A hot summer and a pandemic led to a small production of very good concentrated wines.
The Douro experienced above average temperatures for most of the year with a record July, a worrying sign of global warming. This resulted in harvesting at the end of August - a couple of weeks earlier than usual. Yields are low at the best of times but 2020 produced only a tiny crop of super concentrated grapes. Factor in labour shortages, social distancing logistics issues caused by the pandemic and the production was tiny. Vesuvio and a few others that traditional trod their grapes in lagares did not produce a vintage!
Those producers who did produce a vintage Port generally made a stunningly dark, concentrated wine similar to the 2009 vintage. Symington Family released a small quantity of Graham and Warre's Old Vines. Noval declared as did Quevedo and a few others. Notable exceptions were Taylor-Fladgate who produced single quintas that will be released in future years and Sogrape who did not produce a vintage port for Offley, Ferreira or Sandeman.
The 2019 Quinta Vintage Ports are the result of an erratic growing season, with a little over 50% of the average winter rainfall in the Douro and almost none in the summer. Fortunately, showers at the end of August helped the grapes achieve more balanced maturations.
Spring also saw warmer than usual temperatures. Little rain was seen during the early growing season with mild temperatures and no weather extremes that allowed the flowering to take place, in favourable weather, undisturbed. Low rainfall and dry Spring also meant disease pressure was low allowing for less intervention in the vineyard and subsequently a healthier grape composition.
The onset of Summer saw a continuation of the dry weather. Luckily, cooler temperature throughout the summer- in sharp contrast to the one experienced by the rest of Europe- prevented the vines from shutting down. These cooler conditions lasted through to August where a much-needed rain pushed the maturation forward and benefited the quality and health of the grapes.
Harvesting begun in Autumn, in September where a brief sprinkle of rain also fell at just the right time to prevent drought and keep the grapes fresh and juicy. Warm temperatures in daytime followed by cooler nights, assisted in the slow accumulation of sugars and phenolic ripeness whilst retaining high acidity levels, thus contributing to healthy and balanced grapes.
Grape production was a little higher compared to the 2017 and 2018 vintages, and, perhaps, this was the indicative factor 2019 was not going to be a classic vintage as a small production is synonymous with a classic vintage port declaration.
Due to the mild conditions, grape health was guaranteed across all varietals. Touriga Nacional was exemplary, and the fruit was deep and complex offering good structure. Touriga Franca benefited from the late autumnal rain which offered some hydration and assisted in the retention of its plentiful aromatic intensity. In general, the resulting wines are likely to be extraordinarily successful with freshness and liveliness being the hallmarks of the 2019 ports.
The 2018 Vintage is aptly described by wine makers as a "rollercoaster of a vintage". A drought throughout winter gave way to exceptionally high rainfall and hale in spring. This was followed by sporadic heatwaves throughout summer. Fortunately the spring rains had replenished the water table and the grapes were healthy when it came to selection. In an unusual year such as 2018, the winemakers skills and experience are critical in producing a good wine. Those winemakers who carefully selected grapes prospered. As a result, there is no defining characteristic of the vintage as a whole, such as would be found in a long hot summer. Instead there are some very interesting ports that are more representative of the terroir.
After a run of declared vintages 2016/17 it was highly unlikely that 2018 would be universally declared. Sandeman who did not declare their outstanding 2017 were the fist to declare a classic vintage. This was followed by Sogevinous (Calem, Kopke, Burmester, Barros), Quevedo and regular declarations from Vesuvio and Noval. Surprisingly Taylors declared their 2018 (following 16/17) but will not sell it until 2021. QUANTITIES ARE TINY. Whether it's due to careful selection, Corona virus or just a desire not to overload the market, producers have only produced a fraction of normal volumes (roughly 1/3 of normal production). Read more in our 2018 Vintage Port blog
We are pleased to announce that the major port houses have declared the 2017 Port Vintage. Extremely rare, this is the Symington family's first ever consecutive declaration and follows the acclaimed 2016 Vintage. This is a milestone moment in port history and is the result of two very different but extremely high-quality years for port in the Douro.
