Vintage Port is the pinnacle of the Port quality tree, only made in the best years and very rarely in two successive years. It’s a wine made for the long haul, able to last for several decades and often entering its peak drinking window after one or two. The drawback is, however, that it is often unapproachable in its youth. A very small proportion of wine drinkers buy bottles to drink a decade hence, leaving Port producers with something of a dilemma.
A few months ago I attended a zoom masterclass with Luís Sottomayor, winemaker at Offley Port and Casa Ferreirinha (I have already written about the latter’s Vinha Grande Branco and Tinto here). Luís gave an overview of the 2018 harvest and the background to the 2018 Vintage Port: Spring 2018 was wet and the Summer not particularly hot. The harvest started earlier than usual in mid September, but was done very slowly as maturity was quite uneven. Overall 2018 was similar to the 2016 vintage apart from a slightly hotter summer in ’16.
The principal varieties used are Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Cão. To make this Port more approachable the proportion of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) was increased; it has a high level of tannins but they are soft.
The grapes were foot-trodden in traditional lagars for maximum flavour and colour extraction without bitter phenolics. Normal corks are used as, in Luís’s considered opinion, they are the best closure for ageing. The wines have great body, acidity and structure making 2018 a classic Port vintage, though the crop was small. Luís characterises it as a fairly simple wine, easy to understand, drinkable when young but capable of ageing for decades.
It might be approachable but this Vintage Port is opaque in the glass, as it should be. The nose has intense, rich black fruits, lifted aromas including spice and balsamic notes. The palate shows both red and black fruits, balsamic notes, chocolate, all kept fresh by good acidity. It’s a very generous but not overwhelming wine; it flows straight down without having to chew. Perhaps this is Goldilocks’ Port? Not too sweet, not too tannic or dry, not a blockbuster, but not too light. In a word, accessible!
Luís recommends drinking with cheese or – as the locals do – with Feijoada, a Portuguese black bean and meat stew.
- ABV: 20.0%
- RRP: €78.99
- Stockists: Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Chatham St; wineonline.ie