If you take aging seriously you should invest in some Taylor Fladgate 2017 Vargellas Vinhas Velhas or Christian Seely’s Quinta do Noval Nacional. 2017 was a good year. As was 1945 and 2011 from which you should look out for Quinta do Vesuvio Capela Vintage and WJ Graham’s Stone Terraces produced at their Quinta dos Malvedos vineyards in Portugal.
An 1863 Niepoort in Lalique once sold for $127,000. An 1882 Graham’s Ne Oublie Tawny fetched $9000 and a Taylor’s Fladgate 186 Single Harvest went for $3700. Someone also once paid $160 for one glass of 155-year-old Taylor’s Scion.
Despite these high prices, the port remains a very undervalued wine. It’s a very versatile drink. White port is good with tonic, ruby, and cheaper tawnies can be used in cocktails instead of vermouth while a chilled tawny makes for a great aperitif and youthful vintages complement dark chocolate.
But vintage port remains the ultimate luxury and investment. Vintage ports drinking well now include Warre’s 1980 and 1985, 1970 Fonseca, the magenta 1977 Taylor Fladgate and the boysenberry and licorice threaded 1985 Fonseca. The 1992 Taylor Fladgate has a seven-decade drinking window. Look out for Quinta do Noval 200. In thirty years, it will be at its best.
Berry Bros. & Rudd is the oldest wine and spirits merchant and one of the oldest family-run businesses in the UK. It was founded by the Widow Bourne in 1698 at 3 St James’s Street, London. Originally it sold coffee, tea, snuff, spices, and groceries. In 1903, it made “King’s Ginger” liqueur to keep King Edward V11 warm on car journeys. It sells wines and spirits under its own-label range, Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Own Selection, and has been the official wine supplier to the British Royal family since the reign of George 111, receiving royal warrants in 190, 1952, and 1998.
The most expensive port it offers is its £2,073.58 1866 Adelaide Tributa Quinta da Vallado. A 1963Warre’s retails for £300 and Graham’s Bery Old Tawy for £700.
It’s the place to go for port advice and to think about laying down a case or several.
BBR’s Cellar Plan Manager, Tom Cave, provides this overview of the vintage port. “Most 1970 vintage ports remain comfortably at their pinnacle of maturity and offer, fifty years on, fabulous drinking. Now that ’63 and ’66, are hard to find, this is the vintage to be savoring. In most cases, the ’70s will last well. The ’80 vintage, notably from Dow, Graham, and Warre, remains in a good place. ’83 mostly plays second fiddle to ’85. The ’92s continue to gallop on with self-confidence. Vintage ’94 brings is a generally very high standard. The ’97 vintage has stars among it, Dow being a principal one. The 2000s remain largely undercover.”
There are around 40 different grape varieties permitted for port production, Most ports are made from a blend of five grapes – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão.
Quinta do Noval’s 2017 costs £895 a case. It is described by Berry Bros & Rudd as “luscious”, “full-bodied” and “unflustered”. The AXA-owned Noval is the only historic port shipper named after its vineyard. 2017 was trodden underfoot in Lagares and matured in wood for 18 months. It deserves considerable aeration in the glass after extended decanting. To the really educated noses, it offers the aromas of blackcurrants, clove, thyme, and maybe even truffle!
“Nacional” refers to the fact that the vines are Portuguese – not American or foreign rootstock- growing in Portuguese soil and are, therefore “attached to the soil of the Nation.” When Noval’s vineyards were devastated by phylloxera in the late 19th century, the owner decided to replant a tiny parcel of land in the Douro Valley.
In 2012, Charles Symington bottled four pipes (casks) of magnificent wine. Graham’s The Stone Terraces Vintage Port is a tribute to the men and women who labored to build the original stone walls at Quinta dos Malvedos in the late 18th century.
Tom Cave describes it as “the true holy of holies” and “an awesome behemoth of a wine”. Taylor Fladgate’s Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha was picked on 1st September, the earliest in a generation. The last time picking was recorded as having started early in 1945 – one of the greatest of the 20th century vintages. According to Berry Bros & Rudds tasting notes “The base is a coulis of dense, dark berries, with brambly woodland fruit, cassis, and black cherry aromas…. As the wine evolves, evocative aromas emerge, such as beeswax, leather, and cigar box, like the unexpected resonances of an antique instrument. A wine of majestic scale. A case of three costs £425.
Other recommended vintage ports include Fonesca’s bin #27 and Sandeman’s Cask 3, stored in 196. BBR (www.bbr.com) and Tom will fill you in. And provide a safe, healthy haven for your choice of opulence. Port’s not just for Stilton and Christmas.