Port producers are comparing the 2017 vintage with the legendary 1945, which explains why they have not hesitated to uniformly declare it. Said declaration is a ground-breaking announcement, it means that along with the 2016, they are the first ever universally declared twin vintages, running all the way back to the beginning of Port’s long history. The vintages are different in style; the 2016s embodies elegance, freshness and synchronisation of flavours whilst 2017 is a powerful vintage, with incredible concentration, more tannin and torque. We can understand therefore why it is reminiscent to the brilliant 1945 vintage. In truth, both vintages had similar weather, with average temperatures resulting in early harvests, the earliest being reported by the Symington family in 2016. The variant between the two was rain, 2017 had two thirds less, which makes it officially a drought vintage. However, what makes 2017 special is that from August onwards the average temperatures were not extremely elevated as with 2016, rather in line with vintage averages. The grapes therefore have balance and power. However, the volumes are down by approximately 20% on the 10-year average and one third on 2016.
Following the sell out 2011 and 2016 vintages, there is much excitement for 2017, with Port entering a new era of verve and support on release, particularly as many prices from 2011 and 2016 have risen on secondary market trading. Indeed, with volumes down in 2017, it is being compared to 1945 and with collectors looking to secure the first back-to-back vintages ever, they should move quickly to secure their favourite Ports. James Suckling is the first to release an official report and has led the way with some exceptional scores. Today we are pleased to release one of the truly great Ports, the exceptional Quinta do Noval 2017 which Suckling has awarded 97 points, one of the highest scores this vintage. It is priced today on release at £330 per case of six, making it superb value for a wine of this renown and quality.
Quinta do Noval is owned by AXA insurance group and is their prized possession in Porto. The name is synonymous with the greatest of Ports, revered and loved more than any other. It is famed for two wines; Nacional, the greatest of all, 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 name to the famous ‘Nacional’ vineyard. 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 Quinta do Noval 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 its 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 2017 is greatly reduced.
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 yet been scored by The Wine Advocate, yet is likely to outscore the 97 points it received in 2011, which trades at a 50% premium. It is strongly recommended to stock up on 2017 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.
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