The declaration of the 2017 Port vintage was an oddity. Not just because Port declarations—when producers agree together to acknowledge the excellence of a special year—are rare in themselves, but because it followed directly after the second declaration of the decade in 2016.
As uncommon as it is, the producers were right. These two years are worthy successors to the magnificent 2011 vintage, the last year a declaration was made. The merits of the two most recent vintages will be debated over the decades as these wines mature. But for now, let’s consider the 2017 vintage.
The 2017 Ports have structure, depth and the right amount of concentration that will allow them to age for decades. While the tannins are rich and very much up front, the black fruits have the density and ripeness to measure up to this structure. These are qualities that are the real requisite of a true vintage Port.
Bento Amaral, the director of technical and certification services at Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP), who heads up the tasting panels that give approval for declared vintages, describes 2017 as offering “classic, wines with structure and plenty of tannin for long-term aging.”
For those who wish to contrast to previous years, Amaral considers 2017’s quality to be somewhere between the 2011 and the 2003 declared vintages.
Producers are also enthusiastic. Christian Seely, managing director at Quinta do Noval, says the 2017 Nacional Vintage, is the “best I have ever seen.” The winery’s legendary Port is notable for being made from a small parcel of ungrafted vines.
Johnny Symington, chairman of Symington Family Estates, talks of “the immense quality” of the year. Declaration of vintages have been established from each of his family’s stable of Port houses, which includes W. & J. Graham’s, Warre’s, Dow’s and Cockburn’s.
But not all major producers agree.
Sogrape Vinhos is the largest Portuguese wine producer and owner of Porto Ferreira, Sandeman and Offley. According to Luis Sottomayor, Sogrape’s Port winemaker, “The Ports are very fine, but they didn’t taste to me like true Vintage Ports. They were too soft.”
Sottomayor decided to release only single quinta vintages. These are wines from a single estate, but at a level just below a real vintage declaration, and is often a blend from various quintas. Interestingly, that decision did not stop Sandeman’s single Quinta do Seixo, to be one of the two 100-point wines reviewed this year.
Sandeman 2017 Quinta do Seixo; 100 points, $70. This is going to be a major, impressive wine. All the elements are there: ripe blackberry fruit, powerful acidity, dense tannins and spice. It has the structure to live on for decades. Drink from 2030. Evaton, Inc. Cellar Selection.
Taylor Fladgate 2017 Vargellas Vinhas Velhas; 100 points, $250. This is a magnificent, opulent wine, with rich tannins and equally rich black fruits. While it has plenty of ripeness that gives it a generous character, it never wavers in its firm strucutre. It will have an immensely long, impressive life. Drink from 2030. Kobrand. Cellar Selection.
Quinta do Noval 2017 Nacional; 99 points, $1125. This is a beautiful, floral wine produced from a small parcel of ungrafted vines. Ripe with layered black fruits as well as rich, dry tannins, it offers loads of spice and concentrated jammy berry fruit flavors. Drink from 2030. Vintus LLC. Cellar Selection.
Fonseca 2017 Port, 98 points, $120. The wine’s fine perfumed black plum fruits give a wonderful jammy character while bringing out a fresh edge. These are balanced by the dry core of this beautiful wine with its rich, generous tannins. It will all come together from 2030 in a very fine, integrated wine. Kobrand.
Sogrape 2017 Quinta do Porto; 97 points, $90. Already balanced between its dry tannins and its great fruit, this wine has true potential. Its dry edge leaves plenty of room for the wine’s swathes of jammy blackberry flavors. This is going to be a very fine wine, drinkable from 2030. Broadbent Selections, Inc.
Vallegre 2017 Quinta do Valle Longo; 97 points, $70. Finely perfumed while also massively rich, this is going to be a very fine wine. Its acidity as well as the dense, dry tannins will ensure that. They are giving the potential for a superbly structured wine, dark and dense, likely to be ready from 2032. LGL Imports LLC.
W. & J. Graham’s 2017 Port; 97 points, $125. The wine is packed with glorious black fruits that have immense backing tannins. It has a succulent edge of juicy acidity that sears the tannins and promises a great future. Drink from 2031. Premium Port Wines, Inc.
Quinta do Vale Meão 2017 Port; 96 points, $89. Ripe with succulent black fruits, this wine is also immensely structured by a core of solid tannins. Bright acidity gives the essential contrast to this power and contributes to its great aging potential. Drink from 2032. Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits. Cellar Selection.
Quinta do Vallado 2017 Port; 95 points, $110. This wine’s initial softness is deceptive and overlays a dry core that is balanced by rich black fruit and vibrant acidity. With this intensity and structure, it is sure to age well. Drink from 2030. Quintessential Wines.
Wine & Soul 2017 Pintas Porto Vintage; 95 points, $90. The wine’s power comes from the superb black fruits. Balanced with acidity, they offer a fine counterpoint to the dark tannins that are lit by the bite of the spirit. The wine’s intensity will soften but probably not before 2028. MundoVino–Winebow.