Quinta do Noval Vintage Port 2018
#45 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2021
The wine is wonderfully ripe, full and exuberant, spicy on the nose, with very fine long tannins and a classic Noval purity and elegance.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
While this vintage was not generally declared as such by the major Port houses, it has produced some very fine wines. This wine, still very young, is dry in style, full of black cherry and spice flavors along with intense acidity. The spirit is not fully integrated yet, but that will come. It is certainly for long-term aging.
The 2018 Vintage Port is a field blend aged for 18 months in old wood vats. It comes in with 100 grams of residual sugar. This was bottled May 13, 2020. Simply gorgeous, this is aromatic, chock-full of flavor and wholly delicious—but that's just the starting point. It has a serious backbone too, perfectly countered by the mid-palate depth. More than lovely, it might well be my favorite of the 2018s I've seen thus far, if I were forced to pick just one. It is surprisingly accessible, in a way, but that's because the mid-palate soaks up the power. It was certainly still vibrant days later. It should age well, but let's be just a little conservative now in evaluation and drinking windows.
One of the oldest port houses, Quinta do Noval is also arguably the greatest. It is unique among top port houses in that most of the ports are made from estate-grown fruit and, notably, all of the vintage Noval wines are from the single Quinta do Noval vineyard. In addition, it is difficult to elaborate on Quinta do Noval without mentioning Nacional, the legendary port made from a 6 acre parcel of ungrafted vines. When declared, only 200-300 cases of Nacional will be made, and instantly become the most sought after port in the world. Many vintages of Nacional are considered as the finest ports, and some of the finest wines, ever made.
Noval is mentioned in land registries going back to 1715, and has been sold just twice in that time, once in the late 19th century, and to its present owners in 1993. Noval has, however, a reputation for being an innovative, independent producer. Noval’s focus on its vineyard and estate ports distinguishes it, but there are numerous other areas in which it has been a pioneer:
- Noval was the first to introduce stencilled bottles in the 1920s.
- Noval pioneered the concept of Old Tawnies with an indication of age.
- In 1958, Noval was the first to introduce a late-bottled vintage (LBV).
The astonishing terraced vineyards of Noval, perched above the Douro and Pinhao rivers, are an infertile schist, and not soil as much as sheer rock. The elevation of the vineyards goes from just above river level to 1,200 feet, with density at about 2,000 vines per acre, and vines producing on average 30-35 hectoliters per hectare. The tremendous rewards of the work done at the estate over the last fifteen years are visible across the range of Noval ports, and have placed Noval a step ahead of everyone in the Douro.
The home of Port—perhaps the most internationally acclaimed beverage—the Douro region of Portugal is one of the world’s oldest delimited wine regions, established in 1756. The vineyards of the Douro, set on the slopes surrounding the Douro River (known as the Duero in Spain), are incredibly steep, necessitating the use of terracing and thus, manual vineyard management as well as harvesting. The Douro's best sites, rare outcroppings of Cambrian schist, are reserved for vineyards that yield high quality Port.
While more than 100 indigenous varieties are approved for wine production in the Douro, there are five primary grapes that make up most Port and the region's excellent, though less known, red table wines. Touriga Nacional is the finest of these, prized for its deep color, tannins and floral aromatics. Tinta Roriz (Spain's Tempranillo) adds bright acidity and red fruit flavors. Touriga Franca shows great persistence of fruit and Tinta Barroca helps round out the blend with its supple texture. Tinta Cão, a fine but low-yielding variety, is now rarely planted but still highly valued for its ability to produce excellent, complex wines.
White wines, generally crisp, mineral-driven blends of Arinto, Viosinho, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina and an assortment of other rare but local varieties, are produced in small quantities but worth noting.
With hot summers and cool, wet winters, the Duoro has a maritime climate.
Port is a sweet, fortified wine with numerous styles: Ruby, Tawny, Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), White, Colheita, and a few unusual others. It is blended from from the most important red grapes of the Douro Valley, based primarily on Touriga Nacional with over 80 other varieties approved for use. Most Ports are best served slightly chilled at around 55-65°F.