Tried & True - The 2007 Vintage Port Wine Collection - Port Wine Vintages Reviewed

Written By Arman Zulhajar on Monday, July 30, 2012 | 1:39 PM

Artisan Vineyards recently savored the opportunity to taste through an extraordinary line up of Ports from the declared 2007 vintage. Chicago hosted eleven of the most celebrated Port houses earlier this year to launch the latest declared vintage and the reception met resounding enthusiasm. Among the world's longest-lived wines, vintage Port captures the senses completely and has duly earned its seat among the pantheon of the finest wines.

Vintage Port, an exceptional category

As vintage port is the most exceptional wine of the region, a vintage is seldom declared more than three times in each decade. House styles vary according to their land, production and which varieties are used of the 80 some permitted. When it comes to Port, the majority of wine drinkers are more accustomed to the more familiar styles available: Ruby, Tawny, Reserve Ruby and to some extent the LBVs. Beautiful in their own right, such styles offer but a glimpse of the effusive character vintage Port presents en force. When, during the course of a promising year, growers recognize the ideal conditions and handle the crop accordingly, they may find nature has blessed that particular harvest with unrivalled fruit, balance, depth and complexity. After the harvest, such a crop is often crushed under foot, fermented between 6% and 9% alcohol by volume and at which point fortified with a grape neutral spirit at 77% alcohol by volume at roughly one part spirit to four parts wine. It is then matured in cask for no more than two years leaving the rest of the development to evolve slowly behind glass over time -usually reaching their peak between 20 and 45 years old but often lasting well into their eighties and beyond. Rich, full, deep and structured, vintage Port stands head-and-shoulders above its peers.

Triumphant 2007 vintage declared

With precipitous, vine clad slopes that seem to loom high above and press in against the river, the Douro is renowned as a region with insurmountable topography, inhospitable schistose and granitic soils and a dry climate known for its raging sun; just the place for the tough indigenous grapes of Portugal. However, given a little tenderness, these varietals often find a voice that speaks of more than just deeply ripened and rendered fruit. Unlike the opaque concentration of the declared 2000 vintage or the ripe qualities of the 2003 vintage, 2007 will long be remembered as one of the most expressive and elegant Ports declared. According to Dominic Symington, whose family's stable includes Graham, Dow, Warre, Smith Woodhouse and Quinta do Vesuvio, 2007 stood proud as a "classical year," describing the Ports as more "feminine" and unique in their immediate pleasure despite their promise to last. Reflecting on the vintage as a whole, Dominic tells us "it was seldom over 105° -a relatively cool year for us." The weather was quite bad during flowering, and the season "continued with rather difficult conditions and a long rather cool summer. But then we had a copybook late summer with the odd day of rain, little moisture and a long and gentle growing season" -one that Symington reckons led the way for a remarkable vintage sure capture attention for their breadth, depth and high toned complexity.

Vintage Ports

Noval and Warre are two of the most distinguished Ports available. We feel extremely fortunate to carry these houses under our roof and even more so to provide you with access to their glorious Ports. Chuffed to have such an early glimpse onto the declared 2007 vintage, we took down our initial impressions with an eye to chart their development over time.

Quinta do Noval has made great wine since 1715 but it was the 1931 declaration that put the house's illustrious name on the map and their Port on every clamoring aficionados lips. Known as one of the most beautiful estates for the grounds' massive cedar trees and the stunning views that frame the heart of the Douro, Quinta do Noval deserves the hallowed reputation that sets it apart. Christian Seely, who has looked after Noval since 1993, was on hand in Chicago to share the quinta's latest vintage. Asking after the Noval's loftiest bottling, the Nacional, we were told by Seely that the 2007 Quinta do Noval is as great a Port from 2007 and that he actually preferred it to the eminent Nacional.

Quinta do Noval 2007 stood out among the other titans in the room for its deep, dark fruit, cocoa tannins, fresh mulberry and thistle come clover top notes and yet, despite a round and balanced attack, it seemed to swell to a saturating force through the end. For all its feminine balance it insists on showing you how the Douro can ripen its fruit so thoroughly even during a more elegant vintage. Even though a wine so rich will no doubt last decades, it presented heaps of flavors already calling "come hither" without decanting. Perhaps patience is sometimes overrated.

Further along, we remarked how many of these great Ports were already approachable fresh out of the gates. One in particular was Noval's Silval 2007 Vintage Port from estate grown fruit. Silval's captivating fragrance is generous with a pure core of red fruit and lifted cardamom among an array of other brown spices. It struck us as lighter and fresher with a lovely approachable style. Possessing ample weight, the Silval has the stuffing to last but not so much that you need to keep it at arms length for another decade -it's simply a happy choice: drink down as you please or see how beauty evolves.

Warre's 2007 Vintage Port burst from the glass with penetrating aromas of just about every kind red and black fruit, anise, cloves, aromatic hardwoods and lifting floral notes. Since 1670, Warre's name has been synonymous with great Port and this example surely conveys why. This 2007 combines the bold concentration from the 25 year old vines grown at the Bom Retiro estate with the high toned structure from the Cavadinha vineyards that preserve a clean and focused lift. A glowing texture fills the mouth with rich, bright fruit and then moves you with the savory spice of fine grained tannins. Much like Dominic Symington who runs Warre's with a warm and steady charm, the 2007 speaks eloquently of the Douro, the benign vintage and the expressive fruit that wafts up from the glass. With blackberry low notes checked by taut cherry high notes, Warre's 2007 engages the palate with spiced plums, a bright cranberry structure and rich and ripe dark fruits sure to last and evolve beyond measure.

None combine the depth, concentration and longevity of vintage Port. Such a rich and complex fortified can grab you by the collar and pull you in. A moment later it might lure you quietly with the subtlety of its fragrance. The palate can occupy your entirety. On the finish, fresh nuances might surface just when you thought it had shown you everything. It's long lived on the palate, lasting in the bottle and will surface in your memories years after you enjoyed that bottle's last drop. Are there any things in life greater than ingredients that inspire and spark memory; memories of a rare vintage, of bottles to mark a birth or a wedding, memories of forgotten friends or the distant past? Vintage Port etches itself in thoughts like no other wine. Thanks to a clement 2007 these vintage Ports need not rest before their corks are pulled and yet they promise to please no matter when they surface from the cellar.

Although some of our retailing partners may still have stock of the Ports listed above, twelve bottles are all that remain (when this was written) of the Noval 2007 Vintage Port.

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