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Old vines and foot treading key to 2009 Port declaration

The Fladgate Partnership was able to declare a classic vintage Port from all three of its houses from the particularly dry 2009 vintage due to early harvesting from old vines with “very established” root systems, according to Adrian Bridge, CEO of the company.

Speaking to the drink business at the first presentation of the 2009 Ports from Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca in London last Friday (6 May), Bridge said: “There was virtually no rain from July to September, with [in Quinta de Vargellas] just 0.6mm in July, 1.2mm in August and 8.6mm at the end of September, and this favoured old vines with very established root systems.”

The vintage didn’t benefit from a short spell of intense rainfall before picking began on 9 September at Croft’s Quinta da Roêda, which can help soften the grape skins, although Bridge said that conditions during harvesting were “perfect”.

He also said that timing was crucial in 2009 and any delay to the harvest would have resulted in “overripe fruit”, pointing out that while some houses started picking “at 15.6 baumé, we were at 14.6.”

However, despite old vines and early picking times, the vintage produced low yields – with just 9,000 cases of Taylor’s 2009 compared to 14,000 cases in 2007 – and extremely concentrated wines with high tannins. “We had an average phenolic reading of 2.6 [for Taylor’s] which is the highest we’ve ever had – in 2007 and 2003 it was 1.7.”

In terms of taste, Bridge described the 2009 vintage Ports as “more old-fashioned, they are muscular with sinewy tannin.”

He also said that foot treading the grapes was important to the decision to declare the vintage. “We foot tread the grapes with the stalks in and this gives more tannin to offset the riper fruit; foot treading adds a degree of complexity.”

As previously recorded by db, 2009 marks the first time the Douro has declared as many as four classic vintages in a single decade, although Bridge reminded that it’s easier to fit four into a decade if the first declaration finishes with a zero – the three prior vintages were 2000, 2003 and 2007.

Finally, he added: “The biggest story is that there has never been a classic vintage ending in a nine; there have been lots of zeros, fives and threes, but this is the first ever classic with a nine.”

Patrick Schmitt, 12.05.2011

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