Warmer, drier conditions than usual resulted in an early harvest of small, compact bunches of grapes in excellent condition, with yields amongst the lowest of the century so far, 20% below the 10-year average. The resulting wines are characterised by extraordinary intensity, concentration and structure, combined with stunning aromas and freshness. Their quality and fantastic potential mean that we believe 2017 will long be remembered as a year of incredible wines.
Given the very low-yielding year, the 2017 Vintage Port is the smallest declaration of the 21st century, with en primeur volumes approximately a third less than in 2016! So far, we have secured en primeur ports from Taylors, Fonseca, Croft, Grahams, Grahams’s Stone Terraces, Smith Woodhouse, Cockburns. Dow, Vesuvio, Quevedo, Palmer, Pocas, Vesuvio Capella, Noval, Noval Nacional, Niepoort and Warres. We are working to build the most comprehensive list ever offered!
The 2016 vintage port declaration came as no surprise given that the excellent 2015 vintage was passed over in favour of this vintage. The 2016 declaration is the first since the outstanding 2011 vintage and will inevitably draw comparisons. I have now had two tastings of the 2016, one in May and one in September. My overall impression is that the declaration is justified. The wines are lighter in body and at this stage in their evolution. Compared to the 2011 they are more nuanced and perhaps reflective of the winemaker’s skill and house style.
All of the major shippers declared the 2016. The yield is tiny as a cold and wet spring made for a tough start to the year. The very hot weather that followed hampered the ripening process as the vines shut down. The picking season was dry which meant that winemakers could pick the grapes at the optimum ripeness. Production release volumes are very small, for instance only 72 cases were released of the Nacional!
The reception for the 2016 vintage amongst critics has been very positive. James Suckling awarded the 2016 Taylor’s vintage port top marks (100 points). With most shippers such as Cockburn and Grahams scoring well into outstanding category. The ports although approachable in their youth, will be at their optimum between 2025 and 2060+. Prices are quite high for the premium brands due to small yields. However, there are some highly rated, lower cost wines from Skeffington, Burmester and Messias that represent an outstanding quality to price ratio.
In summary, this is a solid vintage declaration. Small production and high ratings make premium brands a solid investment that can be laid down for decades. Great value can be obtained searching out the lesser known producers. (TC – VWP)
The 2015 Vintage Port Harvest
Abundant rainfall marked the start of the viticultural year, replenishing depleted soil water reserves. This was to prove crucial due to the very dry winter, spring and summer that followed which was the hottest and driest of the last 36 years. It was the hottest June of the last half-century resulting in exceptionally low yields at harvest time. The conditions leading up to the harvest were excellent and a little late rain followed by sunshine just before picking offset some of the heat stress to produce some of the best grapes in memory (particularly Touriga Franca)
To declare or not to declare?
The ports produced in the 2015 vintage are, without doubt, outstanding and many producers such as Niepoort, Noval Ramos Pinto have declared the vintage. With small productions and an eye to what will probably be a spectacular 2016 vintage, Taylor Fladgate and Symingtonâ€™s have not declared all of their range producing instead some amazing value single quintas. These companies never make back-to-back declarations. Symingtons have produces a very small quantity of the ultra-rare Graham's Stone Terraces and declared Cockburn to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the shipper.
Having tasted all of the 2015 ports below, our port expert, Dr Tony Carter, has scored all of them above 90 points (outstanding) and rated the Stone Terrace, Dows and Vesuvio in the exceptional category (95+ points). This is in line with other critical reviews. In general, the exceptional showing for the Touriga Franca adds amazing floral qualities across the board. This is supported by a good showing for the Touriga Nacional which adds structure and backbone great ageing potential for these wines. We look forward to revisiting them in 40 years time!
2015 is definitely a vintage for port drinkers. Apart from the rare and limited releases, investors should look towards the 2016 vintage. Port drinkers can find amazing value amongst the single quintas (Fonseca, Taylor's, Croft, Dow's) or pick up some excellent quality vintage ports.
Rain caused significant damage in the first half of the year, then a cool August didn’t help matters. Yields will be low, quality is not remarkable, and vintage declarations unlikely for most producers apart from Quinta Do Noval and Churchill's who declared a small batch of their 2014 ports.
