2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

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Andy Velebil
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2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Andy Velebil » 23:47 Sat 12 Jun 2021

2019 SYMINGTON VINTAGE PORT REVIEW

I won’t get into a long-winded speech about how the vintage went. It’s pretty easy to find that from a variety of Port producers, large and small, from all areas of the rather large Douro region. Suffice it to say, it was a rather erratic and dry growing season that saw some much needed rain in late August. Then harvest went on and on and on, turning into one of the longest in recent memory. Only two of these Ports will be released later this year, Senhora da Ribeira and Vesuvio. The other four will be held back and aged at the winery then released at some point in the future. The Symington’s, among others, chose not to “Declare” this vintage and they clearly made the right call. All the Ports were tasted non-blind, in random order, each day over 5 days. Most days they were tasted twice a day to chart any changes.

2019 Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais Vintage Port
This started out very high-toned and acidic and while pleasant was not showing what this vineyard is capable of. This started out as my least favorite of all the 6 Ports. As the old saying goes, what a difference a day makes. In this case, quite the stunning turn as it shed that hi-toned fruit in favor of elegant rich black stone fruit, plums, well placed tannins and lots of searing acidity. The elegance and depth of the complexity of this really stands out. Perhaps one of the best examples of Canais in some time.
93-94 Points

2019 Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Port

Starting off slightly softer and sweeter than I recall for Cavadinha, with lush berries and eucalyptus dominating the mouth. Then it all got smacked around by massive wave of late arriving tannins that packed quite the punch. As this got more air, the fruit became more and more expressive. It seamlessly stitched itself together from the front end to the finish and evolved into one fantastic Vintage Port. A bit bolder than I recall for Cavadinha, but my goodness does this one have all the right stuff.
94-95 Points

2019 Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim Vintage Port
Dry black fruit, menthol, granite, tea leaves, drying tannins and then cedar on a rather long finish. Noticeably drier on the palate than the others, which is remarkable as a couple others have lower baumé. And let me not forget to mention that racy acidity, yowza! This went through a couple of dips over the 5 days but kept coming out better for it. It clearly needs some time in bottle to truly show what it has to offer.
93-94(+) Points

2019 Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port
Noticably sweeter entry with a more woodsy and rugged “old-school” side to it. Even though also a Dow’s, it could not have been more different than the Bomfim. Lots of chocolate, menthol and licorice, which started up front and carried through to the end. Where this really shined was the depth of that dark fruit and the complexity of it all. This was firing on all cylinders from day 1 and never let go of its lead. A remarkable Port!
95-96 Points

2019 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port
Semi-sweet bright red fruit with some green stems lying just underneath. The fruit is softer and this lacks the depth of recent vintages of Vesuvio. It did firm up a little with time but never quite came round. Perhaps I’m just being a bit harsh after a run of fantastic vintages. This was still an enjoyable bottle, but one for mid-term drinking.
91-92 Points

2019 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port
This had a wonderful mix of tea leaves, tobacco, chocolate, dusty tannins and darker fruits that changed to red fruits by the finish. The first day the tannins overshadowed the fruit on the finish. Thankfully they softened and allowed the fruit to come to the front as the days went on. A softer styled Malvedos that was rather backwards at first and needs some time in bottle to come around. Holding this one for later release is a good call as I think it will be better off for it.
91-92(+) Points

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JacobH
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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by JacobH » 22:08 Mon 14 Jun 2021

Thanks: really interesting. That looks a bit disappointing for the Vesuvio as the only full declaration of the bunch, doesn’t it?
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PhilW
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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by PhilW » 22:48 Mon 14 Jun 2021

JacobH wrote:
22:08 Mon 14 Jun 2021
Thanks: really interesting. That looks a bit disappointing for the Vesuvio as the only full declaration of the bunch, doesn’t it?
Is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?

