The Port industry has announced its biggest Vintage Port declaration ever with close to 50 different wines approved, or in the process of being approved, by the Port wine institute. The 2007 Vintage Ports will be bottled in a few months, but futures are currently going on sale as each house sets its prices. They should be shipped to the wine trade in the fall.
"These are great wines and it is always difficult to compare them to previous years as we believe that each year has its own character," said Adrian Bridge, head of the Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft houses. "For us, the wines have the noses of the 1992s and are probably in the style of the 1966."
Paul Symington of the Symington Port Group, which owns such illustrious names as W&J Graham, Dow and Warre, added, "The 2007s have some of 1994's voluptuous fruit, but there is a more fine acidity and less sweetness than the 1994s. I particularly like their racy tannins."
I will be tasting more than four dozen samples of the fledging Vintage Ports in blind tastings this week in Porto, Portugal. The results will be reported on Winespectator.com soon and in an upcoming issue. I will also be blogging from Portugal.
Vintage Ports make up a small part of Port production, but they are the most prestigious wines the houses make, the bedrock of their reputation. The wines are made similar to other Ports, fortified with spirits to arrest fermentation and preserve residual sugar. Select lots are set aside and aged for up to two years in large vats. Each house decides on its own whether to declare a vintage. In a year like 2007, most do.
The last "declared" vintage for Port was 2003. It sold mostly in the United States and the United Kingdom. Vintage Port prices remain soft with most prices for old vintages seldom increasing in value, especially compared to top table wines. On average, a Port vintage is declared every three to four years with the last six including 2003, 2000, 1997, 1994, 1992 and 1991.
The grapegrowing season in Portugal's Douro Valley in 2007 was cool most of the summer according to Port makers. But very warm and sunny weather in September ripened the grapes to near perfection. They were picked with high sugars as well as strong acidities and ripe tannins.
"From a quality point of view, 2007 was a great year in Portugal for both Port and [table] wines," said Johnny Graham, head of Churchill Port. "We had an Indian summer that went on until late October and made up for the cooler weather in August. Grapes were harvested later than usual and the wines have masses of ripe fruit but also good acidity."
Producers said that they planned to sell their young Ports very close to current prices for 2003 Vintage Ports, meaning top names would be between $65 and $85 a bottle. Many said that they wanted to be "careful and sensible" with their pricing.
"We do not expect to sell a lot, but we intend to offer and bottle really quite small quantities," said Symington. Most shippers made between 10 and 20 percent less in 2007 compared to 2003. "It is a bit of a rerun of the 1931; mad to declare in the midst of a recession like this, but mad not to bottle such a lovely wine."
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