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Fladgate latest to announce back-to-back vintage declaration

Published:  23 April, 2019

Things are heating up in the Douro, with yet another port house following up 2016 with another vintage year.

The Fladgate Partnership, home of Taylor’s, Fonseca, Croft and Krohn, is the latest to declare 2017 as a vintage of outstanding quality.

Vintage ports are being officially declared for each of the four houses along with a number of old vine releases, including Taylor’s 2017 Vargellas Vinha Velha - a rare vintage port from the oldest vines at Quinta de Vargellas - and Croft’s first ever vintage release from its prized old vine estate, Quinta da Roêda.

2016 was also a vintage year at the partnership.

Fladgate’s announcement follows those from several other big names in recent weeks, including Symingtons, which recently announced consecutive 2016 and 2017 declarations – the first in the house’s 137-year history.

“After the long interval that followed the 2011 vintage release, we are delighted that the highly acclaimed 2016s are now followed by the superb 2017s,” Fladgate’s chief executive, Adrian Bridge, said.

As well as producing wines with exceptional “density, depth and aromatic potential”, the vintage was also ripe for the partnership’s old vines.

“It is clear that 2017 was a stunning year for the old vineyards. In addition to a Vargellas Vinha Velha release, we are very excited to be launching Serikos, a vintage port from the oldest vines of Croft’s Quinta da Roêda,” he added.

The Fladgate Partnership has been heavily involved in the fight against climate change, co-organising the annual Climate Change Leadership Conference, which also gave rise to the Porto Protocol initiative in 2018.

While the changing climate has its challenges, it is also possible that climate change is partly responsible for the back-to-back declarations at Symingtons and Fladgate.

Received wisdom used to be that vintage ports could be made three years out of a decade.

But thanks to improvements in winemaking techniques and dry growing seasons free from downpours and frost, the reverse is now true, with seven out of 10 years providing vintage-level quality.

This throws up interesting questions for the Douro, which prides itself on saving vintages for ‘special’ years.

“Few wine regions in the world restrict vintage years with such integrity as we do in the Douro,” chairman Johnny Symington said earlier in April.

He went on to say he felt justified in making the decision to declare consecutive years, thanks to two “exceptionally strong harvests”.

This was echoed by Fladgate’s technical director and head winemaker, David Guimaraens, who said: “The start of the harvest was the earliest in a generation. The last time picking started this early was in the legendary vintage of 1945.

“We will remember 2017 for the very dry conditions throughout the growing and ripening seasons and the very early harvest. August was not excessively hot and, although the wines were concentrated by the dry conditions and low yields, they were also beautifully balanced.”

Quantities of Taylor’s 2017 Vargellas Vinha Velha and Croft’s Quinta da Roêda Serikos will be limited and subject to allocation.

These old vine bottlings along with Fladgate’s 2017 vintages releases are due to reach markets in the autumn.