Back in September of 2016 I traveled to the Douro Valley of Portugal visiting the Symington properties of Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s and more. 2015 had already been hyped throughout much of Europe as a great vintage, but 2016 was better than its predecessor in some places and in Portugal this is the case for the famous vintage Ports. Wine Spectator says, “The 2016 vintage in Port is shaping up to be one of the best in recent decades; the first releases here received staggeringly high scores…” The ultimate collectible wine, Vintage Port can age for decades and there is no better barometer of quality than a Port declaration, they really only make the “Vintage Ports” in the best vintages, usually just three or so times per decade.
One evening during the trip we toured and tasted at Quinta do Vesuvio and were invited for some harvest fun, including “treading” the grapes brought in that day. You can see my legs and shorts in the photo, we were in the “deep fruit” as they say and it was so fun!
We have a long history with Vesuvio, this has been a relatively under the radar Port for us for many years, the quality is always quite good and it is always more fairly priced than many of the other famous Port houses. In 2007 the Symington’s decided to take some of the old vine fruit and keep it separate from the full batch and perhaps if the quality was high enough bottle it separately as a special bottling like Graham’s Stone Terraces Cuvee or Quinta do Noval’s Nacional. They have made it just three times, 2007, 2011 and 2016.
Having crushed grapes there I have been keenly following the wines aging and bottling, and was tracking the shipment closely. I am thrilled that the wines are here!
A note on Esteva- Esteva is an herb that grows everywhere in the Douro, almost like a ground cover, it’s unique smell follows you everywhere, Suckling mentions a “greenness” in his note, and “minty fennel,” I feel that what he is talking about is esteva.
Capela da Quinta do Vesuvio 2016– ($189.99) I am simply fascinated with this wine, the prospect of culling out some of the better grapes to bottle separately intrigues me. The quality of the base wine has to be so high as to be able to stand up on its own without the old vine juice. But they can do it at Vesuvio because of the old vines, excellent terroir and quality. I have tasted the wine twice, my notes- the wine is perfumed and spicy with a floral edge, hinting at esteva, tremendous fruit on entry, round and textured, this has it all!
“Showy and vibrant, with stunning, pure waves of açai berry, blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry confiture flavors spilling forth, barely harnessed by a mouthwatering anise note and a long briary spine. Just as this nearly teeters from its fruit, this is reined in by terrific drive and cut though through the extremely long finish, thanks to a wellspring of acidity. 98 points.” Wine Spectator
“If the regular Vesuvio was pretty terrific, this is even better. Not quite as lush and sexy, it is tighter, better textured and more intense. Bursting with flavor too, this has rich chocolate-cherry nuances and a long, long finish. This is pretty super, one of my favorite wines in this vintage. The Symingtons struck gold with this Quinta and this bottling. This is unsettled, but it may yet merit an uptick in score. It seems like a superstar in the vintage. There were 3,000 bottles produced. 97+ points.” Wine Advocate
“This a tiny-production vintage Port from old vines planted in a particular parcel near the winery that are at least 60 years old. Full-bodied, tight and linear with beautiful dark fruits and intense tannins. Very Focused and beautiful. The Splendid tannins show through here. 96 points.” James Suckling
“…more backward and broody than the regular Quinta do Vesuvio with blackberry, cassis and briary aromas, and a hint of clove. Yet there is a sense of holding something back on the nose, something that will only be revealed with bottle age. The palate is rounded and supple with good depth, far more open than the aromatics with lightly spiced black cherries, cassis and blueberry fruit. It feels silky smooth towards the finish with a long aftertaste that just needs to gain a little more complexity, as I am sure it will in bottle. This has huge potential. 95 points.” Vinous Media
Quinta do Vesuvio 2016– (84.99) Also tasted twice, My notes- floral and “esteva”, round, great mouthfeel, lavender, perfumed, plummy, fruit with mineral, firm finish, LOVELY. This is a spectacular collectible.
“Densely packed, with lots of warmed fig, mulled blueberry, açai berry and blackberry paste flavors rolling through, scored with graphite and tar notes, carrying through a finish that has a moldering feel. A long licorice snap echo adds a lip-smacking hint. Best from 2035 through 2055 97 points.” Wine Spectator
“If this Quinta has a hallmark to me, it is the expressive, gorgeous fruit. It has a seductive feel, but it is also muscular and intense. It is one of the most muscular in the Symington stable this year, with the concentration to soak up the power…this seems superb. 96 points.” Wine Advocate
“The 2016 Quinta do Vesuvio from Symington’s has a slightly more savoury bouquet than its fellow 2016 releases – earthier, almost nuttier with some lovely grilled walnut scents percolating through with time in the glass. The palate is sweet and candied on the entry, notes of marmalade and dried quince infusing the cassis and black cherry fruit with high notes of blueberry and a slight saline tincture towards the well balanced, quite persistent finish. Very fine. 92 points” Vinous Media
“The greenness and stalkiness comes through here with a minty, fennel character as well as blueberry and violet undertones. Peppermint, too. Full-bodied and off-dry, showcasing blue fruits and a specially, fresh finish. 94 points.” James Suckling