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2016 Ports debut at London preview

Published:  18 May, 2018

Purity, precision and terroir were very much the buzz words at the 2016 Vintage Port Preview Tasting in London on May 17, where Symington Family Estates, The Fladgate Partnership and Quinta do Noval collaborated to show wines from the recently and unanimously declared 2016 vintage.

Harpers’ tasting of the wines shown, ranging from flagship names such as Taylor’s, Croft, Dow’s and Warre’s, plus Quintas Noval, Vesuvio and Romaneira, revealed a vintage combining freshness, palate-filling intensity and finely-honed structure, with great balance a marked characteristic across the estates.

With the wines appearing to live up to some of the early hype, Paul Symington spoke of a “very rare” vintage Port harvest, saying that this was only the eleventh general declaration during his 40 years working in the family business.

“These are luscious wines, but also with good structure,’ said Symington, adding, “the intensity of the wines is incredible”.

He described the vintage as potentially being one of the all time greats, sitting alongside with 1945, 1970 and 2000 – although with the proviso that we may need 80 years to truly know.

“I called this a year with a special rhythm in my [earlier] vintage report – we had a wet winter and spring, then a hot dry summer, with temperatures rising to 43 degrees in Pinhao at the end of August,” said Symington.

“People started to pick early, but this was a year not to panic, and the long range forecast pointed to rain in mid-September, so we started picking on 26 September, so there was a lot of time on the vine for the wines we are showing here.”

Symington added that the beginning of the 2016 harvest date was more aligned to that of old, before global warming advanced the harvest date, with vintages such as the dry, hot 2011 starting to come in several weeks earlier than was the case historically.

The harvest was, however, some 20% down on the average, and one the smallest for some time, and with lower volumes and growing global demand for Port, meaning prices for 2016 are inevitably going to edge upwards.

Moreover, it was predicted that prices are then likely to follow the upward trajectory that several 2011’s took on the secondary market, bucking a previously fairly modest upward price trend for vintage Port after its release when compared with wines such as top Bordeaux. 

Aside from the obvious trade tactic of upselling one’s wares - whatever the vintage - the combination of all the above certainly adds weight this prediction.

Managing directors Adrian Bridge of Fladgate (Croft, Taylor’s) and Christian Seely of AXA Millésimes group (Noval) were also present, with Seely continuing the theme, quipping that the assembled buyers and press “should buy early and buy a case of each wine in the room”, so that they could witness the evolution of what he called a “thrilling” vintage.

“This year is marked by beautiful freshness, purity and precision, and the individual characteristics of each terroir, with the vineyards expressing themselves well,” said Seely.

He described the expression of terroir as a fundamental truth about great wines everywhere, saying “you really see it expressed in this vintage.”

The individual characteristics of each estate was marked across the tasting, with wines such as Graham’s Stone Terraces, Quinta do Vesuvio and Quinta da Romaneira being among many high points on the day.

Wines from 2007 and 2003 were also shown for comparison.