Following a wet 2016, the year started with cold and dry winter conditions, with a fifth less rainfall than the thirty-year average. Bud burst occurred relatively early, around 10th March. The dry conditions continued into Spring and the warm weather in April and May encouraged the rapid growth of the vines. The first three weeks of June were extremely hot, causing damage to the new bunches in some areas of the Douro. The early cycle continued with véraison around 18th June, one month earlier than the previous year.
Apart from some thunderstorms and rainfall early in July, conditions remained dry until the end of September although temperatures for much of the ripening season were moderate. As expected, the crop ripened very early, showing high sugar levels which led to longer fermentations and very effective colour extraction. Picking started at Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas on 1st September, the earliest in a generation. The last time picking was recorded as having started this early was in 1945 – one of the greatest of the 20th century vintages - when the first fruit was picked on 3rd September. Temperatures at harvest time were mild, with cool nights, leading to balanced fermentations and excellent extraction. The musts were dense and marked by exceptional depth of colour and impressive phenolics.
Impenetrable ruby black core and narrow purple rim. As usual with the Vargellas Vinha Velha, the nose is beautifully balanced and complete, revealing multiple layers and dimensions of aroma as it opens up in the glass. The base is a coulis of dense, dark berries, with brambly woodland fruit, cassis and black cherry aromas. The voluptuous richness of the fruit is tempered by an attractive flinty, mineral edge and the discreet pungency of wild herbs and cedar wood.
As the wine evolves, evocative aromas emerge, such as beeswax, leather and cigar box, like the unexpected resonances of an antique instrument. The palate is supported by thick granular tannins and is packed with dense black and red berry fruit flavour that rises in a crescendo on the finish. A wine of majestic scale and proof, if any were needed, that 2017 was an exceptional year for old vines.