Port Basics

Viticulture

Enjoying Port

Vintage Port, unlike many famous vintage wines from other wine regions in the world, is a blended wine made from several varieties of grapes, produced from (typically) three to five different quintas. In creating a Vintage Port, the winemaker is free to choose the best possible wines, though typically there are certain vineyards which form the backbone of the classic vintage and characterise that brand’s style.

During the 19th century, however, a few Quinta Vintage Ports emerged, Quinta do Vesuvio being amongst the very earliest. These wines were different from classic Vintage Ports in that all the component wines derived from one single extraordinary Quinta. In the last 50 years or so, more single quinta wines have appeared, some from new independent estates, such as Quinta de Roriz, and others produced from the big brands’ flagship quintas in years when a classic Vintage is not declared, for example a Quinta da Cavadinha when no Warre’s is declared, or a Quinta dos Malvedos instead of a Graham’s.

These wines are very similar, and very good value alternatives, to classic vintages. If you were to taste a brand’s classic vintage alongside its Quinta Vintage, for example a Dow’s and a Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira, you will recognise the house style (Dow’s is a drier and more austere style compared to a Graham’s or Warre’s) but you will also sense that the Quinta wine does not have the kind of structure, power or complexity to last 100 years – it should probably be consumed within 50 or so, which still gives the average consumer plenty of time to enjoy it.

These Quinta Vintage Ports are vinified and bottled according to the same regulations as classic Vintage Ports. Single estate brands such as Vesuvio release their wines after bottling, En Primeur.  At Symington Family Estates we generally do not release the single quinta wines from our brands (e.g. Malvedos or Bomfim) for sale until we feel they are ready to drink, typically 8 to 10 years after harvest, as opposed to classic Vintages, which are released En Primeur after bottling, two years after harvest.  But here again there may be exceptions, for example Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira is usually sold en primeur and we may, on an exceptional basis for an exceptional wine, offer a brand’s quinta wine en primeur.