Bordeaux En Primeur proceeds rain or shine, every year: Vintage Port only arises, on average, three times a decade, which is around the same number of vintages of the century declared by the Bordelaise! Any major Port house can declare they are making a Vintage Port, viewing the quality sufficiently high to make a Port from grapes of a single, declared vintage. However, Port declaration is a two-party system, split between two houses, which dominate the Port landscape. The two binary stars are Fladgate Partnership, who own Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca and Symington Family Estates, who most notably own Graham’s, Warre’s, Dow’s, Gould Campbell and Quinta do Vesuvio. Cockburns and Quinta do Noval are owned separately. With such weight however, a true ‘declared vintage’ is seen unofficially as one which has the bilateral declaration of Fladgate and Symington. For example, the quality of the 2015 vintage was seen as an excellent tempting vintage declaration. However, only Cockburns pulled the trigger, the rest of the pack knowing well that 2016 could be great. It is! Charles Symington, Head Winemaker at Symington stated of the 2016s, “These are the best Vintage Ports I have ever made”
The market has been patiently waiting for another blockbuster Port Vintage, following the brilliant sell-out 2011, which rejuvenated the market, an overriding success for all parties, including collectors, who have benefited from healthy price rises since. The growing season in 2016 was exceptional, a year of extremes bookended by rain and heat. The vintage began with a wet Spring, which lowered yields, yet came as a blessing, given recent draught conditions. In fact, overall the Winter and then April and May experienced twice the normal average rainfall. The Summer was very hot and dry, with heat spikes seeing the temperature rise above 40°. The heat created a long harvest and ensuring optimal ripening. The result is a vintage universally seen as exceptional, with all reports brilliantly framing it. However, yields were down 35% on average, meaning supply is a material concern.
James Suckling says, ‘The 2016 Vintage may prove to be a modern legend for Vintage Port.’ Neal Martin reiterates this ‘The resulting Vintage Ports are fabulous. I remember tasting the 2011s and speculating whether any vintage would equal them. The answer is: “Yes…the 2016 vintage.’ The 2016’s style is one of incredible depth, focus and concertation, with incredibly fine, integrated tannins, which reiterates their class and form. This is underpinned by crisp, fresh acidity, providing an impressive structure and overall elegance. It is never easy to draw comparisons, but the 2016 vintage is overall a cooler vintage compared to 2011 and 2003, perhaps more akin the 2007s but better, with more intensity and complexity. Neal Martin in his report draws a comparison between Port and Bordeaux, recent vintages experiencing ‘improved tannin management in Bordeaux, nowadays Vintage Port is far more approachable and pleasurable in its youth. Tannins are infinitely finer and the neutral spirit added during fermentation so much purer and higher in quality, sutured perfectly into the wine.’
The stylistic change matches perfectly with the trend of drinking Vintage Port a little younger, a global trend, something collectors have done in the US for decades. Perhaps this is one reason for the immense demand the 2011 vintage saw and why the 2016 vintage is proving perhaps more popular. One thing is clear, while the noble pursuit of a glass of Port after a meal may have sadly waned, vintage port campaigns have never been more popular and with the 35% average discount in yield, there is less 2016 to fulfil the demand of the 2011, which was exhausted immediately.
Today we are delighted to release our first 2016 Ports, the stellar Quinta do Noval. In 2016 this has been awarded its highest ever score from James Suckling with a truly exceptional 98 points. Priced £300 per case of six, this gives it a Price Over Points Ratio of 33.3! For a world class wine this is incredibly low and reflects the immense quality available in Vintage Port, which could be argued as the best value of all the world’s most prestigious wines. Quinta do Noval 2011, which James Suckling awarded 93 points, sold out instantly and now trades at £450 per case of six. Of the 2016, Suckling says ‘This is a superb baby Noval that reminds me of the 1966. Chewy yet so polished. The light sweetness suggests an overall dialing back of the sugar content. Stemmy and lightly green. A truly classic Noval.’ Neal Martin calls it a ‘mercurial Quinta do Noval that should age gloriously over the next 30 years.’
Qunita do Noval is now owned by AXA insurance group and just as Pichon Baron is the jewel in their crown in Bordeaux, Quinta do Novel is their prized possession in Porto. The current Managing Director of AXA Millesimes Christian Seely, started his journey in the company, by writing a letter to Jean-Michel Cazes in Bordeaux, the man in charge of AXA Millesimes at the time when he heard rumours they had acquired it and in 1993 he was given the helm.
The name Quinta do Noval is synonymous with the greatest of Ports, revered and loved more than any other. It is famed for two wines, the greatest of all, Nacional and Quinta do Noval itself. In the 19th century when phylloxera decimated European vineyards, Quinta do Noval decided to defend its greatest vineyard using fumigation rather than grafting vines with American roots stocks. Incredibly they survived using the Portuguese stock, giving this vineyard thereon becoming ‘Nacional’. Following the great 1927 vintage seeing listless sales, due to a global economic slump, most houses were nervous about declaring a vintage. In 1931 the 1.8 hectares Nacional vineyard and the rest of the Quinto do Novel vineyards produced such immense quality that the Estate was one of two that declared the vintage thereon creating what is considered the greatest Port ever made and cementing its reputation. This success established Quinta do Noval among the great names of Vintage Port in the English and American markets, a leading position in terms of reputation which is maintained today.
Quinta do Noval is also one of Port’s great pioneers introducing the first stencilled bottles and furthermore, in 1958 it was the first house to introduce late bottled Vintage Port. This takes ruby port from a single year, selected for it high quality, thereon bottled after ageing for four to six years in wood: Vintage Port in style, but not Price! Since 1994 Quinta do Noval has replanted 100 hectares of the property, the first to replant and mechanise old terraces, while retaining the magnificent stone walled terraces. The Estate leads the field in technology, terroir and made in quantities that make Romanee Conti blush. Only 200 cases are made of Quinta do Noval Nacional, while Quinta do Noval make less than 2000 cases per declared vintage, which in 2016 is down 35%.
While Nacional is made in an order of magnitude less than Quinta do Noval, the price is considerably higher. This is driven by the rarity; however, Quinta do Noval sits close behind Nacional in quality and therefore it can be argued it is the best value of all the great ports. It has not been scored by the Wine Advocate, yet is likely to outscore the 97 points it received in 2011, which trades to at a 50% premium. It is strongly recommended to stock up on 2016 Ports, which will be approachable far younger than in the past but can be aged for 50 years. Quinta do Noval is a must have Port, a brilliant wine at a superb price on release.
We have limited quantities available and therefore offered subject to availability.
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