Vintage Port Notes - Recent
There seems to be a race in the UK this year to get the first vintage Port offers off the ground. This may be due to the weakness of the 2017 Bordeaux campaign but also because of the glorious quality of the now widely declared 2016 Ports. Among the major houses only Niepoort and Ramos Pinto so far decided not to declare the vintage outright.
The Last Drop specialise in finding small quantities of old Whiskies to bottle and sell to collectors. This, as far as I am aware is their first foray in to Port and they have landed on two aged tawnies a century apart.
The annual portfolio tasting held by UK wine importer Fells is one not to be missed. Firstly they represent a broad range of exceptional producers from all over the world, secondly the tasting is beautifully and expertly organized and lastly they always show a good range of fortified wines.
The following wines were served at the Third Form Dinner at White’s in London having been donated by members of the club. At the dinner we raised a glass to the late and much missed fellow club member Tim Stanley-Clark.
Graham 1985 ****
Every year the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club ask me to host a Port dinner to which members bring their own wines and the club contributes a bottle or two from their own cellar.
For anyone nearing a fiftieth birthday, I have the sad news that 1968 was no great shakes as a vintage. According to Michael Broadbent, Bordeaux was ‘atrocious’, Burgundy and the Rhone were ‘poor’ (the Hospices de Beaune auction was cancelled) and Champagne doesn’t even get a mention.
This tasting, held in the splendid dining room at Christie’s King Street, St James’s, is the prelude to an extensive sale of old wines from Ramos Pinto’s own cellars to be held in December 2017.
The first opportunity for a comprehensive tasting of a newly declared Port vintage usually falls in mid-summer. This year, in the week that I assembled samples from the major shippers, the thermometer in the North Derbyshire Peak District (where I live) rose to 30 degrees C.
After 23 years (21 in bottle) the 1994 vintage should be starting to drink well. For the Port trade this was something of a watershed year, following on from the rather patchy 1985s and an interesting split declaration in 1991-92. By 1994 we were all in need of a serious vintage.
Though challenging, the 2014 harvest in the north of Portugal was not the damp squib that it proved to be in the south. After a wet winter, spring was mild and budburst was early. But the weather remained unsettled through the early part of the summer, with some vineyards suffering localized hail damage.
This is the fourth in a series of fifty year old Ports from Taylor. The wine was aged in pipe (cask) until it was bottled in 2016 for release this year. As a result it is an aged tawny in style, bottled as ‘Single Harvest’ and effectively a colheita in Portuguese parlance.
The 2001 vintage of Quinta do Noval Nacional was officially declared in 2003 but the wine was never released. According to Christian Seely, Managing Director of Noval, the 2001 ‘was very backward and quite closed up, dense and very tannic.
Quinta do Vallado celebrated its tercentenary in 2016. To commemorate this, the family have bottled a wine that has been held in cask since 1888. Three 650 litre pipes, set aside in 1888, have been reduced through years evaporation to just 700 litres.
I spent that back end of 2016 tasting tawny Ports both for an article in Decanter, (entitled 'Understanding Tawny Port' ) http://www.decanter.com/wine/wine-regions/port/understanding-tawny-port-... as well as an article for The Field o
When policemen start looking younger, it comes as sign that you are getting older. The same feeling comes when you start drinking Vintage Ports that you remember being declared, two decades earlier. So it was just before Christmas (at the end of a long lunch) when we drank two wines from classic declarations the 1990s.
The Victorian club dining room at the MTRC is the setting for an annual tasting of vintage Ports with wines from the club stock as well as from member’s own cellars. After some outstanding wines at previous dinners, this year’s selection proved to be rather a mixed bag with two promising wines turning out to be rather a disappointment.
Due to the re-construction of my new website followed by a major outage of our internet (thank you so much BT) I am rather behind at following up with some of the wines that I have tasted over the summer. In June 2016, over São João in Oporto and the EU Referendum in the UK, I visited Sogrape, Portugal’s largest wine producers.
I had lunch in London with David Guimaraens this week. David is the winemaker for the Fladgate Partnership which embraces Taylor, Fonseca, Croft and Krohn. The meal (substantial Spanish tapas) was accompanied by Port, all the way through.
Graham's 1983 was served at the Saintsbury Club Dinner in the Vintner's Hall on 18th October 2016. This is one of the best wines of the vintage, a year over-shadowed by 1985 until the latter threw up one or two rather nasty surprises.
This wine was served at the One Hundred and Sixty Eighth Meeting of the Saintsbury Club at the Vintner's Hall to the general approbation of members and their guests: not the deepest of colours but still showing a youthful pink hue; fresh, fragrant and floral, quintessential mature vintage Port aromas; s
There is a growing market for anniversary wines and, with their longevity and staying power, fortified wines have a captive market. 1966 was of course a declared Port vintage and anyone born in that year certainly has a wine for life (search for notes on Fonseca 1966 for example on this website).
This wine was produced in a hot, drought-afflicted year and is a blend of very low yielding vinha velha (75%) and late ripening Touriga Franca (a vineyard planted just four years earlier in 2001). The old vines produced an average of just 0.87kg per vine, which helps to account for the voluptuous concentration in this wine. It was mostly made in robotic lagares with 35% foot trodden in the time-honoured manner.
It was once the custom for a landed family with a large country house to ship and bottle a pipe of vintage Port, often to mark the birth of a child. A pipe is a serious quantity of wine amounting to approximately 57 dozen so you need a good, spacious cellar to store the wine for the 21 years or so it needs to reach maturity.
