2016 Port: ‘Classic’ but tiny

The widely declared 2016 vintage in the Douro may be a classic but volumes are very small with the amount produced being, on occasion, almost half the amount made in an average declaration.

Last week, three of Port’s biggest names, Quinta do Noval, the Fladgate Partnership and Symington Family Estates, held a combined tasting in London to present their freshly minted vintage.

It is the first time since 2011 that there has been such a wide vintage declaration in the northern Portuguese region with practically all the major shippers declaring for their various houses.

Speaking at a briefing during the tasting, Adrian Bridge of the Fladgate Partnership, Christian Seely of AXA Millèsimes and Johnny Symington of Symington Family Estates all stressed the quality of the wines produced.

Bridge described them as “particularly extraordinary wines”, while Seely said he’d been “thrilled” by them right from the start, while Symington said they were “perfectly aligned”.

Yet 2016 was also a difficult year, with a warm, wet winter, then a cold, wet spring, a summer that was at times blisteringly hot and then rain right at the end of the season.

It was, said Symington, a year to “really know your vineyards” and also hold one’s nerve and wait to pick until after the rains.

“It’s a calculated risk,” he said. “Making great wines needs science, art and luck – and patience.”

The effect of the varied weather is clear on the amount of wine produced and volumes of the 2016 are extremely small.

Bridge noted that production of Taylor’s was around 6,000 nine-litre cases, easily half the amount in an average vintage (between 12,000-14,000). For Fonseca, meanwhile, some 5,000 cases were made and just 3,000 for Croft’s.

Symington said volumes were down 20-30% on 2011 which itself “wasn’t big”.

For the first time the company has actually printed the number of cases produced on the front label of each bottle.

The numbers are:

  • Cockburn’s: 2,450 cases
  • Warre’s: 4,250 cases
  • Graham’s: 6,325 cases
  • Dow’s: 5,480 cases
  • Smith Woodhouse: 1,500 cases
  • Quinta de Roriz: 390 cases

At Quinta do Noval meanwhile, just 170 cases of Naçional have been produced.

High demand is expected for the wines and prices will be up by as much as 20-25% on the release prices of the 2011s.

On the other hand, the 2011s have generally appreciated very strongly since their release and the price of the 2016s is generally below the going-rate of the ‘11s.

As pointed out by Liv-ex, a case in point would be the Dow’s 2011. Released at £450 a case, it has climbed 211% since then to £1,400. Its 2016 has been released at £624 so less than half the price.

Most other gaps are no way near as large. Cockburn’s 2011 is £460 and the 2016 is out at £450; Graham’s 2011 is £650 and the 2016 £624; Croft’s 2011 is £420 and the 2016 £470 and Taylor’s 2011 is £580 and the 2016 roughly the same price.

Nonetheless, as it has been such a long time since a big declaration, judging by the overall success of the 2011s and as volumes are so limited there is confidence that the 2016s will sell well.

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