The 2017 Nacional has an ethereal bouquet that takes time to unfold but delivers the same dazzling complexity as the last time I tasted it. Black fruit, graphite and pressed flower, perhaps a little more compact than you would expect, so perchance it is just closing down a tad. Excellent cohesion on the palate, spicy and peppery, a crescendo of flavours leading towards its bravura finish. The 2017 delivers, but it's a Port not for the faint-hearted. This is the "Wagner of Quinta do Noval"! Tasted at the Quinta do Noval tasting at Spring restaurant in London.
Drink 2033 - 2100
Neal Martin, Vinous (June 2022)
Ungrafted vines. Same winemaking as for the straight Quinta do Noval. TA 4.68 g/l, RS 99 g/l, pH 3.51.
Black core with wide purple rim. Less exuberant than the Noval at the moment, less sweet-smelling and scented but it has immediate elegance and purity, almost subtle in this context. Opening up to bergamot and tea leaf. So concentrated it is all tight and closed up even though you can see it is rich and packed with fine black fruit. Spicy, tangy and mouth-watering. Outstanding length and promise.
Drink 2037 - 2070
Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com (May 2019)
The 2017 Vintage Port Nacional is a field blend, mostly Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Sousão and Tinta Roriz, aged for 18 months in old wood. It comes in at 99 grams of residual sugar and was bottled about a month before this tasting after 18 months in wooden vats. In 2016, I might've made an argument that the regular Noval was better. In this vintage, this seems to be a clear choice, granting that Ports change constantly in their youth. Its siblings at all levels in the last few vintages are very fine, but this is an indisputable benchmark that seems to better them all. Rich and vibrant, this has plenty of stuffing and flavor, more than the regular Noval. Then, it adds layer after layer of power. A couple of hours of air makes both the flavors and tannins more intense. It is simply gripping—yet also remarkably fresh. It's a great Noval, and one of the shortlist candidates for "Wine of the Vintage." There were 200 cases produced.
Drink 2035 - 2085
Mark Squires, Wine Advocate (July 2019)
This is very primary with lots of blackberries, blueberries, and bark. Medium to full body. Medium tannins and a long, linear finish with tight and very fine tannins that last for minutes. Chewy and balanced. Give this eight to 10 years or after 2030.
James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com (January 2023)
Harvested quite early on 15th September, Christian Seely describes this as ‘one of the greatest Nacionals we have ever produced’. Still closed in on the nose but with an intense vinous purity and definition that would be hard to match. Beautifully defined and wonderfully fresh, wild berry with great poise and finesse, tight-knit tannins rising in the mouth, structured, massively powerful on the finish yet so very elegant too. Perfect Port!
Drink 2038 - 2080
Richard Mayson, Decanter (June 2022)
About this WINE
Quinta do Noval
Quinta do Noval was first owned, for more than a century, by the Rebello Valente family who were given it by the Marquês do Pombal, Portugal’s Prime Minister. It was later owned by the Van Zeller family who had to rebuild following a catastrophic fire in 1981. Finally Quinta do Noval was sold to AXA insurance group in May 1993.
Quinta do Noval is one of the most evocative of names and the maker of the most famous of all Vintage Ports - Naçional.
The scourge of European vineyards in the late 19th century, the phylloxera aphid was thwarted at Noval's best vineyard by intense fumigation and, rather than grafting the vines on to American root-stocks, which was the usual practice, they managed to survive using Portuguese stock - hence "Naçional".
Noval made its reputation with the declaration of 1931. Due to world recession and vast shipment of 27’s, it was one of only three shippers declared in 1931. Noval introduced the first stenciled bottles and in 1958 the first house to introduce a Late Bottled Vintage.
The Quinta do Noval itself lies perfectly situated along a steep hillside in the heart of the Douro Valley where the vines flourish and produce the highest-grade fruit.
Noval today appears to be thriving under the ownership of insurance group AXA with Managing Director Christian Seely, ensuring that their Vintage Port remains one of the most sought-after wines. AXA is a group which already includes a string of leading Bordeaux châteaux.
Vintage Port accounts for only a small percentage of the total Port production - which includes Tawny, Ruby, Late Bottled Vintage, Single Quinta Vintage styles, among others - but is the finest, longest-lived and most expensive style that is produced. The best are as good as any wine in existence.
With the exception of legendary vineyards like Quinta do Noval Nacional and Quinta do Vesuvio, Vintage Port is made from a blend of wines from a producer's finest plots. It is aged for around 18 months in wooden casks before bottling; from then on the watch-word is patience. At least 15 years ageing – and for the top wines it will be significantly longer – is required before the tannins, spirit and fruit are fully integrated. Indeed, the finest examples can last well over 50 years.
Vintage Port is only made in exceptional years (normally around three times per decade) with considerable stylistic variation between different years and shippers. However, they all share a sweet, warming, spicy richness, power and complexity. In other good but not great vintages, many shippers produce a Single Quinta Vintage Port from their finest vineyard. These are made in the same way and have the same style as Vintage Port but tend to mature faster and are less profound. All Vintage Port throws a sediment as it matures, and thus requires decanting.
There are around 40 different grape varieties permitted in the production of Port - however the vast majority of Ports are produced from a blend of 5 grapes - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão.
Touriga Nacional produces small, dark-skinned grapes that produce opaque black wines of great extract and high tannins - it gives grip, body, and structure to the blend.
Touriga Franca has a thinner skin and consequently produces wines lighter in colour and tannins than Touriga Nacional. It contributes fruit, aroma, suppleness and roundness.
Tinta Roriz is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo and its high sugar content and low acidity contribute colour and fruit.
Tinta Barroca which is normally grown at highish altitudes and on north-facing slopes, is prized for producing wines of delicacy, finesse and with smooth, velvety fruit. It brings elegance and sweet, ripe fruit to the final blend.
Finally Tinto Cão produces fine and complex wines, though it is probably the least important of the 5 grapes as its painfully small yields have reduced plantings to almost insignificant levels.