Every year I am invited to lead a Port dinner at Manchester’s oldest sporting club. Some of the wines come form club stock and members also generously bring their own bottles to share. My contribution was a bottle of Croft 1963 which looked good on paper but proved to be a letdown in the glass. We tasted, then drank, some outstanding wines.
After two exceptionally dry years, the winter of 2012-13 was wet with the heaviest rainfall recorded in March, all of which helped to restore ground water levels prior to the growing season.
The Port house Fonseca celebrated its bicentenary with a dinner at The Wallace Collection in London on Portugal Day, 10th June.
Cockburn, one of the greatest names in Port, are celebrating their bicentennial this year. The company was founded in 1815 by Scottish brothers; Robert and John Cockburn.
I was sent a sample of this rather special wine which I thought I would share with you before Christmas. Sandeman have long produced some excellent aged tawnies, especially at the twenty and thrity year old levels.
By Sandeman's own admission this is a wine made in the 'modern style', to be drunk now or over the next 15 years. It comes from a ripe year but the heat of the vintage is not evident in this wine which is well-made and, above all, well-balanced. As you will see from the note below I would recommend drinking this in its full bloom of youth.
I am very grateful to the The Vintage Port Club, Odense for inviting me to this comprehensive tasting of 1994 Vintage Ports and to celebrate their 25th anniversary with them. At the club’s behest the wines were scored out of 100 which may mean that I have slightly under-marked some wines or overmarked others.
Quinta do Noval have recently declared 2012. This was a challenging year and, following on from a universal declaration in 2011, the main shippers have opted for single quinta vintage Ports (SQVPS).
You wait ages for a very old tawny Port than two come along at once. First Taylor’s launch their 1863 Single Harvest, then just two weeks later Graham’s launch Ne Oublie, a wine that dates back to the arrival of Andrew James Symington in Portugal in 1882.
Very old tawny Ports are currently á moda to use the Portuguese expression. In fact, having long been the preserve of the so called ‘Portuguese shippers’, they have now migrated to the British shippers. In this case the migration is literal.
Find out how Sonho Lusitano came about well as candid views on Port, the Douro and wine in general.
I am fortunate to have tasted this wine on a number of recent occasions. Until this month it was a 'secret Nacional', bottled but undeclared. The 2004 vintage came hard on the heals of the widely declared 2003 harvest and was treated as a single quinta vintage by most shippers which nonetheless produced some impressive wines.
This was a tutored tasting of varietal wines from the 1992 vintage at Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita. It is a logical consequence of the replanting of the late 1970s and 1980s when block planting of separate varieties began to take place en masse for the first time.
These wines followed the tutored tasting of classic grape varieties:
Port shippers C. da Silva are sitting on a treasure trove of white Port. These wines have been quietly and carefully looked after in cool lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and deserve to be better known. This was Jim Reader’s aim in presenting half a century of white Port alongside two old tawnies.
This is a parallel tasting of wines from two very individual Port shippers, both with a strong family input. The wines were presented by João Nicolau de Almeida and Dirk Niepoort respectively. These two producers obviously resepct each other even though they admit to doing things very differently. This is emphatically not a Ramos Pinto v.
This is the second extensive Sandeman vintage Port tasting that I have undertaken in the last four years (see entry for 13th May 2011 for a more extensive tasting with the Port Forum).
The 1994 vintage represents a generational change for Port. It wasn’t so much the people in charge that changed as the wines themselves. For a number of leading shippers the 1960s represented the end of an era when founding families were replaced by multinational owners.
Following their purchase of Wise and Krohn, Taylor's have a huge range of old, cask aged Ports. Now comes the release of a series of Single Harvest Ports (Colheitas in all but name) of which the 1964 is the first to be offered, just in time for next year's 50th birthdays.
With the 2011 Vintage Port tasting season coming to an end, I have received four bottled wines (as opposed to cask samples) from Sogevinus, the Spanish group that own Barros, Calem, Kopke and Burmester.
Kopke, the oldest Port shipper in continuous trading, celebrates its 375th anniversary this year. At a time when colheitas are in fashion (even among the British houses who used to quietly eschew the style), Kopke has no need to scour the Douro in search of old wine.
Quinta do Noval is celebrating a significant anniversary in 2013. Twenty years ago, in the wake of the truly dreadful 1993 harvest, Christian Seely was appointed to manage the Portuguese estate following its high profile acquisition by AXA Millésimes earlier that year.
I attended the most fabulous dinner tonight at the The Banqueting House in Whitehall to celebrate 60 Years of the Institute of Master's of Wine. We began by drinking Bollinger from magnums in the undercroft (the drinking den of James I) then climbed the stairs to dine below a ceiling painted by Rubens.
It is not very often that any of us get to taste, let alone drink, Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port. The wine comes from 2ha of ungrafted vines at the heart of the quinta and is so named because the vines are Portuguese, without foreign rootstock, growing in Portuguese soil and therefore ‘attached to the soil of the nation’.
These are two wines to which I didn't give very fair coverage when I first tasted them earlier in the year so I received new samples and have now had the chance to re-taste them at leisure (and in cooler weather).
There has been a rush to evaluate the recently declared 2011 Ports, caused partly by the excitement of a new and undoubtedly fine vintage but also by the use of the internet both for selling and evaluating the wines. Most UK merchants have already sold their allocations although a few are holding back their offers until later in the year.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty