diseases. The silver lining was the low yield at harvest started here, fewer grapes in the bunches, then a hot summer improved richness and fine weather to October ensured perfect maturation.
In a nutshell this widely varying weather pattern produced grapes that were concentrated, ripe yet fresh with richness at the core. Touriga Franca, usually in the ‘chorus’ of the blend, took the lead from Touriga Nacional, bringing this juicy core and supple structure yet keeping the wines fresh on the finish. Christian Seeley of Quinta do Noval, declaring Noval for the third successive vintage, suggests the style is somewhere between 2017 with its firm side and herby aromatics and the classical, more harmonious 2016s; “2018 is firm yet harmonious, lots of finesse but plenty of exuberance,” he told us.
Quinta do Noval, who lost all their famous Nacional vineyard crop to hail in the Spring, have made a very balanced wine. We found it elegant not massive, but beautifully formed with complexity. Leading Port critic Richard Mayson MW rates it highly in style and design, saying, “it has everything.”
The Symington Family have released Quinta do Vesuvio, a wine we found sublime – a firm recommendation from us. They have also released Quinta Senhora da Ribeira, the principal component of Dow’s. By comparison this is a drier, more powerful style with lots of presence and richness, very impressive and indicative of the Dow style. Their other Single Quintas will be aged in Portugal and released at ten to twenty years depending on how they mature.
A couple of other houses like Sandemans have fully declared their wines. Adrian Bridge from Taylor Fladgate told us they intend to release Taylor’s Vintage 2018, already declared, in the autumn as well as the Single Quinta Fonseca-Guimaerens and Quinta da Roeda from Croft. Watch this space for more news.