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james suckling uncorked

Economic Meltdowns and Vintage Port


Posted: Mar 25, 2009 10:19am ET

It looks like key Vintage Port producers are going to declare 2007. I have already had a number of requests to taste barrel samples of their young Vintage Ports at the end of April. And I have calls into the top Port houses to send samples and for more information.

We will see who officially declares. I have already heard that Symington houses such as Graham, Dow, Warre, Quinta do Vesuvio and others are going to make 2007 official as well as Niepoort. Houses usually declare a vintage in April or May, about 18 months after the harvest and following approval of their wines by the Port Wine Institute. The young Ports are sold as futures.

But I am not sure who is going to buy the baby fortified wines under the current dismal economic conditions. Moreover, you can already buy mature bottles of Vintage Port for good prices, so why tie up your money in a young vintage?

For example, you can buy a bottle of 1977 Taylor Fladgate for between $150 and $200 a bottle at U.S. retail. Or 1985 Warre goes for about $70 to $80. Or how about 1991 Gould Campbell for $60? And you don’t have to wait on those VPs to drink.

Nonetheless, there’s something exciting about buying young Vintage Port to lay away for decades ahead. I remember buying a barrel’s worth of top Vintage Ports for my son for his birth in 1994. Unfortunately, it was all sold during my divorce, so he never got any! That’s another story. But the tradition of laying down Vintage Port is a solid one. And 2007 should be exciting.

I remember hearing just a few days after the harvest that 2007 was a beautiful vintage with vintage-quality grapes. And serious Port producers aren’t going to let a global economic meltdown stop them from declaring a vintage.

One of the biggest and best Vintage Port declarations ever was for 1927, which I assume was in 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression. I rated the 1927 vintage 100 points. The Vintage Ports from that year are still superb today. Some, such as the Fonseca, Taylor and Cockburn, are legends.

Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  March 25, 2009 1:30pm ET
There's been discussion amongst a few fellow port lovers that the 07 was a slow going, low temperatures and really wet vintage (not hallmarks for a great vintage). Someone else did the math and statistically noted that 2007 would be declared regardless due to an affinity with decades ending in 7 =).

Would be very keen to see your notes about the 07 vintage. Here's to St. George's Day!
William Delaney
Arlington VA —  March 26, 2009 10:30am ET
James, I'm looking forward to your notes too as I heard 2007 was not so great either. I was in the Douro that summer and the locals around Pinhau told me it would not be such a good one. I for one am continually amazed that Port is not a more popular drink. An aged vintage port to me is the pinnacle of power and finesse. It is just in a class by itself. I'd love to see you do a port retrospective for the magazine, maybe on the 1994s and 1985s. Please know that there are some of us who really appreciate all the attention you have paid to port over the years. Bill
Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  March 26, 2009 3:28pm ET
William Delaney,

if you're ever around NY, there are a few port lovers looking to share a bottle or two.

I've been hearing that the 07's are going to be like the 75s from fellow drinking buddies. Early flashers, pleasant to drink in the early run, but not meant for the long haul.
William Delaney
Arlington VA —  March 31, 2009 9:30am ET
Jeffrey,Drop me a line at bill@delaney.netIm always looking to tipple with a fellow port lover, either in NY or DC. Cheers, Bill

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