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Re: RE: Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by JacobH » 22:53 Mon 14 Jun 2021

PhilW wrote:
JacobH wrote:
22:08 Mon 14 Jun 2021
Thanks: really interesting. That looks a bit disappointing for the Vesuvio as the only full declaration of the bunch, doesn’t it?
Is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?
Haha! I suppose I was wondering if it was disappointing; the SQVPs were exceptionally good; or whether Andy might score a given wine lower if it is a VP rather than a SQVP on the basis that full declarations should be better!
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Re: RE: Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Andy Velebil » 23:26 Mon 14 Jun 2021

JacobH wrote:
22:53 Mon 14 Jun 2021
PhilW wrote:
JacobH wrote:
22:08 Mon 14 Jun 2021
Thanks: really interesting. That looks a bit disappointing for the Vesuvio as the only full declaration of the bunch, doesn’t it?
Is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?
Haha! I suppose I was wondering if it was disappointing; the SQVPs were exceptionally good; or whether Andy might score a given wine lower if it is a VP rather than a SQVP on the basis that full declarations should be better!
It was scored only the merits of its contents and not the label attached to it.

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Re: RE: Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Glenn E. » 02:32 Tue 15 Jun 2021

JacobH wrote:Thanks: really interesting. That looks a bit disappointing for the Vesuvio as the only full declaration of the bunch, doesn’t it?
Is there such a thing as a "full" Vesúvio declaration?

To me, and based on price, all Vesúvios are SQVPs.
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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Andy Velebil » 04:29 Tue 15 Jun 2021

Glenn E. wrote:
JacobH wrote:Thanks: really interesting. That looks a bit disappointing for the Vesuvio as the only full declaration of the bunch, doesn’t it?
Is there such a thing as a "full" Vesúvio declaration?

To me, and based on price, all Vesúvios are SQVPs.
Considering the IVDP rules allows a small percentage of grapes to come from another Quinta and still be called “SQVP”, I have to agree that Quinta Vintage Port (QVP) is a far more accurate and appropriate name than SQVP. Unless you want to force producers to label only 100% single Quinta ports as SQVP.

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by JacobH » 09:39 Tue 15 Jun 2021

Andy Velebil wrote:
23:26 Mon 14 Jun 2021
It was scored only the merits of its contents and not the label attached to it.
I assumed that was the case, although I do think with a categorised wine like Port there is nothing wrong with scoring them by category
Glenn E. wrote:
02:32 Tue 15 Jun 2021
Is there such a thing as a "full" Vesúvio declaration?

To me, and based on price, all Vesúvios are SQVPs.
That’s fair enough. I prefer to think of “SQVP” as referring to second-label Vintage Ports rather than first-label Vintage Ports that are made from a single quinta (or, indeed, the ultra-premium Ports like the Taylor VVV etc.) but I appreciate that the Symingtons, in particular, probably don’t see it that way. Indeed, considering the huge volumes that must be produced to justify them appearing in almost every supermarket in the UK, often at quite low prices, I am always impressed at their quality.
Andy Velebil wrote:
04:29 Tue 15 Jun 2021
Considering the IVDP rules allows a small percentage of grapes to come from another Quinta and still be called “SQVP”, I have to agree that Quinta Vintage Port (QVP) is a far more accurate and appropriate name than SQVP. Unless you want to force producers to label only 100% single Quinta ports as SQVP.
I didn’t realise that. Incidentally, I’ve never been quite sure where the Rules for an SQVP are located since I don’t think they are set out in the main regulations which display the different categories.

I’m actually quite surprised that they are allowed to put some grapes from other Quintas into an SQVP. They aren’t allowed to put a small amount of wine from a different year into a VP or LBV so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be 100% from the Quinta that is named on the bottle. I suppose one could make a legitimate exception for adjacent properties since I think the bigger Quintas have been consistently expended over the last 100 years by buying and incorporating adjacent places.

I don’t like the expression “Quinta Vintage Port” since the key word in the expression “SQVP”, to me, is “Single”. But then, as I have mentioned before, I have never really understood why the Port industry has settled on producing SQVP for its second-label VPs; an outsider might think that logically it would seem to me to make more sense to produce it in the best years when you don’t need to blend as much to produce outstanding wines!
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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by MigSU » 11:04 Tue 15 Jun 2021

JacobH wrote:
09:39 Tue 15 Jun 2021

But then, as I have mentioned before, I have never really understood why the Port industry has settled on producing SQVP for its second-label VPs; an outsider might think that logically it would seem to me to make more sense to produce it in the best years when you don’t need to blend as much to produce outstanding wines!
I'll have to take exception to this, as it is a common argument I have encountered many times, particularly in the 'early says' of modern Portuguese table wine, in fairs and tastings and what not. Many people would either ask or outright assume that the Portuguese make blends in order to disguise the low(er) quality of the grapes and/or the wine. And I'm not even half-joking, this is something I have heard many times, directly and indirectly, when I was behind the counter in fairs and tastings: that we don't have (comparatively) many varietal wines because we need to blend to disguise faults and flaws.

