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2007 Vintage Port Has the Right Grip

Posted: May 6, 2009 3:37pm ET

Great Vintage Port was made in 2007. I love the combination of power and finesse in these young blackstrap fortified wines. What strikes me after tasting more than 50 barrel samples, in two separate blind tastings at the Factory House in Oporto, Portugal, is how polished the tannins are in these baby Vintage Ports. I can’t remember tasting such fine yet dense and rich tannins in a young Vintage Port. And I have being reviewing young Ports since the 1980 vintage.

Tasting young Vintage Port is not the easiest of tasks. In fact, I think it is the hardest tasting in the wine business. It’s not just finding the biggest, baddest wine out there. You can easily mess up and get fooled by the rich, sweet fruit of young Port. You have to look for what Port shippers call "grip." It’s the tannin density, quality and finish that define a great Port. Check out my video.

Sure, black or purple color is very important. And clean and beautiful fruit is a must in a young Vintage Port. But without that intensity of tannins, a young Vintage Port is not going to age for decades ahead. I think Vintage Ports really only come into their own after about 20, 30 or 40 years of bottle age. The 1970s, 1966s and 1963s are just now right to drink.

My top VPs in my 2007 tasting will certainly age incredibly well. I was spellbound by their power and reserve, and although they are very balanced and beautiful, it would be a waste to drink them with only 10 or 15 years of bottle age. Check out the tasting report I posted, with scores and full tasting notes for all the wines, plus a score and analysis of the vintage overall.

The 2007 vintage is one of the modern greats. I think the 1977 vintage makes an interesting comparison. The top 1977 Vintage Ports are still very youthful and reserved in style. They are not big, fat, juicy Ports—they never have been—but they impress you with their length, freshness and power. They are very subtle and refined and I think the 2007s are the same. The 2007s also remind me of the 1955s, a vintage that was always balanced and refined. But I wasn’t alive when they were tasted from barrel.

Still, even with such great quality, the question now is whether anyone is going to buy 2007 Vintage Port in this economy. The key markets are the United States and the United Kingdom, and prices are expected to be comparable to 2003 Vintage Ports currently on the market. After reading my full report, what do you think?


Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  May 6, 2009 5:56pm ET
Awesome report James,

Do you know if Noval will declare a Nacional for 07?
James Suckling
 —  May 7, 2009 4:29am ET
Noval did not declare 2007. I checked with Christian Seely of Noval and he said that it just wasn't up to scratch. He couldn't explain why. He just didn't like the wine enough to bottle it as Nacional. Strange?
William Delaney
Arlington VA —  May 7, 2009 10:50am ET
Yes, great report James. No Nacional means the fruit from those vines goes into the regular Noval, which perhaps accounts for some of the great score.I may buy a case or two if the prices are reasonable, but you are right James that it is tough to buy a wine that wont be singing for another 20 or 30 years. I wonder why the port producers don't set aside a percentage of their product and release it after it matures, similar to how Vega Sicilia releases Unico 10 years after the vintage. It would be hard to coordinate and manage, but over time you could begin to address the fact that most people simply do not have the patience, facilities or life expectancy to stash bottles away for 30 or more years.I am convinced that more people would drink Port if they could taste what an aged vintage is like. I have learned not to serve my nice Bordeaux to many of my non wine loving friends, because many of them do not appreciate what is in the glass. But serve them a nice Port or Sauternes, and you can see their eyes pop out with pleasure. These wines are hedonistic, delicious, and easy to appreciate. Bill
William R Spencer
May 7, 2009 3:13pm ET

I little off-topic, but regarding your tasting score of 2006 Clos Fourtet, why does the WS website search show a score of 88 (Web only - posted 2/13/09), but the 5/6/09 Insider gives a score of 90?? When was the first score tasted and when was the latest score tasted. If there is only about 3 months difference, in my humble opinion, this indicates that the initial tasting of all these wines is much too early after bottling and does not give a true evaluation. I think giving these wines at least 4 to 5 months of bottle age before tasting would give a more accurate picture and you would not leave out important wines such as the Pavie's because they have not been bottled. As your customer I would rather have more accurate info in April rather than February.

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