Tasting Report: 9 2017 Vintage Ports from Quinta do Noval and The Taylor Fladgate Partnership

by Fred Swan - Guest Blogger

This article looks at the tremendous 2017 vintage Port wines from Quinta do Noval and The Taylor Fladgate Partnership, nine wines in all. My notes are based on tasting I did in May with winemakers and management from the companies. Part one of the series described the 2016 and 2017 vintages overall, without specific wine notes. Part two described the wines of Symington Family Estates.

The wines are listed in the order they were presented to me, which tends to move from less to more sweet. Note that these wines are not yet released and, for some, the blend may change slightly. Expect final wines to hit the market in September.

Croft Vintage Port 2017

This wine is a multi-vintage blend with the backbone coming from the southwest facing Quinta da Roeda, near Pinhao. Winemaker David Guimaraens says that site’s signature is aromatic and exotic with tropical and eucalyptus notes. There is indeed eucalyptus on the nose, along with ripe, dark berries. The sweet palate is full-bodied with plenty of fine, velvety tannins that finish with grip. Flavors echo the nose. This is a vintage port that, as is typical, will be best after several years of bottle age that will soften the structure and build complexity.

Croft is the oldest of Port houses, established in 1588 by a wine merchant family from York, England. It is now owned by The Fladgate Partnership.

Croft Roeda Serikos Vintage Port 2017

This is the first-ever single-Quinta wine made from the Roeda Serikos vineyard. The vines there are still the original, post-phylloxera plantings from 1889 through 1900. Due to the the age, they are low-yielding with concentrated fruit. Whereas a single, young vine might produce a bottle of Port on its own, it takes four of Roeda Serikos’ venerable plants to do so.

Gently sweet and full-boded with beautifully intense, long flavors of chocolate, dark berry syrup, red and black cherry, and medicinal herb. This wine’s approachable, and delectable, now, but will age extremely well too.

2017 vintage port fonseca
One of the three Fonseca quintas in Portugal

Fonseca Vintage Port 2017

The nose is a bit quiet now, but the palate is sweet, voluptuous, and overflowing with long-lasting flavors of jammy, syrupy fruit, spice, black pepper, chocolate, and bitter orange. The copious tannins are soft and velvety. Yum. It will be good now paired with food but will also benefit from mid-term aging, which is 20+ years for vintage Port.

Part of The Fladgate Partnership, Fonseca was established in 1813. The most important component of the wine is Quinta do Panascal, which provides a consistent, dense, savory, tannic backbone. It’s complemented by fruit from two quintas near Pinhao which add fruit, spice, and lushness.

See Fonseca Vintage Port in stock at JJ Buckley

Krohn Vintage Port 2017

Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership says the Krohn estate, Quinta do Retiro Novo in the Rio Torto area, is east-facing and windy, which leads to densely concentrated, austere Port. The 2017 is full-bodied and potent with heaps of velvety tannins that build in chalkiness with each sip. The power and warmth is balanced by sweetness. Flavors include cassis, dark chocolate, dark flowers, and herb.

The Krohn Port house began in 1865, its founders Norwegian. It was a multi-faceted company that also offered lumber and fish, though Port quickly became the dominant focus. The Fladgate Partnership bought Krohn, which is especially well-known for single-vintage tawnies, in 2013.

JJ Buckley has several Krohn Vintage Port in stock, some dating back to the 1960s.

Krohn's Quinta do Retiro Novo

Quinto do Noval Vintage Port 2017

The nose is a complex blend of spices and ripe, black fruits. The off-dry palate is full-bodied and silky attack that becomes sensuously chewy in the mouth.  Licorice joins the fruits and spices on the juicy palate. A nearly perfect vintage Port, beautiful, sexy, gently intense, and a tremendous value.

Quinta do Noval is a large, single vineyard of 1,375 acres. It was established in 1715, revitalized in 1894 after phylloxera, and hit the big time when it was one of the few houses to declare the 1931 vintage. In 1954, it created the Port style “Late-Bottled Vintage.” The vineyard features a broader range of Port varieties than is common, many of them quite rare now.

JJ Buckley currently has five vintages of Quinto do Noval in stock

Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port 2017

This wine is absolutely gorgeous and, in my view, perfect, though at eight times the price of the regular Quinta do Noval. The full-bodied, off-dry palate is tightly wound with a plethora of grippy, velvety tannins which form a sensuous corset that overflows with voluptuous flavors of orange blossom, dark flowers, rich licorice, ripe black fruit, and scoops of spice.

The name “Nacional” does not mean this wine is solely made from Touriga Nacional. Rather, it signifies that the vines are solely Portuguese. They are a 4-acre parcel—less than a third of one percent of the overall vineyard—of own-rooted vines, spared by phylloxera. The vines are small, with a meager canopy and produce tiny berries. All the varieties are co-fermented and foot-trodden in a small lagare dedicated solely to this wine. Only 200 cases of 2017 were made.

Quinta da Romaneira Vintage Port 2017

Another stellar effort, the nose is pretty with delicate spice, plum, cocoa, and black currant. The palate is off-dry, full-bodied, and replete with soft, cashmere tannins. Coupled with balancing acidity, they give the wine a graceful, relaxed presence in the mouth. The dark fruit flavors are bright and tangy, with chocolate, orange, and plenty of cinnamon adding interest.

Quinta do Noval and its managing director, Christian Seely, purchased 1,000 acre site together in 2004 and have been rehabilitating the vines, adding unusual new varieties, and built a new winery. The vintage Port is made solely from old Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca vines.

Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 2017

Also phenomenal is this powerful wine, which David Guimaraens calls “quintessential Taylor… very austere and very precise.” The aromas and flavors—licorice, dark fruit, flowers, and chocolate—are indeed reigned in by voluminous, softly chewy tannins. It’s full-bodied, off-dry, and very, very long.

Taylor Fladgate was established in 1692 and has remained with the family ever since, though they’ve added vineyards and other brands since.

Taylor Fladgate Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port 2017

A spectactular, full-bodied, gently sweet Port resplendent with soft, velour-like tannins and intense, mouthwatering flavors of zesty dark berries, violet, mint, and chocolate.

Taylor Fladgate bought Quinta de Vargellas in 1893. It in the eastern Douro Valley and consists of five blocks, each with a number of vines which are more than 100-years old. (“Vinha Vella” means “old vine” in Portuguese.) The property has a northern facing, which protects it from excess heat. Taylor Fladgate began making this single-quinta, old vine, Touriga Nacional-focused selection in 1985. 2017 is just the eighth release.

Images courtesy of The Taylor Fladgate Partnership

JJ Buckley guest blogger Fred Swan is a San Francisco-based wine writer, educator, and authority on California wines and wineries. His writing  appears in The Tasting Panel, SOMM Journal, GuildSomm.com, Daily.SevenFifty.com, PlanetGrape.com, and his own site, FredSwan.Wine (formerly NorCalWine). He teaches at the San Francisco Wine School. Fred’s certifications include WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Napa Valley Wine Educator and Level 3 WSET Educator. He's twice been awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.