Seely: Colheita is the Douro’s ‘wine of the future’

The Colheita style of Port, a tawny made from a single vintage, is better suited to the lifestyle of modern drinkers and will help keep the Port category buoyant in the future, believes Christian Seely of Quinta do Noval, describing it as the Douro’s ‘wine of the future’.

Quinta do Noval’s 1964 Colheita Port

Ripe for a boom, Seely revealed to the drinks business that he is now laying down a far greater quantity of Colheita Ports than in the past, even hinting that he might one day make a Colheita from the estate’s famed Nacional vineyard.

“25 years ago I had never drunk a Colheita in my life, like most people in the world,” explains Seely. “I discovered Colheita at the Noval library and I just thought they were some of the most beautiful wines. The problem is they are not as economically interesting as vintage Port. We make a vintage Port and two years later we can sell it. With Colheita you make the wine and keep it for 15 years. So making the thing and keeping it for 12-15 years is an expensive business.”

“At the moment it sells for a lower price than vintage Port, so making vintage Port makes financial sense. I wanted to make Colheita Ports because I love them. If vintage Port is the great expression of the valley, Colheita is the other great Port wine of the Douro valley. Not only great, but sometimes greater in some cases. It’s possible to prefer Colheita to Vintage. I also believe that Colheita Ports will become more and more in demand, and that’s already happening.”

Noval released a Colheita from the 95, 97, 2000 and 2003 vintages, (and has a private supply of older stocks, including the 1964) but Seely plans to release more examples in the future, believing the category could be the answer to Port’s ongoing dilemma of how to get a new generation of wine lovers enthused about the category.

“I have stopped selling the 95 and 2000 and 2003,” said Seely. “I’m a great believer in Colheira and I only wish I had laid down more back then, but it’s easy to have hindsight. I am laying down more now. Colheita is the wine of the future.”

Quinta do Noval

Explaining why he expects demand for Colheita Ports to increase, Seely points toward the changing circumstances of modern life.

“They are practical for the people that might be drinking it in the future,” he said. “Vintage Port wines were developed for another time. The traditional consumer who might buy a case and lay it down in their cellar and keep it for decades, that is great. But most modern consumers in New York, London, Shanghai are probably living in apartments and the idea of laying down a wine for 20 years isn’t practical. We age Colheita Ports for you. We age them here and they are ready to drink. I really think that Colheita will be a very major contributor to the future prosperity of the Douro Valley.”

Quinta do Noval, based in the Pinhão Valley of the Douro, is known for its vintage Ports, which unlike the larger houses declares more frequently, having declared for the past five consecutive years.

“Noval follows its own path in its approach to Vintage Port,” said Seely. “If we believe that we have wines of the quality and personality to join the ranks of the Quinta do Noval Ports of previous years, we will bottle it and declare it, even if this means declaring several years in a row, and even if it means, as is often the case, bottling only a few hundred cases of Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, representing a tiny percentage of the total production of the Quinta, in some years less than 3% of our production.”

However its unique calling card is its Nacional – a vintage Port made from a select 1.6ha ungrafted vineyard within the Quinta comprised of a blend of around 30 varieties, including Touriga Nacional.

While this vineyard has, so far, been reserved only for vintage Port, Seely revealed he would not be adverse to producing a Colheita from its prized vineyard in the future.

“I might, from time to time, put a Nacional in bottle with the aim of one day making a Nacional Colheita,” he hinted. “We haven’t done it yet, but I might have a few bottles…”

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