It is with great pleasure that we announce the declaration of the 1997 Warres Vintage.
The winter of 1997 got off to an unusually cold start, with snowfalls covering our Quinta da Cavadinha and Rio Torto Quintas in early January. In contrast February and March were beautifully warm, with maximum temperatures reaching 30ºc. This provoked bud burst two weeks earlier than usual and rapid vine development, which raised the spectre of Spring frosts. Fortunately this did not occur, and even though cold and wet weather returned in April and May, doing some damage in the "Altos" (the higher areas), flowering and fruit set in the riverside Quintas took place under near ideal conditions.
The weather for the remainder of Spring was cool allowing the vines an even and balanced development. Hot and dry conditions returned in mid-August and continued throughout September, interrupted only by a couple of days of refreshing rain on the 24th and 27th of August.
Due to these excellent ripening conditions, it was decided to delay the vintage at our QuInta da Cavadinha until the 29th September, whereas many Quintas started some two weeks earlier. This decision was taken in order to achieve the highest possible maturation, while also allowing the grapes more time to concentrate after the August rains.
This decision worked very much in our favour, with sugar readings averaging an excellent 13º Baumé, and it was immediately obvious from the very first fermentations that intensely concentrated and aromatic Ports were being produced with an excellent deep purple hue. The vintage continued under ideal cool and dry conditions, allowing the grapes to arrive at the wineries at a perfect 18-20ºc.
Picking at Cavadinha ended on the 8th October. Yields were well down on 1996. Production at the Quinta amounted to 139 pipes compared to 223 pipes the previous year, a drop of 38%. However the quality was excellent.
Tasting note: Wonderful purple blue colour. A classic Warre nose full of class and complexity, packed with concentrated layers of ripe red fruits and underlying gum cistus aromas. On the palate rich floral flavours, enormous mid-palate structure, and impressive length. Undoubtedly a wine for long ageing and a classic amongst Vintages.
Fonseca Declares 1997 a 'Classic'.
It has become a custom of Fonseca Port to announce their intention to 'declare' their latest vintage a 'classic' or 'non-classic' vintage on St George's Day, April 23rd.
The process of 'declaration' takes place two winters after the harvest when the house can then assess the power and longevity of its wines, made from its three 'A' grade vineyards of Quinta do Panascal, Quinta de Cruzeiro and Quinta de Santo Antonio. This decision is made by the directors of the company after assessing the wines and judging them against the company's internal quality standards.
The 1997 wines came from a year which started with snow falling in the upper reaches of the Douro valley - a very rare event. The dry spring and hot weather that followed caused the vines to flower five weeks earlier than usual. This was followed by cooler weather which led to a gradual ripening and harvest in mid September. Picking started on our quintas on 18th September in hot weather conditions. This led to very concentrated musts.
David Guimaraens, the wine maker, noted at the time that, "the high quality was evident from the start with the intensity of the musts, good integration of the spirit and powerful, attractive aromas".
Alistair Robertson, Chairman and Managing Director, commented, "we are delighted to 'declare' the 1997s a Fonseca classic vintage. On average we 'declare' only three times a decade, doing so only when we believe that we have a wine with real grip and intensity. This has all the hall marks of a great vintage; the wine displays an intense, full rich berry flavour that is very much in the Fonseca house style."
More information is available from:
The unusually cold and dry winter of 1998/99 led to a later than normal bud burst in the Douro valley.
Again March was dry, with above average temperatures for the time of year, but April and especially May were wet. Consequently flowering was delayed until late May, enjoying ideal weather conditions with little or no "desavinho". All looked set for a larger than usual vintage.
Except for a few light showers one morning in early July, June and July were rainless. This raised fears of water shortages in the summer months and delayed vine development some two weeks. Fortunately some very timely rain arrived on the 7th August, and over the next few days 38mm were recorded. At Quinta dos Malvedos the rainfall was extremely beneficial to the grapes, allowing them to swell and ripen fully. August was warm and fine and the grapes matured very well.
Then just four weeks after the welcome August rain, violent thunderstorms covered most of the Douro accompanied by heavy rain. On the week ending 4th September 12.7mm were registered at Malvedos. The combination of this rainfall with the warm weather which followed as the vintage approached produced "text-book" conditions with the fruit looking quite excellent condition and of remarkable even quality.
Picking began at our Quinta do Malvedos on the 20th September, starting with Tinta Barroca at a perfect 14,5º Baumé and followed by Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional which averaged 13,5º Baumé. Due to the Quintas more easterly location it was largely unaffected by the sporadic rainfall experienced in the lower Douro, with only 53mm registered at Malvedos in September in comparison to 184mm near Pinhão.
At Quinta dos Lages and Quinta da Vila Velha, two of the main components of our finest wines, picking started on 27th September through to 14th October. The particular situation of these properties and the prolonged ripening period ensured fruit of excellent quality, resulting in some very elegant and structured wines having been made.
After the excellent results achieved in the 1998 vintage with our pioneering stainless steel Lagar, a further three were in operation this vintage. As a result of the excellent quality wines produced in these Lagars, the new "adega" at Quinta dos Malvedos will also employ these new "Lagars of the future".
As in 1998, the robotic lagars continued to be a focus for attention in the Douro, with endless visits from other producers who were fascinated to see this new conception in full operation. There is little doubt that these Graham lagars will start a whole new trend in the Douro.