The Case for Vintage Port

by Patrick Sandeman

We may be a little late in releasing our offer of Vintage Port, but then we have been busy selling plenty of other things, not least of all Bordeaux 2008 for future years and masses of MIP*’ Made in Provence’ Rose for drinking while the sun shines. It looks like the 2007 vintage has produced some spectacular ports, and while they might appear flattering and upfront they will stay the course of time and cellar very well. Time was when Merchants would only buy a vintage port for cellaring if it tasted truly horrible when it was released – tight, tannic and so gripping that your tongue would curl into a black ball – but the combination of tannin management in the vineyards and modern wine making in the cellars has changed this, and just because a wine tastes good when young does not mean that it will not age well. The quantity of top vintage port being made these days is significantly lower than it was even a decade ago; a combination of higher production of table wine in the Douro (mostly for domestic consumption and sold at relatively high prices), and a genuine desire to make smaller quantities of greater port. In turn the quantities available to the market are lower than previous vintages with demand running high. But does one need to lay down vintage port in this day and age? Well, I for one never consider a dinner party is a dinner party without finishing with a bottle of vintage port (otherwise it’s just ‘supper’), and we always have a decanter on the go every week-end in November and December, and given that there is only a vintage declaration every three or four years, I need to put away anything up to eight dozen bottles! As for those who ‘never drink vintage port because it gives a terrible hang-over’ it is time to re-educate, forget the G&T before dinner, pace the wines and build up to a great finale with a bottle of vintage port. I for one will buy Taylor, Fonseca, Graham and Noval. Unfortunately my old namesake no longer features in the vintage port stakes in the way it used to, but still does make a remarkably good Twenty Year Old Tawny which sees us through the summer months – served slightly chilled of course!