Single Quinta Vintage Ports (1999 - 2017)

It is the time of year when the Port shippers make their pre-Christmas releases. Often these are Single Quinta Vintage Ports, released with the benefit of some bottle age in their cellars. Coming from good years in between so-called ‘classic’ declarations these wines are often great value, particularly when the UK supermarkets are involved. Look out for the best of these wines from now onwards and you will be well rewarded when the weather turns towards winter.        

This line up also includes Vintage Ports from Quevedo and Quinta da Côrte, two relatively new names, the latter having been linked to Delaforce for many years until the shake up in the 2000s. The following wines are listed in the order that they were tasted (from the oldest to youngest):

Churchill, Quinta da Gricha 1999 ****
This is the first vintage for Churchill at Quinta da Gricha, a 50 hectare property on the south side of the Douro with north westerly exposure and an altitude ranging from 150 to 400 metres above sea level. This is now hard to find on sale but you will see my note on the commercially available 2005 below. 1999 was an unprepossessing harvest interrupted by heavy rain but Churchill seem to have made the best of a difficult situation:  mid-deep and still with a youthful hue after 21 years; lovely, lifted herbal aromas and fresh blueberry fruit, firm but gentle berry fruit on the palate, still fresh and well defined, long with great finesse. Perfect now but you need be in no great hurry to drink this. Now – 2027.   17.5

Quinta do Vesúvio 2003  ****/*****
From a magnificent mostly north-facing estate in the Douro Superior and a hot year throughout Europe which made for a generally declared Port vintage:  still retaining a good, deep youthful colour, super-ripe morello cherry fruit with a dark chocolate core; big, ripe and minty on the palate, voluptuous with fleshy fruit backed by soft, ripe tannins (almost unnoticeable but very much there). There is a long, firm vibrant finish which shows real freshness and verve (something that 2003s in general seem to lack).  Perfect now with a long life ahead. Drink to 2035.  18.5     

Croft, Quinta da Roêda 2004 ***/**** 
I tasted this wine a decade ago and gave it a high mark (18) but the 2004s seem to have developed quite quickly: mid-deep in colour, just starting to show maturity on the rim; a bit sullen initially but opening up in the glass to reveal lovely mint and gum cistus aromas, fresh, well defined plump berry fruit backed by linear tannins, not big overall but expressive with attractive purity of fruit lingering on the finish. This will not be a keeper but at £24 a bottle in Avery’s it is something of a bargain. 16.5 

Fonseca, Quinta do Panascal, 2004 ****
Situated well downstream from Roêda close to the confluence of the Távora with the Douro, Panascal is one of Fonseca’s flagship quintas complemented by two small estates in the Pinhão valley when it comes to declaring a classic vintage (and the second label Fonseca Guimaraens which is excellent in 2018). Mid-deep and still youthful in colour, this was a bit of a dullard on the nose initially but emerged to show ripe, mid-weight, bitter-sweet cherry stone fruit. Lovely balance with supple tannins and good depth, this is now drinking well. Now – 2025. 17    

Churchill, Quinta de Gricha, 2005 ***/****
 This was a very hot dry growing season in the Douro and it shows in some of the wines but not here at Gricha: not very deep in colour bet retaining a lovely youthful glint; gentle berry fruit on the nose and palate with a slightly leathery substrate, elegant, gentle but firm tannins rising in the mouth towards a long spicy finish. Drink now to 2025. 16.5     

Warre, Quinta da Cavadinha, 2005 ****
The altitude of this property in the upper /mid-Pinhão valley stands it in good stead in a hot year like 2005 (and in 2009 when Warre was the only Symington family house to declare). Good mid-deep youthful colour; ripe and heady on the nose (showing the heat of the vintage) and similarly ripe and round on the palate, at the same time the fruit is well defined and focused with a touch of bitter chocolate intensity, well integrated dusty tannins with a ripe, supple finish. 17.5  

Taylor, Quinta de Vargellas, 2005 ****

The first bottle of this wine that I received was badly corked so this is latecomer to the line up. I remember tasting this a decade or so when the tannins were rather angular but it has developed gracefully and shows the characteristic floral scent of wines from Vargellas. Mid-deep in colour retaining a youthful hue, still restrained on the nose with gentle, cherry and spice aromas, soft, minty ripeness initially on the palate with firm tannins rising to a fresh, balanced finish with well-defined berry fruit.  Drink now and over the next decade.  Good value at under £30 a bottle at the time of writing. 17 

Quevedo 2005 

I really wanted to be able like this wine from new kid on the block, Oscar Quevedo, who submitted samples of his wine in place of the Big Fortified Tasting in London which had to be cancelled this year. However I found this starting to brown with a dirty nose akin to a wet dishcloth with cooked leathery fruit and a short dry finish. In conclusion: not going far. No mark. 

