On 23rd April, Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft Ports – all members of The Fladgate Partnership - have, by tradition, announced whether they will release a Vintage Port and, if so, which wines they will bottle. The harvest of 2018 produced an unusual situation and on St Georges Day last year, Taylor’s declared a ‘Classic Vintage’, something that neither Fonseca or Croft did. Bottled last year, the 2018 Ports are now available to offer.
Commenting on the decision in 2020, Taylor’s managing director, Adrian Bridge said, “This is a year in which overall conditions were excellent but exceptional in the Douro Superior. As Taylor’s is the only one of our companies with extensive land holdings in this part of the Douro, it has been able to make a Classic. All our properties are always farmed so that every grape has the potential of being made into Vintage Port.”
Head winemaker, David Guimaraens, added: “The Douro Superior enjoyed the combination of abundant ground water and hot summer weather which often produces great Vintage Port. It has given us the excellent phenolic maturity typical of a hot ripening season but the fine multi-layered fruit, fresh acidity we normally see in cooler years.”
Adrian resumed, “Although a Classic declaration normally only happens about three times a decade, the exceptional run of years has meant that Taylor’s is able to make a third in a row. This is very unusual but our principle is that we only declare a Classic Vintage when the quality is there and this is dictated by the year, not by any other consideration”.
Fonseca will release a 2018 Guimaraens Vintage Port, the first bottling under the Guimaraens label since 2015. Adrian Bridge remarked, “I am delighted that we are releasing Guimaraens Vintage from 2018. The Guimaraens concept is unique, a wine with the same make up and character as the classic Fonseca Vintages but made in a more approachable, early drinking style.” David Guimaraens added, “I believe that the 2018 is one of the finest recent examples of a Guimaraens Vintage, with its rich, dense woodland fruit and sturdy but well integrated tannins.”
Finally, Croft will release a 2018 single-quinta Vintage Port from its historic Quinta da Roêda estate. Adrian Bridge commented, “The Quinta da Roêda 2018 delivers the characteristic ripe fruit and scented quality which are the hallmark of the Roêda wines together with the taut tannins and freshness of the year.”
Commenting generally on the year, David Guimaraens noted, “The 2018 harvest has produced outstanding Vintage Ports, although the year was not without its challenges. These included the severe hailstorm which devastated many Pinhão Valley vineyards on 28th May including those of Taylor’s Quinta do Junco.” He added, “It is important to note that the 2018 wines have the highest colour intensity of recent vintages, always a sign of good extraction and longevity.”
The 2018 growing season will be remembered for its unusual weather pattern, which had a very distinct impact on the year.
Following the very dry and hot 2017. The 2017/18 winter was particularly cold, but worryingly dry, and on the 15th January 2018 the Portuguese Meteorological office announced that 56% of the country was in severe drought, affecting in particular the interior North of the country. At this point we were seriously concerned for the survival of our vines during the 2018 season. Fortunately March was very wet with 223 mm of rain, saving the situation and bringing the much needed water.
Budburst occurred at Quinta da Roeda on the 26th March, being 16 days later than 2017, and 10 days later than average. The growing season from March until the end of June was colder than average, and the abundant rainfall during these months resulted in the most challenging year in controlling mildew and bunch rot since 1988. Contrary to 2016 where the outbreak of mildew occurred in April and May, in 2018 the worst infections occurred at the end of June and beginning of July, with the mildew destroying many bunches in vineyards across the region. We also experienced during the 2018 growing season the greatest threat of hailstorms we have experienced in recent years, with Quinta do Junco being devastatingly hit on the 28th May.
The vine development continued three weeks behind 2017, with flowering being registered in the lower vineyards of the Valley in the week of the 21st May. From July forward we had no more rain, and with the temperatures in July continuing relatively mild, the veraison came in the Grade A vineyards in the last week of July.
The first week of August finally saw the Douro heat return, and this time with extreme intensity, with us registering on the 3rd August at the Vargellas weather station 44,22ºC. Although this extreme heatwave did some damage to some of the more exposed vineyards, it was particularly important in recovering the late development of the vines this season.
With plenty of moisture available in the soil, the vines ripened at a steady rate, and the harvest started at Quinta de Vargellas and Quinta da Roeda on the 17th September, and the Quintas in the Pinhão and Tavora Valley starting in the week of the 22nd September. The picking was done under very hot conditions, with no rain falling during the duration of the harvest.
Yields across our Quintas were low, and produced the same quantities that were produced in 2017. The young Ports show good elegance and freshness of fruit, with good acidity and colour intensity.
David Fonseca Guimaraens