The 2012 port vintage was always going to be in the shadow of the outstanding 2011 vintage. An early drought led to a very small crop, but some excellent ports were produced. Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Vesuvio declared the vintage, whilst the bigger port shippers opted to make Single Quintas. Head Winemaker at Taylor Fladgate, David Guimaraens, noted: “A dry winter followed by a cool spring led to low yields but plenty of aromatic intensity. The cool ripening season was balanced by healthy growth, giving the resulting Ports crisp acidity and a remarkable purity of fruit.” These ports, whether Vintage or Single Quinta, would make a brilliant 10 year old wine gift for an anniversary this year.
The 2011 Port vintage is hailed as a legendary vintage one of the best in decades. All of the major port houses declared the 2011 Port vintage as being of exceptional quality. The avalanche of declarations started with Sogrape, owners of Sandeman and Ferreira, followed by Symington, the company that owns Dows, Graham, Warre, Smith Woodhouse and Cockburn and then Taylor Fladgate, owners of the Fonseca, Croft and Taylor's brands. According to Charles Symington, "The 2011 Vintage Ports are characterised by an unusual combination of elegance with power and structure. Whereas “elegant” usually implies lighter-bodied, the 2011s have fantastic aromas and great elegance but are big wines - not an easy balance to achieve." These ports would be an excellent 11 year old wine gift for an anniversary this year, reaching their peak between 2020 and 2050, perhaps even onwards.
After three very dry years, the winter of 2009-2010 saw an extraordinary change, with heavy rains for six months in a row. The viticultural year progressed well until July and August, when there was not one drop of rain. Temperatures in excess of 35ºC throughout most of August slowed the maturation cycle, as the vines cannot photosynthesise and mature the grapes properly in conditions of continued extreme heat. As a result the harvest began 5 days later than usual, but was conducted under mostly perfect conditions with a few welcome light showers in early September and only one overnight rainfall in early October.
Ports from 2009 make an excellent 13 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary. The 2009 Port was declared as a vintage by the Taylor Fladgate Partnership covering Taylor, Fonseca and Croft - it will be remembered as a year of low yields, which produced wines of massive density and scale. This was partly the result of a small amount of fruit produced across all grape varieties, as well as the very dry summer during which there was no rainfall from July through to harvest time in September.
The 2008 port vintage produced excellent wines; had it not come so soon after the outstanding 2007 vintage, it may have been declared. The majority of the 2008 ports possess great colour extraction. The best exhibit finely tuned tannins, crisp acidity and fresh, concentrated wild berry flavours.
The 2007 Port vintage was the first widely declared vintage since 2003; virtually every Port house that matters made a Vintage Port, attesting to the quality of the year. The growing season was preceded by a wet winter, which put plenty of moisture back into the soil after a lengthy period of dry conditions. Summer temperatures were relatively mild (unlike the torrid conditions in 2003, the last previous declared vintage). September and October weather was close to ideal so that the grapes enjoyed a lengthy hang-time under excellent conditions with full ripening of Turiga Francesa and Turiga Nacional, the two most important grape varieties. The quantities produced are small, so there is a high demand for them. There is little doubt that 2007 is a high class vintage, making a port from this year a great 15 year old wine gift for an anniversary this year.
The 2006 Port Vintage was a year that produced good Single Quinta Vintage Ports. Heavy winter rains replenished the drought-exhausted water table following the very good but dry 2005 vintage. Good weather followed, and flowering took place during the hottest May in 40 years. Temperatures steadily increased until a severe hailstorm hit vineyards in the Pinhão valley in the middle of June. Several vineyards lost up to 30% of the crop. A hot July followed, superseded by a cooler August and some much needed rain. More hot weather late August and early September caused some raisining and crop reduction in exposed vineyards. Picking began mid-September just ahead of a rainy spell.
Yields for 2006 were down at least 15% below average.
The 2005 Port Vintage was not widely declared but, nevertheless produced some excellent ports. The big producers did not declare the vintage and concentrated on producing Single Quinta ports from selected vineyards. Some smaller producers did declare 2005. The 2005 vintage ports are already approachable but would benefit from further cellaring.
The 2004 vintage was not generally declared, but some wonderful single quinta vintages were bottled. These 2004 Vintage Ports show an intense deep purple-red colour, a factor that was strongly influenced by the August rains that softened the skins and allowed for better colour extraction. The nose is lifted and fresh, again thanks to the cooler August weather. The taste is rich, firm and with good acidity and fine peppery tannins. These wines are most attractive and will age extremely well, making them an ideal 18 year old wine gift for an anniversary this year.
