The Symington family, owner of such prestigious Port names as Graham, Dow, Warre and Quinta do Vesuvio, is the first Port shipper to officially declare the 2000 vintage. All the other big names are expected to follow, including Taylor, Fonseca, Noval and Niepoort.
"I am unusually enthusiastic," said Peter Symington, the veteran Port blender who oversees all of the Port production for his family's massive enterprise. "The 2000s get better by the day. People will be very enthusiastic when they taste them. I don't see anything lacking in the structure of these wines to put them behind 1994. They are absolutely superb wines. They have real guts, color, tannins and aromas."
Port houses declare a vintage, on average, for about three years out of 10, traditionally waiting until the second spring after the harvest to make their decision. A declaration is simply publicly announcing that they intend to bottle and market a particular year of Vintage Port. The last two declarations for Port were 1997 and 1994. The latter is the greatest modern vintage, rated 99 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, while 1997 received a rating of 96.
Prices for the 2000 Ports are expected to be at the same levels as 1997. This means top names such as Taylor, Fonseca and Graham should sell for between $75 and $85 a bottle. A large percentage of the production will be sold this spring as "pre-arrivals," although most Ports will not reach retail shelves until the end of this year.
Rupert Symington, a director for his family's Port shipping firm, expected brisk sales of the 2000s, even though Vintage Port prices in general are flat in the global market. "The wines should sell very well," he said. "I don't see any problem -- this is a full-blown vintage."
He said that quantities of 2000 are small compared to past vintages, due to a very small crop. Yields in some of the best areas in Portugal's Douro Valley, the delimited vineyard area for Port, were down 35 percent to 40 percent because of a bad berry set in June. This gave the harvest a small, compact crop of grapes that are packed with rich fruit and tannins.
"The vintage is up in quality with many of the best in recent decades," added Peter Symington. "Anyone who thinks that 2000 was declared simply because it was the year 2000 is wrong. The vintage made great wines."
The Symingtons are making 2000 Vintage Ports at all the houses they own, including Dow, Graham, Warre, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell and Quarles Harris. In addition, they will be making 2000 bottlings at the properties of Quinta do Vesuvio and Quinta do Roriz.
Read past news about previous vintage Port declarations:
Read James Suckling's tasting reports on vintage Port: