Vindicating Vintage Port

Vindicating Vintage Port

Post by Chuck Hayward | July 22nd, 2011

Whatever the excuse, be it warm weather or too much wine during dinner, many of us ignore port. Since it can be hard to amass a serious understanding of a wine unless you drink it, I welcomed the opportunity to acquaint myself with some recently declared 2009s and the rare chance to look at how the previous three vintages are shaping up.

In the world of vintage port, the qualities of a specific wine are tied to the nature of the vintage as interpreted through the lens of each port house.  Therefore, it is as important to know what the vintage brings to the table (err, glass) as it is to know the style of the brand. Over the centuries, each house has developed a unique flavor profile. For me, the ability of a port house to make a wine that is true to their style is of utmost importance, as a customer should know what kind of wine to expect when they purchase a bottle of Grahams or Taylor Fladgate port.

Geoff Labitzke, MW (l) and Robert Bower (c) deep in Port

With winemaker David Guimaraens there to detail the vintage variations and sales manager Robert Bower— representing the 8th generation of his family’s involvement in winemaking in the Douro Valley—along to discuss his port lodges, it was the perfect occasion to summarize the vintages we tasted and provide a preview to the upcoming 2009s.

Hopefully, I’ll be drinking more port with friends in the near future and not have to wait until the winemakers of the Douro declare another vintage to keep up with what is happening in this special region. (more…)

Looking for a Port in the Storm

Looking for a Port in the Storm

Post by Chuck Hayward | July 12th, 2011

Vintage port is one of the more unique segments of the wine industry, yet many people regularly overlook it at the dinner table and even those of us who attend countless trade tastings don’t get to try it that often. Yet when port houses declare a vintage, it provides the opportunity to sample a range of excellent wines, across vintages, as well as the chance to talk shop with some of the most interesting personalities in the wine world.

Vintage Port on tour, groupies not included

The latest declaration has been quite controversial since, in the past, the port industry has never declared more than three vintages in a decade. By producing a 2009, the three houses that comprise the Fladgate Partnership (Fonseca, Croft and Taylor Fladgate) will have released four vintage ports (2000, 2003, 2007, 2009). Another twist is that many of the estates owned by the Symington family (Graham’s, Dow’s and Cockburns among them) chose not make vintage port in 2009. Both of these factors are sure to be topics of debate for the next century, especially since port can often hang around that long. (more…)