So I'll tell you what I told them: blending is not about "need". Not only is it an art form, but it's also a philosophy - it's about making something greater than its constituent parts. And just like every grape variety has its pros and cons, so does every plot of land. By blending different grapes from different plots you can - just like with varieties - try to get the best of different plots in order to create something truly unique.

And that is why you usually only make the 'main' brands in full declarations: because that's when you can be sure that all your vineyards are producing top quality grapes, and therefore you can blend safely in the knowledge that you're using only top quality fruit.

You say that they should make SQVP in outstanding years because the fruit is great, so I ask you: why shouldn't they use those outstanding years to bring together different quintas in order to make something greater than the sum of its parts?

This is getting a bit long, so I'll end on a controversial note: I see wines (in general, not just Ports) from a single plot/vineyard/Quinta the same way I see varietal wines - they're interesting tools to see what a particular plot or variety is capable of. But I'll always prefer blends, because in my view that's how you can really craft something great. And I'll know everyone will reply with "Oh, but look at all these legendary wines that are varietal and are single vineyard". This is true. But imagine what they could be if their weaknesses could be eliminated by way of blending... :twisted:

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by JacobH » 11:49 Tue 15 Jun 2021

I don’t disagree with you about the importance of blending. It is also a notable that it can be used to criticise Portuguese and other less-popular European wines—sherry is a good example—but you never hear of similar criticism for the really popular blended wines such as Bordeaux reds or champagne.

The reason for my comment about quality was that I had always assumed that the more options available to the winemaker, the better. I therefore assumed that making a SQVP can be harder than making a non-SQVP since you are limiting yourself to a single vineyard. I also assumed that the limit could be more pronounced in secondary years because your single vineyard might produce less top-quality Port in a weaker year. That’s why I have been surprised that the Fonseca Guimaraens model isn’t followed by anyone else, where you have a classic blend in the best years and a second-label blend in the other years.

Do the winemakers, when producing a SQVP never think: “if only I could blend in something from these other Quintas, we’d get something much better, even if it is not as good as our vintage blend”? Perhaps not. There is obviously a reason why the industry has settled on SQVP and it may be that this problem just doesn’t exist in reality.
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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by PhilW » 11:52 Tue 15 Jun 2021

MigSU wrote:
11:04 Tue 15 Jun 2021
This is getting a bit long, so I'll end on a controversial note: I see wines (in general, not just Ports) from a single plot/vineyard/Quinta the same way I see varietal wines - they're interesting tools to see what a particular plot or variety is capable of. But I'll always prefer blends, because in my view that's how you can really craft something great. And I'll know everyone will reply with "Oh, but look at all these legendary wines that are varietal and are single vineyard". This is true. But imagine what they could be if their weaknesses could be eliminated by way of blending... :twisted:
SQVP wines are or can be blends of course; either from early/later pickings, or from different sub-plots/varieties within the vineyard (which may be picked at same or different times). In general I agree with your point though, that the more choice you have to blend from, the better wine you should be able to make. Would you extend that further to therefore assert that Crusted (blend of multiple years) should generally be better than single-vintage ports?

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by MigSU » 12:16 Tue 15 Jun 2021

PhilW wrote:
11:52 Tue 15 Jun 2021
MigSU wrote:
11:04 Tue 15 Jun 2021
This is getting a bit long, so I'll end on a controversial note: I see wines (in general, not just Ports) from a single plot/vineyard/Quinta the same way I see varietal wines - they're interesting tools to see what a particular plot or variety is capable of. But I'll always prefer blends, because in my view that's how you can really craft something great. And I'll know everyone will reply with "Oh, but look at all these legendary wines that are varietal and are single vineyard". This is true. But imagine what they could be if their weaknesses could be eliminated by way of blending... :twisted:
SQVP wines are or can be blends of course; either from early/later pickings, or from different sub-plots/varieties within the vineyard (which may be picked at same or different times). In general I agree with your point though, that the more choice you have to blend from, the better wine you should be able to make. Would you extend that further to therefore assert that Crusted (blend of multiple years) should generally be better than single-vintage ports?
Yes, I know that SQVP can be blends of many grape varieties. The reason I brought up grape varieties was to make an analogy between blending varieties and blending quintas.

