Over the past month, the great port houses of the Douro Valley each declared 2017 a vintage year. Of course, even among the superlative years worthy of the ‘vintage’ label, not all are created equally. So, the Neat Pour Tasting Team jumped at the opportunity to attend the first tasting of the 2017 ports in the U.S. Here’s what we discovered.
2017 was a particularly dry (save one notable storm) year for the Douro. For perspective, consider that the Valley’s average rainfall for their entire 2017 growing season equalled the 2017 average precipitation for one day in Bordeaux.
The lack of rain coupled with a particularly warm (4.7 ºF above average) spring resulted in budbreak arriving about a week earlier than the historical norms.June and July were also extremely hot in the region equalling marks set during the notorious 1980 growing season. However, a temperate August (but still dry) followed.
The hot, drought conditions set the stage for an early harvest. Indeed, many vineyards starting the process as early as August! Yields were down, but the grapes showed beautiful color and taste.
Vintage years for port are declared individually by each house in the second spring following the harvest. A few weeks ago, this moment arrived for the 2017’s. The houses unanimously declared 2017 a vintage year—setting hopes high for some truly outstanding ports.
Given the young age of the 2017’s, the tasting notes that follow are still very rough impressions. Understandably, tannin levels are still very high and flavors will develop far more complexity with maturation. We sampled five ports from Portuguese houses and found the vintage very impressive. Across the board, there was lots of brightness and remarkable potential after aging.
Ramos Pinto — On the nose, one is greeted by RP’s signature bouquet of rock rose and berry. Upon tasting, the palate is met by an explosion of fruitiness with currant, raspberry, and even a little stone fruit. In this early stage of maturation, the juice offers more tannins than one would normally find from a Portuguese house, but they are unusually silky and velvety. So, we’re betting that this will be a bottle to lay down for the long haul.
Quinta de Eruamoira — The latest vintage from RP’s largest quinta is best described as exuberant. The flavor is extremely bright. Currant, raspberry, mulberry, green apple, red apple, and some cut grass pleasantly swirl about the palate. For such young wine, the tannin levels are surprising low and the expression should be drinking great in as little as five years.
Niepoort — Niepoort is famed for their colheitas, but this straight-up vintage excels as well. The profile is sweet at first taste, but the finish is very dry. The typical port flavors of berry and jam are present, but a nice line of acidity provides a counterweight. This is the type of vintage that can be cellared for a generation.
Rozés — This deep, dark, almost purple juice brims with tannins and a powerful medley of fruit. Blackberry, currant, chambord, and bark present a very forward flavor that is thankfully cut by a citric acidity. Rozés traditionally skews a little high on the tannin side (more like an English house), but we suspect that this vintage will mellow with age. Give it ten years in ye ol’ cave and then start tasting.
Quinta do Grifo — This second expression from Rozés also boast a deep hue leaning towards scarlet, but the flavor profile is much brighter. Leading the charge is a host of citrus flavors such as orange and grapefruit which pair well the accompanying burst of mulberry and blackberry.