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 2013 port vintage produced some exceptional wines for those producers who harvested before the rain. For those who managed to gather the grapes, production quantities were tiny. 2013 was marked by a sunny and dry growing season. By the beginning of the harvest the quality potential was outstanding. Periods of rain during the harvest meant that much of this potential was not fully achieved, but some wonderful lots of high quality wine were made.
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 Naval and Quinta do Vesivio declared the vintage, whilst the bigger players (Fladgate, Symmington) opted to make single quintas.
Head Winemaker, 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.”
2011 Vintage Port Declaration: All of the major port houses have now declared the 2011 vintage as being of exceptional quality. For many shippers this is the first declaration since 2007. The avalanche of declarations started with Sogrape, owners of Sandeman and Ferriera. This has been followed by Symington, the company that owns Dows, Graham Warre and Cockburn and Taylor Fladgate owners of the Fonseca and Taylors brands.
"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. "
Charles Symington, 15 March 2013
After three very dry years, the winter of 2009-2010 saw an extraordinary change, with heavy rains of 100 mm or more recorded at Pinhão for each of six months in a row. The viticultural year progressed well until July and August when we had 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.
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 and also the very dry summer during which there was no rainfall from July through to harvest time in September.
2008 Port: An excellent vintage for ports and had it not come so soon after the outstanding 2007 vintage, may have been declared. The quality across the board is on a par with 2008 with the majority of the 2008’s possessing great color extraction. The best however, exhibit finely tuned tannins, crisp acidity and fresh, concentrated wild berry flavours.
2007 Port: 2007 is the first widely declared Port 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.
2007 Port: Reception for the vintage appears to be strong. The quantities produced are small, so there is a high demand for them, and there is simply no substitute for a great bottle of Vintage Port. There is little doubt that 2007 is a high class vintage.
2006 Port Vintage: A wet year with rain inconveniently timed in September. But some grapes were also shrivelled by extreme heat. Far from a textbook year.
2005 Port Vintage: This year produced a high quality harvest in the Douro region that has given rise to some outstanding single quinta vintage ports. The big producers did not declare the vintage and concentrated on producing single quinta ports from selected vineyards. The 2005 vintage ports are generally built for early consumption. The wines are already approachable but would benefit from further cellaring.
2004 Port Vintage: The 2004 vintage was not generally declared, but some wonderful single quinta vintages were bottled. These 2004 Vintage Ports show 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.
A general declaration of vintage. Classic Vintage Port. The 2003 port vintage has great traditional tannic structure with attractive ripe fruit flavours.
2002 Port: A potentially excellent vintage for those who picked their grapes before the rains. Not so great for those who did not.
The 2001 port was a good vintage yielding dark and well structured wines. Not generally declared but an excellent vintage nevertheless coming after the 2000 vintage. Some excellent single quinta wines were produced.
One of the wettest winters on record, Pinhao recorded 1,057mm (17.3”). 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. 10mm of rain on the 29th and again on the 5th of October affected only the end of the vintage. Yields were up almost 30% over 2000. David Guimaraens 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.”
2000 Port: The 2000 Vintage was the first to be declared in the 21st century and will be remembered for the immense concentration of its wines and for the small quantities produced. The wines are already showing tremendous promise, with intense berry fruit aromas and full-bodied structure, which at this early stage is an excellent sign.
1999 port: Not a general declaration of vintage. Some vineyards produced small quantities of outstanding single quinta wines.
1998 port: Not generally declared as a vintage. A small crop produced some good and powerful Quinta Vintage Ports. Colheitas or Single Harvest Ports such as Kopke or Barros would make an excellent alternative for port lovers.
1997 was one of the great port vintages of the decade and marked a general declaration of vintage. The vintage is characterised by full-bodied wines that will be at their best after 2015.
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.
1995 Vintage port. 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 quinta's with concentrated, fruity and well-structured ports. The 1995 port vintage also offers plenty of good examples of barrel aged port from established producers such as Kopke, Messias, Barros and Krohn that would offer exceptional drinking today.
1994 port: 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 will need 20 years in bottle.
1993 Port: One of the worst years ever in the Douro with rain falling throughout the harvest. No declarations were made and little or no vintage Port was made.
1992 Port: The vintage was declared by some port houses who produced some rich and concentrated wines. The port is still young in 2008 and will benefit from further cellaring.
1991 Port: Declared as a Vintage by some producers the first since 1985. 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) in preference to 1992. Taylor and Fonseca declared single-Quinta wines.
1990 Port: Not a general declaration. The 1990 Vintage produced abundant quantities of good quality port wine, a small amount of which was outstanding.
1989 Port: Not a general declaration of Vintage. However this was a good year that produced some attractive, full bodied single quinta wines with plenty of appeal.
1988 Port: 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 Port 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.
1986 Port: No declaration of vintage. 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. Tawny or Single Harvest Ports will offer a great alternative to Vintage Port and would grace the table of any anniversary celebration.
1985 Port vintage is a great classic Port Vintage, with concentrated, rich and potent wines. General declaration of vintage. 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 ports from 1985 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 15-20 years.
1984 Vintage Port: No declaration of vintage but some attractive single quinta port wines. 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 wine makers skills were tested to produce a good wine. Some excellent examples of the wine makers talent are around such as Warre, Dow and Fonseca. Some excellent single Colheitas were produced such as Kopke.
1983 vintage ports are now considered great classic, concentrated, rich and potent wines. General declaration of vintage. 10 major shippers declared 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. Excellent value for money ports.
1982 was a good Port Vintage, with elegant and aromatic wines. Declared by a few houses, but most made Quinta wines.