Graham, Quinta dos Malvedos 2008 ****
From a small harvest after a relatively cool summer making this an excellent year for SQVPs: lovely deep, opaque youthful colour; dense, still a bit withdrawn initially, this opened up to reveal wonderful opulence both on the nose and palate. Rich and spicy with supple tannins and glorious ripe plum and blackcurrant fruit leaving a long voluptuous finish, in true Graham style. This follows the 2006 and is great value at £28 in Tesco and Sainsbury in the UK.   18

Dow, Quinta do Bomfim 2009 ****/*****
Dow make wine in a drier, more austere style than Graham and this works particularly well in an ultra-ripe year like 2009 (declared outright by Taylor, Fonseca, Croft and Warre): still very deep and youthful crimson in colour, ripe, heady liquorous aromas (kirsh), rich, dense and intense with a lovely bitter-sweet chocolatey core and a broad tannic backbone; still young and vigourous, glorious to drink now now but this can be cellared for another decade or more. 18.5  

Cockburn, Quinta dos Canais 2010 ****
Canais in the Douro Superior has been at the heart of Cockburn’s Vintage Ports for over a century. This was a challenging year throughout Portugal when a large crop took what seemed like forever to ripen and vintage went on until late October: lovely deep youthful colour with a particularly fragrant, floral character reflecting the high percentage of Touriga Nacional in the blend; lovely vinous berry fruit, well defined, not big but touch exotic with firm tannins giving definition and leading to a long spicy finish. In perfect balance. Enjoy the fruits of this wine while it retains its youth and vigour. 17.5   

Quevedo, Quinta Vale D’Agodinho 2013 **
Located on the south bank of the Douro just upstream from the former Valeira rapids, Vale D’Agodinho is one of six properties belonging to the Quevedo family. In general the Douro Superior produced some excellent wines in 2013 but heavy rain interrupted the vintage causing some to pick earlier than they should have. Good deep opaque colour but slightly green on the nose, hedgerow fruit, some fine berry fruit but firm with rather green, boney tannins, on the lean side overall. Correct but perhaps just not my style.  14    

Sandeman, Quinta do Seixo 2013 ****
Seixo used to be a Ferreira quinta but has been transferred to Sandeman within the Sogrape group. This wine is made up from around 30% centenarian vines with Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Sousão and Tinta Francisca from younger vineyards. As Luís Sottomayor, chief wine maker for Sogrape said of 2013 at the time: ‘we narrowly missed out on an exceptional vintage’.  It shows here.    Lovely deep crimson colour, still in its bloom of youth; profound if tight-knit and withdrawn to start with on the nose, similarly dense tight-knit on the palate showing the power of old vine fruit, cherry and ripe blackcurrant backed by firm, ripe, chewy tannins and a long complete and beautifully balanced finish. Drink now by all means but this will be better still in five years. 18 

Quinta da Côrte 2015 *** 
Quinta da Corte is known for its long association with Delaforce though Pacheco & Irmãos. In the shake up of Port companies that took place in the 2000s and early 2010s, Delaforce was bought up by Real Companhia Velha (already large land owners in the Douro) and Quinta da Corte was sold to Philippe Austruy. Trading as Vignobles Austruy, he already owns a number of estates in Italy and France including Château Malescasse in the Haut Medoc. Quinta da Côrte is very well located in the Torto Valley in between Quinta do Seixo (Sandeman) and Quinta do Bom Retiro (Ramos Pinto). The property is noted as a source of some excellent tawnies which I was fortunate enough to taste from cask many years ago with the late John Burnett.  Côrte’s  tawnies and Douro wines will be written up in a later post but I was able to include two Vintage Ports in this line up. From vines with an average age of more than 70 year old vines and foot trodden in lagar this wine has a good, deep bright youthful crimson colour; initially the wine smelt rather stewed and roasted with more than a touch of tar, perhaps reflecting the heat of the year, however the fruit emerged both on the nose and palate to reveal broad, ripe flavours (perhaps verging on over-ripe), supple tannins and a powerful finish showing some freshness then some tar-like bitterness came back. The rather ugly nose is probably just a phase and this is set fair to drink in another 7 to 10 years. Just 3,800 bottles in total. 15.5 +?

Quinta da Corte 2017 ***/****
This was a hot, dry year in the Douro with September being the driest for 87 years. Harvest began early at Côrte on 10th September with this wine coming from ‘plot 505’, a mix of old vines: deep and opaque with a ripe floral nose and sweet berry fruit, bilberry and spice, backed by gravelly tannins leading to a firm, vibrant finish. Promising. Keep for another 5 years at least. 16.5         

Quinta de la Rosa 2017 ****
From a hot, dry, generally declared year this wine didn’t show particularly well when I first tasted early last year but it has really opened up in bottle. It marks Tim Bergqvist’s last vintage at La Rosa. He died in the summer of 2018 after more than three decades at the helm of his family estate.  Deep in colour, restrained but with a lovely floral scent emerging in the glass, there is dark chocolate intensity here with fresh brambly fruit and ripe, gravelly tannins. Not a heavyweight but wonderful overall balance expressed on a long, lithe finish. 17.5



19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)

17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)

15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)

13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)

10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)

8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)

Below 8 Faulty