A general declaration of vintage, the 2003 produced classic Vintage Port. This year's wines have great traditional tannic structure with attractive ripe fruit flavours.
The 2002 Port Vintage was a potentially excellent one for those who picked their grapes before the rains which came late in the season, however, not so great for those who did not.
One of the wettest winters on record was followed by a moderately hot summer with light winds, which helped prevent disease. Harvest started at Quinta de Vargellas on September 17th and on the 20th in the Pinhao Valley, so rain on the 29th and again on the 5th of October affected only the tail end of the vintage. All in all, yields were up almost 30% over the preceding year.
David Guimaraens, Head Winemaker at Taylor's, Fonseca and Croft and the sixth generation of his family to make wines for Fonseca, wrote: “This year is certainly distinguished by being a year of larger production with a consistently high overall quality, as has not been seen since 1995.”
1999 was not a general declaration of vintage, however some vineyards produced small quantities of outstanding single quinta wines. These make a great 23 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
A port wine from 1998 would make an excellent 24 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary. This year was not generally declared as a vintage, however a small crop produced some good and powerful Single Quinta Vintage Ports. Colheitas or Single Harvest Ports such as Kopke or Barros would make an excellent alternative for port lovers and newcomers alike.
Although 1996 was one of the wettest years for port on record, the Douro region produced a large, abundant crop. The year was not declared as a Vintage, however a few good port wines were produced which are noted for being fruity and forward. A 1996 Vintage Port would make for an excellent 26 year old gift for a special anniversary this year.
The 1995 port wine vintage is rated as very good. If it hadn't directly followed the quite exceptional 1994 Vintage, 1995 could well have been a fully declared Vintage. It did however produce exceptionally good Single Quintas with concentrated, fruity and well-structured ports. The 1995 port vintage also offers plenty of good examples of barrel aged (tawny) port from established producers such as Kopke, Messias, Barros and Krohn that would offer exceptional drinking today, making these excellent 27 year old wine gifts for a 27th birthday or 27th anniversary celebration.
A 1994 Vintage Port makes a great 28 year old wine gift for a 28th birthday or anniversary: 1994 was one of the greatest vintages of the 20th Century that produced classic, monumental port wines with rich fruit character. While these wines can be approached in their youth, the best need 20 years in bottle, making them mature for drinking now or perfect to age for another 20 years. Our wine buyer highly recommends the 1994 Taylor's Vintage Port , an outstanding Vintage Port that scored an incredible 100 points from Wine Spectator and 97 from Robert Parker.
The 1993 was one of the worst years ever for weather in the Douro, with rain falling throughout the harvest. No declarations were made and little or no vintage Port was made.
The 1992 vintage was declared by some port houses who produced some rich and concentrated wines. The port was still young in 2008 and benefitted from further cellaring, making them a brilliant 30 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary in 2022.
Declared as a Vintage by some producers, the first since 1985. The 1991 was a very small but good Vintage; the grapes tended to be small with little juice resulting in deep, dense powerful wines for the medium to long term. It was declared by the Symington-owned houses (Dow, Graham, Warre, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell, Quarles Harris) while Taylor and Fonseca declared Single Quinta wines. Both the declared 1991 Vintage Ports and the 1991 Single Quinta wines would make a great 31 year old wine gift for a 31st birthday or anniversary celebration.
The 1990 Port vintage produced abundant quantities of good quality port wine. Generally produced as Single Qunitas and outstanding Colheita Port. Paul Symington writes "The Douro 1990 Vintage can be summed up in just four words – production, enormous – quality, excellent. The 1990 Vintage has probably favoured not so much the very early starting quintas, but those whose grapes were picked from the third week of September onwards; however, overall quality promises to be good to excellent." 29 October 1990.
1989 was not a general declaration of Vintage for Ports. However this was a good year that produced some attractive, full bodied single quinta wines with plenty of appeal. A Port like our 1989 Messias Vintage Port , recommended by our wine buyer, makes an excellent 33 year old wine gift for a 33rd birthday or anniversary.
