Port in a Storm?



Every year, about the same time, an unceremonious and initially somewhat unexpected ritual takes place. It is known as the stacking of the LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) Port in the supermarket aisle; unceremonious given the fabled pedigree of this fortified wine and unexpected given the fact that its global production is relatively small; 10 million cases in total.

And yet the two major players, both with blue-blooded English pro-genitors, choose, for whatever reason,  to fight it out year in year out in this somewhat incongruous arena. Their loss is our gain; what they perceive to be their gain can only result in lost reputation in a category irrevocably linked to image and perceived status.

But beyond the duels between the Taylors and the extended Symington family one should not loose sight of the sheer magnificence of the product, its episcopal colouring and rich heady aromas presaging marvellous and infinitely complex flavours. Only in very special years are vintages declared and even then vintage makes up only 5 % of production; here we see the real port producers at work; their integrity has mitigated against a Vintage Declaration over the last three years, this in spite of real  and burgeoning  global demand.

When a vintage is declared, it is a cause for celebration indeed; older wines age with labyrinthine charm and infinite nuance; at the moment the 77s are dumb, but the 85s are singing; yet  this may be reversed again at least once over their long lives.

The 94s and 97s are promising great things, as is the legendary 2000; and  as for the older, rarer vintages, theirs is all grace and elegance. A far cry from the supermarket gondolas and their half-price ignominy. Let’s not forget what the real fuss should be about.