The trouble with that crusted statement is the fact that the best grapes don't go into crusted, they go to VPs.

But one could reasonably make the argument that a Port made from the top grapes from many different great years could surpass a Port made from the top grapes of a single great year. And, in my opinion, there is a category where that can indeed be true: tawny ports! In my view a top tawny with indication of age will almost always surpass a comparable colheita tawny.

However, doing the same in bottle-aged ports has a significant problem: the best years are seldom consecutive. And so you have a problem: you either have to keep grapes from year to year (an impossible task without massive loss of quality, making it pointless) or you have to blend wines in different stages of maturation, which would also lower the overall quality and balance of the wine.
This would meam that your "non-vintage-bottle-aged-port" would have grapes from some sub-par years, in which case you're better off just making a vintage port from a great year.

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Alex Bridgeman » 15:52 Tue 15 Jun 2021

I too have had the opportunity to taste some 2019 Ports over 3-4 days and offer my thoughts on them below so you can contrast and compare my opinion with Andy's on at least the SFE wines.

Cockburn Canais
10,000 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl, 150cl and 300cl format.

Wonderfully pure fruit on the nose, so clean and fragrant. Gentle tannic grip and generous acidity supports the clean and pure fruit on the palate, the three combining to give a fine elegant Port. Lots of mint and menthol on the aftertaste, liquorice and bramble fruit finish. This is a fine Canais Port and - given the volume produced and the quality of the wine - might be released in due course to the UK market as a supermarket own label wine. 89-91/100.

Dow Quinta do Bomfim
3,500 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl, 150cl and 300cl format.

Sweet ripe fruit nose. a little lush. Good density of fruit on the palate, blackcurrant flavours riding a wave of acidity but with some fine-grained tannins lurking in the background. Aniseed warms the aftertaste and supports a good finish. This wine is all about the acidity and the rich fruit. 88-90/100.

Dow Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira
985 cases produced.

The nose took a few days to develop, but ended as a pleasant floral (esteva) nose. The fruit is ripe but very fresh with good acidity keeping it focused and clean. Medium bodied with ripe and fine-grained tannins giving a gentle grip. Gentle grip on the aftertaste and a lovely black wine gum finish. A very pleasant Port. 88-90/100.

Graham Malvedos
8,000 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl, 150cl and 300cl format.

Sweet fat fruit on the nose, full of Parma Violets and ripe blackcurrant. The floral tones on the nose of the fruit also appear on the palate. Plenty of ripe tannic grip come through the fruit on the palate, a fine contrast in style to the other Symington wines from 2019. Lots of eucalyptus oil delivers some heat on the aftertaste, but the acidity giving this warmth fades and allows the bramble fruit to settle on the finish. 89-91/100.

Quinta do Vesuvio
1,640 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl, 150cl and 300cl format.

This started off as a lovely, fresh and fruit driven Port but over the course of 5 days dropped off a cliff on Day 4 and 5. At its best it was wonderfully fragrant on the nose, prim and proper blackcurrants everywhere - like Mary Poppins meets Ribena. On the palate the fruit was sweet and ripe with the touch of Vesuvio lusciousness giving a balanced palate where the fruit is more rounded and richer than many others from this vintage. Fine tannins grip the inside of the cheeks while multiple layers of flavour float around on the palate. A lovely, big wine on days 1-3. Despite the short shelf life, I really liked this wine. 91-93/100.

Warre Quinta da Cavadinha
2,300 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl, 150cl and 300cl format.