1988 was a very difficult growing year, with bad weather in the spring and summer resulting in a small crop of average quality. As a result there was no declaration of vintage (a mark of the highest quality). Nevertheless, some very attractive single quinta ports were produced.
The 1987 was very close to being a fully-fledged Vintage. The port wines are balanced and elegant and will provide fine drinking in the medium-term. The result is that the consumer can buy Ports at a fraction of the price of what they would have cost, providing good value for money. These quality Ports would make an excellent 35 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
A good year that produced forward, fruit packed Single Quinta Vintage port wines that are at their best now and will remain so for many years, however there was no declaration of vintage in 1986. Tawny or Single Harvest Ports will offer a great alternative to Vintage Port.
The 1985 is a great classic Port Vintage, with concentrated, rich and potent wines. The year was a general declaration of vintage, the majority of Houses judging it to be up to their high standards. 1985 was a model year for the growth of the vines: a wet winter followed by a moderate spring led into an extremely warm June and a hot July and August. The harvest took place under perfect weather conditions, and the fermentations went well also. From the very start shippers were predicting outstanding wines. The resulting ports are characterised as being forward with enormous structure, and staggering depth, dimension, and length. They are at the peak of their maturity and will remain so for another 10-15 years. A Port from 1985 would make an excellent 37 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
A 1984 Port would make an excellent 38 year old wine gift, whether for a birthday or anniversary. Although there was no declaration of vintage this year, some attractive single Quinta ports were produced. These bottles are by now fully mature but will keep for years. The 1984 vintage started off with a cold wet spring, with summer not really starting until June. The first three weeks of September were fine, hot and dry, but at the end of September the temperature dropped sharply and it never recovered. However, there was good weather in the final part of the harvest and the winemakers' skills were tested in order to produce a good wine. Some excellent examples of the winemakers' talent are around, such as Warre, Dow and Fonseca, as well as our wine buyer's recommendation: the 1984 Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas . Some excellent single-harvest Colheitas were also produced by Houses such as Kopke.
1983 vintage ports are now considered great classic, concentrated, rich and potent wines. It was a general declaration of vintage, with 10 major shippers declaring this year. In youth the wines were powerful yet austere, lacking the showy opulence of the 85s. However, in bottle they have developed marvellously, with the best examples being complex and harmonious. These are excellent value-for-money ports, and would make a brilliant 39 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
1982 was a good Port Vintage, with elegant and aromatic wines. Although a few Houses declared the Vintage, most made Quinta wines.
No vintage port was made in 1981. Our recommendation would be for a 1981 Colheita port from 1981. Kopke are renowned for their colheita and this would make a wonderful gift for a 41 year old Birthday or Anniversary this year.
The 1980 Port vintage is rated as outstanding and was generally declared vintage. Over time the 1980 Ports have been hugely under-rated book-ended by the great 1977 and large abundant 1983 and 1985 vintages. This vintage is ready now but will continue to develop and keep for decades, making them the perfect 42 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
An unusually early spring was followed by an extremely dry growing season and sugar readings were on the low side when picking began a week or so later than normal, at the end of September.
A Vintage Port from 1979 makes an excellent 43 year old wine gift for a 43rd birthday or anniversary. Still drinking well, 1979 ports are part of a span of good vintages from 1977 to 1980. A very wet winter was followed by a dry hot summer and no rainfall from late June until 18th September. The crop was large and produced many quite good straight forward single-quinta wines that are now mature but will keep well for years.
1978 was a good Port vintage, although not a declared one; the wines are not outstanding but are still attractive and drinkable. 1978 was the year when the labelling of 'single quinta' became popular. Michael Symington, Head Winemaker at Symington Family Estates (Owners of Warre's, Dow's, Cockburn's, Smith Woodhouse and Graham's among others) wrote of the 1978 vintage "Musts showed exceptional colour and body and very dark, heavy wines have certainly been made. Not a trace of mould or rot was to be seen on the grapes coming in, and seldom can a Vintage have been made from more uniformly healthy grapes."
The 1977 was a classic vintage, declared by all the major port houses. Even after more than thirty years, the ports are only just becoming approachable and will last for many more decades. The port wines are concentrated, complex, well structured and balanced. Marked by strong tannins, these wines have great finesse and staying power. A 1977 port would make a brilliant 45 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary!
