Quinta do Noval’s 2016 vintage port is beating a special rhythm

Port Finesse

Any fan of port will be delighted with the 2016 vintage. One of the most declared vintages of all time Quinta do Noval delivers with structure, elegance and finesse.

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Port wine has many textures. Textures attained by blending a wealth of the different traditional grape varieties. Moreover, Port’s texture is also influenced by the yearly growing conditions and the position of the vineyards on either side of the Douro, Portugal’s “river of gold”. Think of the grapes as the beat of the port, and it’s rhythm as to how well the winemaker expresses that beat. Port is the result of what happens when a variety of grapes with different characteristics are fortified and aged. No vintage and no port are ever alike, which makes Port one of the world’s most fascinating wines.  

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Port is produced exclusively in Douro Valley, a region of schist mountains, where vertical walls support small horizontal platforms of poor, harsh soils planted with vines

Every year the vines struggle on the steep Douro hills. Endless hours of tough, manual work go into the creation and maintenance of the extraordinary vertical dry stonewall terraces. Terraces created to allow the vines to root on steep hillsides in, often, no more than half a meter of soil. The vines survive by pushing their roots through small openings in the rocks to reach the water below the rocky surface.

However, in some years the vines win, and in 2016 they won deservedly. Notably, the Touriga Franca grape and the Touriga Nacional performed very well. While 2016 is one of the most declared port vintages at any point, this is in particular true for a year ending with 6. In the past vintages were declared in 1846, 1896, 1906, 1966, and now 2016. 

2016 was quite an exceptional year by any standard

Winter and spring were cooler and wetter than normal. Resulting in a loss of 20% of the production. The heatwave of August and July saw temperatures soaring across much of Portugal. In September 2016 the temperature in Pinhão hit a staggering 43 degrees centigrade (about 109 degrees Fahrenheit).

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The right time of picking is of the essence

Many growers took great risks to pick at the right time after the wetter autumn weather had passed. Grapes are generally picked earlier and earlier compared to the past, but who delayed picking in 2016 till after the rains, later than the 20th September, had the greatest success.  As they explained at Symington: “We call ourselves vine growers. You have to know your vineyards well. To pick at the right time is such a vital aspect of making port.”

The beat and rhythm of port

In a way, the grape growers create a beat. Many times people confuse the beat and rhythm of a port, therefore considering the grapes as part of the rhythm. Port, however, is the result of the blending of different grapes from various vineyards, from various terroirs.

What separates the grapes from a finished product is how the rhythm of the vintage forms a pattern too. A pattern combines all the elements of the making process to create a melody. Some notes are emphasised more than others, which is called accenting. In essence, Port’s beat is an unchanging tempo of grapes, while Port’s rhythm accents the pattern in which Port’s aromas en flavours flow. 

Or in the words of Symington: “In 2016 we managed to get a consistency of quality and a beautiful purity of fruit. It surprised no one that 2016 was later declared a Vintage. The 2016 wines are powerful, aromatic en balanced, expressing elegance, finesse and individuality of style.”

2016 is beating a special rhythm

The 2016 Vintage Ports have exceptional tannins that are amongst the most refined ever. They create a sense of rhythm that is so fundamental for a vintage declaration. When we taste the 2016 vintage port we recognise its quality, its aroma melodies, and flavour patterns. Even without paying any special attention. Let’s explore Quinta do Noval’s special 2016 rhythm and enjoy it!

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Tasting Quinta do Noval 2016 vintage port

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2016 is striking a balance between a lovely purity of fruit and a fine densely tannin structure. Dark, ruby color. Rich intensity on the nose, opening up slowly to reveal black chocolate, black cherry, plums, sweet cassis, and other mature fruits, while not hiding its delicate leafy minty edge. Well balanced and structured, great definition, ripe, still a bit grippy tannins, but refined. Powerful, yet with a pleasant youthfulness and freshness. A wine for the long term.

Quinta do Noval vineyards

The Quinta do Noval vineyard of 145 hectares is entirely classified letter A* and planted with Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, and an old parcel Tinto Cão. A 2,4 ha or 6-acre parcel at the heart of the vineyard is still planted with ungrafted, pre-phylloxera Touriga Nacional vines (this I was told, while other sources say the vines were replanted in 1925). The Nacional vines are thinner, less vigorous, have smaller bunches, and tinier yields, yet the grapes produce wines with great intensity, depth, complexity, and a fine long tannin structure.

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A* The vineyards in the Douro region are all graded according to a classification system that is based upon the physical characteristics of the vineyard and their potential to produce quality wines. This system is managed by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP) to ensure that vineyards producing the highest quality grapes – grapes of the A Classification- receive a premium price for their grapes.