In May we were invited to a superb tasting of some new releases from Symington Estates, from the 2015 vintage in the Douro. With 2016 looking likely to be a generally declared vintage, many shippers have opted to release Single Quinta vintages in 2015. This is excellent news for anyone wanting to lay down very high quality port, at a far lower price than from a general declaration.
2015 was a dry vintage, with just 31% of average rainfall. Charles and Paul Symington’s presentation highlighted the importance of regional variations across the Douro, which spans an area 100km wide. To illustrate this, Charles quoted rainfall figures of 1170mm in the Lower Corgo, versus 770mm in Pinhão and just 420mm at Vesuvio.
The tasting began with a bang, in more senses than one, the intense minerality of Graham’s ‘Stone Terraces’ exploding in the glass, like the sticks of dynamite used to help create the eponymous terraces. These extraordinarily labour intensive structures, built in the 19th Century, are each planted with just one row of vines. In 2015, they sheltered the vines from the excessive summer heat, resulting in balanced, intensely floral wines. Perfumed, with a background of spice and notes of caramel, the finely structured tannins suggest this will develop a fine texture. Just 400 cases were made from a mere 2.9 hectares; all handpicked and foot trodden. We are offering this on allocation in cases of 3 bottles, with a very limited quantity of magnums also available.
The vintage also marks the bicentenary of Cockburns, who until the 1950s, was in the first rank of shippers alongside the likes of Graham’s, Taylor’s and Fonseca. The Symington family purchased Cockburns in 2010 from multinational spirits company Beam Global (as in ‘Jim Beam’…). The aim was to restore Cockburns to former glory, renovating the cellars and investing in the vineyards. Judging by this release, they have achieved their aim. Intensely concentrated black fruits and silkily ripe tannins prompted one august wine writer in the room to exclaim ‘I could drink this now!’. The reputation of Cockburns is on the rise and this offers great value.
Two Single Quintas followed, both impressive in their own ways. Quinta do Vesuvio showed floral, bergamot notes on the nose, with a creaminess on the palate from velvety tannins, very characteristic of Vesuvio. A blend of 60% Touriga Franca, 20% Touriga Nacional and 20% Sousao, the latter grown on more granitic soils, bringing acidity and minerality to balance this powerful, structured port. 1000 cases were made. Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira 2015. The intense purple black colour in the glass was immediately striking, all the more so when Charles pointed out that the colourless spirit used to fortify the port makes up 20% of the liquid in the glass. Just 700 cases made.