Following the driest winter on record there was a total drought throughout the summer, until the end of August. This resulted in a very low production, however those ports that were produced are exceptionally concentrated and full-bodied. They lack a little freshness but this is understandable given the dry conditions. There are very few bottle aged ports available but the Colheita ports (barrel aged) from this year are excellent. These would make a great 46 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
The 1975 vintage port declaration came shortly after the 1974 revolution. Under pressure of nationalisation, the port shippers were keen to show what was possible after a run of weak vintages. Whilst the ports are not in the same league as the other 70's declarations like the 1970 or the 1977, they have stood up well and represent a superb quality vs price ratio. Recent tastings have demonstrated that the best are elegant and a pleasure to drink. The wines are now fully mature, with the top producers producing good '75s that will grow old gracefully. They are elegant, fruity and well balanced but not big. A port from 1975 would make an excellent 47 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
The 1974 port vintage produced some excellent single harvest colheita, making a port from this year the ideal 47 year old wine gift for a 47th birthday or anniversary. For vintage ports it was a moderate year that was not declared by the major port houses; despite a huge crop, very few vintage port wines were bottled from this year and the bottles that were produced are very rare.
No vintage ports were produced in 1973.
A good vintage that was not declared, some vintage port and single quintas were produced in this year. Port wines from 1972 are now fully mature but well stored examples will last for many years more, making them a great 50 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary.
No Vintage Ports were produced in 1971.
The 1970 Port Vintage was universally declared as a vintage of outstanding quality. Ideal growing conditions produced what is now a classic, outstanding vintage. The 1970 port wines have great balance, good structure, and will age superbly for decades to come. Declared by all the major port houses, 1970 is one of the finest Port vintages for the last 50 years - a bottle from this year would make a stunning 52 year old wine gift for a birthday or 52nd anniversary this year.
A vintage Port from the 1969 vintage makes a perfect 53 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary. Some excellent Colheita (Tawny) Ports were produced from the 1969 harvest and these are highly recommended by our wine buyer. The 1969 vintage was good enough to yield a few single Quinta vintage ports, notably Taylors Vargellas and some exceptional Colheita ports.
Making an excellent 54 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary, 1968 Port wines follow a strong run of vintages in the 1960's. The summer was hot and dry with no rain whatsoever in June and July, and only a little in August and September. The harvest should have produced solid good wines. However, only a few vintage ports (Sandeman) and Single Quinta ports were declared. There are still a few Colheita ports available which are drinking very well but stocks are tiny. These bottles are now very rare!
Making a great 55 year old wine gift for any 55th birthday or anniversary, the 1967 port vintage is a very good vintage that was somewhat overshadowed by the exceptional 1966. It was declared by about 15 shippers. The 1967 ports showed well at recent tastings; they have good structure and elegant fruit and will keep for many years to come.
Making the perfect 56 year old wine gift for anniversaries or birthdays, 1966 is an outstanding Port vintage of exceptional quality that was generally declared. Always overshadowed by the legendary 1963, this year is now recognised as being one of the very best post-war Vintage Ports. The wines are characterised by being long lasting with firm, perfect weight and balance. Most will outlast their 1963 counterparts and turn out greater in the long run.
Port wines from 1965 make a great 57 year old wine gift, whether for a 57th birthday or anniversary. Ports of this year were shaped by a hot dry summer, with a little welcome sporadic rain. In general they are rich and powerful port wines with burnt coffee bean tawny characteristics typical of a hot vintage. The vintage was not declared by the major port houses who were looking ahead to the glorious 66 vintage, and there are very few single quintas port around, however there are some outstanding colheita ports available such as the highly recommended 1965 Taylor's Single Harvest .
A bottle of port from 1964 makes the perfect 58 year old wine gift, whether for a birthday or anniversary. Our wine buyer recommends the single harvest colheita ports such as the 1964 Messias Colheita Port , as these are drinking very well. They also come with the added advantage that they can be savoured for months after opening. The 1964 port vintage was a challenging year due to fluctuating weather conditions; a small amount of single quinta port was made but it is very rare. However, some truly excellent single harvest Colheitas were produced. The weather at the start of the year was unsettled, with rain and thunderstorms at the end of July followed by a hot, dry August which developed the vines. The hot weather continued throughout the season and into the harvest, when it began to fluctuate. The grapes harvested were more raisin than the winemakers would like and this is reflected in the small amounts of port produced.
