Vintage Port or Porto (Vinho do Porto) is a fortified wine produced in the Douro region of Portugal. The grape varieties that are most widely grown to make port are; Touriga, Mourisco, and Bastardo, producing juice that is full of character and adds finesse to the wine but they are lacking in color and are very light bodied. Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (more commonly called Tempranillo), Toriga Francesca and Toriga Nacional are grape varieties that contribute to the balance, fullness and color of the wine. The wines made from these grapes are blended to make port. It is important to point out that vintage port is not declared every year.
Here are the labels from two very fine Vintage Ports I had the privilege to enjoy. The 1977 was recognized as one of the great vintages of the 20th Century. My notes indicate the wine, at 20 years, was delicious and still full of life! The cork was in excellent condition, but the wine did leave what I considered to be an excessive amount of sediment after being decanted.
1985 was the year my son was born and this is a label from one of the bottles I had stored for his 20th Birthday. We actually opened this one on Bob’s 19th birthday and he was able to have a taste. The wine was big! It had a powerful grapey-musty nose that mellowed nicely over the next 24 hours. Rich flavors of tobacco, coffee and chocolate and plenty of fruit melded together to make a warm, smooth and clean finish. A very memorable wine.
The Instituto do Vinho do Porto offers some further reading about the history of Port and more.
It was the British who brought Port to the height of popularity and in so doing they have developed a number of interesting traditions. Here is one of them.
I like to drink Port around the Christmas & New Year Holidays and through the cold winter months. There are other styles of Port, called “wood ports,” that do not require two decades of aging in the bottle and cost much less than Vintage Port. More information about them here. I enjoy a nice Tawney on a cold winter night. For me, Vintage Port is reserved for the very special occasions. The price is usually quite dear even when you have an opportunity to buy a new release. Buying fully matured wine of this quality is prohibitively expensive for my budget.
It is very warming to sip a bit of the rich and sweet wine after a hearty winter meal. Port is very nice alone or with a sharp cheese, like a well aged cheddar or a blue mold cheese. I gave up tobacco products when my son was born 27 years ago but I understand that cigar smokers may enjoy lighting up while enjoying a fine port.
This Holiday Season, I chose to celebrate surviving the Mayan forecast that 12/20/2012 would be the end of it all! If you are reading this it means we made it. Hahahaa! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
When this wine was first released the retail price was under $25. Today, the wine costs around $75, if you can find it. I purchased this port to commemorate the birth of my beautiful daughter, Elizabeth. Twenty-two years age on a wine is a rare thing and special indeed. For a young woman, 22 is just the beginning of what will be a wonder-filled and special future! May you stay Forever Young.
The first step to preparing an older bottle of wine for drinking is to stand the bottle in the upright position for 12 hours (a few days is better) prior to opening. This will allow the sediment to slowly settle to the bottom. Wipe the outside of bottle to remove any dust or mildew that may have accumulated over the years of storage. Older wines offer us the opportunity for decanting. As a rule, any wine over 10 years should be decanted after resting upright for a few days.
After removing the foil wrapper, it is important to inspect the area around the lip of the bottle where it meets the cork. Any sign of seepage is an indication that the cork has started to deteriorate and this may affect the quality of the wine. This can also serve as a warning to be extremely careful when removing the cork. We don’t want to have the cork break apart upon withdrawal from the neck of the bottle. The cork should be intact and not dry, crumbling or moldy. Is it dry and brittle or is it still soft and a little pliable? After you remove the cork, what does it smell like? Is it fruity or herbal or acrid? If the cork has an off smell the wine may likely have turned bad due to poor storage conditions.
wine notes: Also see this post to learn more about wine tasting.
The cork- Despite being careful I broke the cork in half as I tried to remove it from the bottle. Very dry cork. The wine had a heavy amount of sediment, but this is to be expected after 22 years.
Nose- After decanting the wine opened up to a rich grapey-fullness with hints of wood.
Color- The color was vibrant and clear red with some brown around the edges.
Body- The legs were long and syrupy.
Taste- Some wood with big flavors of sun-dried cherry and plum/raisin. Day 2 – the wine got better, richer, sweeter and smoother! Day 3 – now finishing with long plum/prune -qualities of a Tawney. Delicious with a piece of chocolate and toasted almonds.
Aftertaste- Plum, long thick and silky finish. A very fine wine. Better with every sip!
It is one of life’s sweet pleasures to have thought ahead and “invested” in a few bottles of very special wine to commemorate a wonderful year. To my lovely daughter, cheers!
Next on the menu: Symington, Quinta do Vesuvio 1990 Vintage Port. Experts like, Robert Parker, expect this port to reach full maturity past 30+ years. I will wait another year or so but you had better hurry and come visit, Bethy! Let’s not wait until you turn thirty to share this wine.