1981 Port : Our recommendation would be for a Colheita port from 1981.
An outstanding generally declared vintage from a hugely underrated year. The 1980 port wines are outstanding. This vintage is ready now but will continue to develop and keep for decades.
1979 was an average Port vintage, that produced some quite good straight forward single-quinta wines that are now mature but will keep well for years.
1978 was a good Port vintage but not a declared one. The port 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 Dow and Graham) 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." 1978.
The 1977 port vintage was a classic Port vintage that was declared by all the major port houses. Even after more than thirty years, the ports are only just becoming approachable. They 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.
1976 port vintage: 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. Those 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 vintage ports (bottle aged) available but the Colheita ports (barrel aged) from this year are excellent.
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 (1970, 1977), they have stood up well and represent a superb quality vs price ratio. Recent tastings (e.g. Port Forum 75@40 tasting) have demonstrated that the best are elegant and a pleasure to drink. The wines are now fully mature with the top producers producing good '75's that will grow old gracefully. They are elegant fruity and well balanced but not big.
1974 Port. Some excellent single harvest colheitas were produced. For the 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 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. Port wines from 1972 are now fully mature but well stored examples will last for many years more.
Port lovers should opt for 40 year aged Tawny ports. Not a declared year.
Ideal growing conditions produced what is a classic, outstanding vintage. The 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.
No declaration of vintage but the 1969 port-wines produced were of good quality and have stood the test of time.
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 (Sandman) and single quinta ports were declared. There are still a few Colheita ports available which are drinking very well but stocks are tiny. Now very rare!
The 1967 port vintage is a very good vintage that was somewhat overshadowed by the exceptional 1966 vintage. It was declared by about 15 shippers - some of whom (Martinez and Cockburn) declared the 1967 in preference to the 1967 vintage. Noval and a few others declared both whilst most of the English shippers elected to produce single quinta ports. The 1967 ports showed well at recent tastings, they have good structure and elegant fruit and will keep for many years to come.
1966 is an outstanding Port vintage of exceptional quality that was generally declared. Always overshadowed by the legendary 1963 but 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 the 63's and turn out greater in the long run.
1965 Vintage Ports 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. There are very few single quintas port around, however there are some outstanding colheita port available.
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. Some excellent single harvest Colheitas were produced in this year.
The weather at the start of the year was unsettled with rain and thunderstorms at the end of July. These were 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 were more raisin than the winemakers would like and this is reflected in the port produced.
Our recommendation is for the single harvest colheita ports as these are drinking very well. They also have the added advantage that they can be savoured over several months after opening.
1963 vintage ports are the benchmark against which others are compared. The Vintage is considered to be legendary! Anyone born in 1963 has a wine for life. with Cockburn Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Quinta do Noval Nacional, Taylor, Warre standing out amongst a uniformly excellent field.
The combination of a near-perfect growing season and temperate weather during the harvest made for a benchmark vintage. Nearly all the shippers produced supremely balanced well-structured wines for a full-on declaration.
1963 vintage port never fail to impress with their essential three components of fruit, tannin and elegance. Almost always appear to be younger than they really are.
Not a general declaration, but some very good vintage and single quinta ports were made. Now fully mature, the 1962 Ports still have good structure and finish and will last a few more years.
Not generally a declared year but the hot weather produced some concentrated ports. The harvest started in extremely hot conditions at the river quintas in early september and progressed in other areas until the end of the month making it a long drawn out vintage. The picking required a very rigorous selection which entails picking out the burnt and imperfect grapes from the bunches before putting them in the baskets. This led to a small harvest. The 1961 ports produced are still drinking well today.
A very good vintage that was declared by all of the major Port houses. The 1960 Ports have now settled into the most glorious old Vintage Ports of the very highest quality. After more than 40 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. They will last for decades to come.
A poor year - one to avoid!
1958 ports represent a good year with some fragrant and
delicate Vintage Ports, despite the rather
damp weather conditions throughout.
Declared by some but not all the major
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. Declared by most of the major Port houses.
The 1955 vintage ports are characterised by having outstanding fruit and being superbly balanced wines, fruity, smooth and concentrated. They are a real pleasure to drink now, but the best will last well into the 21st Century if well cellared.
A good Vintage that is now very hard to find. Not a declared year. This Vintage has been fully mature for many years but well cellared, the best 1954 port wines will be fine for years to come.
1953 Vintage Port: Not a declared year. A 60 year old Colhieta port makes an excellent gift to celebrate an anniversary or to mark a special occasion like a 1953 vintage birthday.
A few shippers produced some reasonable 1952 ports. Tiny production. Not a declared year.
Not a declared vintage.A Barrel aged single harvest port is a good alternative for this vintage. 1951 Single Quinta ports may still be drinkable but are in short supply.
In Portugal, the Tawny (Colheita) Ports that were produced are excellent and a small crop of good quality vintage ports were produced.
1950 was also known as the "Lady's Vintage", this was a delicate and subtle Vintage. Declared by some but not all Port houses. 1950 Ports are still a pleasant and fruity but are now at the end of the drinking window. Most now resemble tawnies more than Vintage Port.
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. An outstanding vintage that produced elegant and delicate ports and which 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.
The 1946 port vintage is considered to have produced good quality ports but no producer declared as the quality of the following vintage would have become clear.
The 1945 port vintage was the first end-of-war vintage. It was a superb quality five star vintage, although the quantity was small. 22 shippers declared 1945 port vintage with Cockburn being the only major abstention.
The ports are now very rare but are still drinking well today.
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. These Colheita ports are true rarities which have been barrel aged until a special bottling commissioned by Vintage Wine and Port. The Kopke and Barros have been selected by the producer as being of the highest quality.
These colhieta ports from the 1944 harvest have already undergone oxidative ageing and as with all tawny port can be savoured over two months after opening.
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."
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.