1963 vintage ports are the benchmark against which others are compared: the Vintage is considered to be legendary. The perfect 59 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary, anyone born in 1963 has a wine for life. Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Quinta do Noval Nacional, Taylor and Warre all stand out amongst a uniformly excellent field of producers. The combination of a near-perfect growing season and temperate weather during the harvest made for this incredible vintage - nearly all the shippers produced supremely balanced and well-structured wines for a full-on declaration. Ports from this year never fail to impress with their essential three components of fruit, tannin and elegance. Aging supremely and retaining their youth, these ports often appear to be younger than they actually are!
While not generally a declared year, the hot weather produced some concentrated ports in 1961. The harvest started in extremely hot conditions at the river quinta in early September, progressing in other areas until the end of the month making it a long, drawn out vintage. The picking required a very rigorous selection which entailed picking out the burnt and imperfect grapes from the bunches before putting them in the baskets. This led to a small harvest, making bottles from this year quite rare. Making a great 61 year old wine gift for any birthday or anniversary, the 1961 ports produced are still drinking well today.
The 1960 Port Vintage was outstanding and was declared by all of the major Port houses. Port wines from 1960 have now settled into glorious old Vintage Ports of the very highest quality. After more than 62 years bottle-ageing, these wines have a superb combination of lovely mature fruit combined with the elegance that only this length of time in bottle can give. An incredible 62 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary, they will last for decades to come or offer a superlative drinking experience now.
The 1959 port wine vintage was a poor one. There were no declarations for vintage port and only a few single harvest colheitas were made.
1958 ports represent a good year with some fragrant and delicate Vintage Ports, despite the rather damp weather conditions throughout. This year was declared by some, but not all, of the major Port houses.
The 1957 was a good vintage, although not generally declared. 1957 Port wines are very difficult to get hold of due to the tiny production.
The 1955 port vintage produced outstanding, fruity wines for long-term ageing - a real pleasure to drink, now or in a few decades time. One of the most underrated Vintages of the 20th Century, 1955 was declared by most of the major Port houses and would make a brilliant 67 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary celebration this year. Ports from this vintage are characterised by having outstanding fruit and being superbly balanced wines, fruity, smooth and concentrated.
This year was a good vintage that is now very hard to find, and would make a perfect 66 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary. Not a declared year, this Vintage has been fully mature for many years - however if well cellared, the best 1954 port wines will be fine for years to come.
1953 was not a declared year, so Ports from the year are difficult to find.
1951 was not a declared vintage for Port. A Colheita (barrel aged single harvest) Port is a good alternative for this vintage, and would be a lovely 70 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary celebration this year. 1951 Single Quinta ports may still be drinkable, but are in short supply.
The weather throughout the growing season was good and only broke after the grapes were in.
Maurice Symington writes in his winemakers Diary
" The lagares took plenty of “work”: colour good. Temperatures felt low in the lagares. Grapes rendered more than estimated. Bomfim musts approximately 96/97 pipes. Zimbro about 35 and Sra da Ribeira (excluding outside grapes) about 70. There seems no reason not to be satisfied with this vintage from every angle."
Production was limited to Single Quintas Vintage Ports. We have not had the opportunity to taste any 1951 Single Quintas, but reports indicate that this was not a strong vintage.
However, some excellent 1951 Colheita (barrel aged) ports were made and these are sublime. They are in very short supply.
A poor year for the Oporto ports.
1948 was a very good port vintage that was only declared by 9 shippers. It was a seven year wait after this until the next declared vintage.
The 1947 port vintage was outstanding. This year produced elegant and delicate ports and was declared by only 11 shippers. Well cellared wines are drinking well and will last for many more years. Very popular in the wine starved 1950's which is why little remains - a port from this year would make an extremely rare 72 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary this year.
The 1946 port vintage is considered to have produced good quality ports, but no producer declared the year; the quality of the following vintage would have become clear already.
