I am not aware of any particular rule about the definition of a general declaration, but my own view is that it is exactly what it says, a Vintage that is generally declared by everyone. Or at least nearly everyone: sometimes there will be one or two producers who don’t but this would not be enough to stop it being considered a general declaration. Broadly speaking it is to do with the weather. As we know from the Bible it rains on the just and the unjust, and the same is usually true for Douro Vineyards.
Quinta do Noval has always had a slightly eccentric approach to Vintage Declarations, and indeed the house to a great extent made its name with its declaration of the great 31 Vintage, at a time when most other houses did not declare. We have also not hesitated to declare two years in a row when we have felt the wine merited a declaration as Quinta do Noval: in 1966 and 1967; in 2003 and 2004; and just recently in 2007 and 2008. A Vintage declaration is something which I, like any Port producer, take extremely seriously, and I would only declare a wine as Quinta do Noval if I were certain that it is a great wine worthy of the Quinta do Noval label. In the case of 04 and of 08, neither of them generally declared years, there were just a few lots that were so lovely that I could not resist making a small amount of Quinta do Noval Vintage, though in both cases, the quantities were much smaller than we made in the preceding generally declared Vintages.
Published by Roy Hersh in For the Love of Port July 2010 Newsletter (No.53) in the section “A Question for the Port Trade” www.fortheloveofport.com