A lovely smooth and ripe nose, managing a peculiar feat of perfectly blending fresh floral blueberry with warm sweet pineapple to give a sweet and warm sensation of fruit. The fruit is luscious and sweet on entry, yet comes with an acidity big enough to balance the fruit and even dominate the mid-palate. The late palate reveals the fruit to have a lovely roundness and perfume. There are tannins in this wine, but they are so fine-grained and beautifully integrated to be almost unnoticed. This wine has a roundness and sweetness to the fruit which will drink extremely well in the baby-fat years yet will also mature very nicely to reveal the Warre trademark of understated elegance. 91-93/100.

Niepoort
I tried a half bottle sample of the 2019 Niepoort but there was something wrong with the bottle. Once I receive the promised replacement, I will update this tasting note.

Quinta do Noval
2,400 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl format with a very small number of magnums being filled for library stock at the Quinta.

My favourite of the 2019 Ports I tasted as cask samples. A very dark red, black in tone but with an astonishing nose of spearmint and blackcurrant. Wonderfully dense on the palate, dominated by the concentrated yet floral blackcurrant fruit, backed by strong tannins and powerful acidity yet still achieving an astonishing harmony. The aftertaste is a little hot and peppery as the acidity is yet to fully integrate, but this quickly fades to deliver a chocolate coated sour cherry finish. This is an extremely good Port. 92-94/100.
Top Ports in 2019: Niepoort VV (1960s bottling) and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
Top Ports in 2020 (so far): Croft 1945 and Niepoort VV (1960s bottling)

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by MigSU » 16:15 Tue 15 Jun 2021

JacobH wrote:
11:49 Tue 15 Jun 2021
That’s why I have been surprised that the Fonseca Guimaraens model isn’t followed by anyone else, where you have a classic blend in the best years and a second-label blend in the other years.
I disagreed when you said SQVP should be produced on the best years, but here I wholeheartedly agree with you.

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by PCM » 22:37 Tue 15 Jun 2021

Thanks a lot, Alex! Very interesting to see the differences with Andy! :)

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Andy Velebil » 18:19 Wed 16 Jun 2021

PCM wrote:Thanks a lot, Alex! Very interesting to see the differences with Andy! :)
Keep in mind He scores lower than most. you need to add about 3 points to Alex’s scores for translation into the rest of us scores. LOL!

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by PCM » 20:24 Wed 16 Jun 2021

Andy Velebil wrote:
18:19 Wed 16 Jun 2021
PCM wrote:Thanks a lot, Alex! Very interesting to see the differences with Andy! :)
Keep in mind He scores lower than most. you need to add about 3 points to Alex’s scores for translation into the rest of us scores. LOL!
Even keeping that in mind there are some remarkable differences: Alex scores Senhora da Ribeira lowest (together with Bomfim) while you score him highest and for Vesuvio it is the other way around! But taste is very personal, so where are we talking about :D :tpf:

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by Alex Bridgeman » 20:27 Wed 16 Jun 2021

It's fairly well known that I am a sucker for the Vesuvio (and Warre) styles - I love that balanced mouthful of fruit they both seem to provide me, which just hits my sweet spot.
Top Ports in 2019: Niepoort VV (1960s bottling) and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
Top Ports in 2020 (so far): Croft 1945 and Niepoort VV (1960s bottling)

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Re: 2019 Symington Vintage Port Review

Post by JacobH » 09:31 Sun 04 Jul 2021

Alex Bridgeman wrote:
15:52 Tue 15 Jun 2021
Quinta do Noval
2,400 cases produced. Bottled in 75cl format with a very small number of magnums being filled for library stock at the Quinta.

My favourite of the 2019 Ports I tasted as cask samples. A very dark red, black in tone but with an astonishing nose of spearmint and blackcurrant. Wonderfully dense on the palate, dominated by the concentrated yet floral blackcurrant fruit, backed by strong tannins and powerful acidity yet still achieving an astonishing harmony. The aftertaste is a little hot and peppery as the acidity is yet to fully integrate, but this quickly fades to deliver a chocolate coated sour cherry finish. This is an extremely good Port. 92-94/100.
I tried some of this, yesterday. I agree with Alex: it is an extremely good Port and reinforces my confidence in recent Noval Vintages and the general quality of their winemaking. I also compared it to the Quinta do Passadouro 2019 which was very elegant, with an attractive nose, but seemed extremely light by comparison and missing that fantastic structure that I think will make the Noval one for the long-haul.
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