The 1945 port vintage was the first end-of-war vintage. It was a superb quality five-star vintage, although the quantity produced was small. 22 shippers declared the vintage, with Cockburn being the only major abstention. The ports are now very rare but are still drinking well today, making them an excellent 76 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary this year.
The 1944 Port vintage was not declared; no Vintage Port or Single Quinta port was produced in this year. However, some excellent Colheita and Tawny Ports from 1944 were made and we are proud to offer one of the largest collections in the UK. Making the perfect 75 year old wine gifts for a birthday or anniversary, these Colheita ports are true rarities which have been barrel aged until a special bottling commissioned by Vintage Wine and Port. The 1944 Kopke Colheita Port has been selected by the producer as being of the highest quality, and we would recommend it as a truly excellent gift. These colheita ports from the 1944 harvest have already undergone oxidative ageing and as with all tawny port can therefore be savoured over two months after opening.
This year was, despite WWII, declared by some shippers such as Graham's. Production was small due to continued post-war restrictions, but those wines which have been cared for are still drinking well now. These would make an excellent 80 year old wine gift for a birthday or anniversary this year.
A few rare bottles of Colheita exist - a rare and precious commodity.
In Portugal, the Tawny (Colheita) Ports that were produced are drinking well. 1940 ports produced a small crop.
Declared as a vintage by many houses and shipped with the 1934's the 1935s are classic refined wines, sweet and rich with fruit and tannins.
Despite a difficult season with a drought that wasn’t broken until September by “a little rain,” harvest began 23 September and continued in perfect conditions. Andrew James Symington’s notes, dated 14 October 1935 state:
I am inclined to think that the quality and good colour inspires hopes that the 1935 may prove good enough to make a Jubilee Vintage – quantity is less than last year – but quality appears to be better.
These wines are now mature, but if well-cellared the best still have a good life ahead of them, as they are still showing good fruit and tannin integration with lovely balance and elegance.
The extremely hot 1934 Vintage produced some rich, thick and powerful Vintage Port. 1934 is a rare vintage only shipped by 12 houses in small quantities. It is considered to be a very fine year equivalent to the great 1935 vintage and considered by some to be better. The declaration was small owing to the great depression at the time.
An outstanding Vintage Port year declared by a few shippers. The year produced Quinta Do Noval 1931 - one of the greatest Vintage Ports ever made. A note from Amyas Warre of the Symington Port Group, which owns the well known names as W&J Graham Vintage Port, Dow Vintage Port and Warre Vintage Port, stated "In the finest vineyards some good wine with plenty of colour is promised but elsewhere the mostos (musts) are thin and green."
The 1927 Port vintage is a legend! It is widely accepted as one of the great vintage Port years of the 20th century, declared by about 30 shippers. The weather through the growing season allowed for a relatively early harvest. The harvest was enormous and most Port houses declared a far larger quantity than was usual in vintage years. Despite the large volumes released, quality was extremely high, with concentrated fruit and fine structure, which has allowed the wines to age extremely well. The release was at a time of economic depression and much of the vintage was unsold and so ended up being blended with standard ruby Ports.
Declared by most shippers, excellent Vintage, again in a more elegant style similar to the 1917.
A superb classic Vintage, full-bodied with concentration and balance, almost all shippers declared.
Well cellared wines still show great balance and lovely soft fruit flavours.
he yield is shorter than was expected: this is no doubt due to the constant hot weather all through July, Aug and part of September which, as it was accompanied by occasional strong East winds, not only had the effect of hardening the skins of the grapes but also actually burnt up a very considerable proportion of them, more especially in the lower and flatter parts of the vineyards. In spite of this however the mostos (musts) seem clean and promise body and colour.
2 October 1906
During the 19th century the practice of 'declaring' wines from exceptional years gained momentum with 1847, 1851, 1858, 1863 and 1868 all proving to be fine port vintages. These wines came to be appreciated, less for their youthful vigour and more for the character and complexity that they gained with age in bottle.
During the 19th century the practice of 'declaring' wines from exceptional years gained momentum with 1847, 1851, 1858, 1863 and 1868 all proving to be fine port vintages. These wines came to be appreciated, less for their youthful vigour and more for the character and complexity that they gained with age in bottle.