A vintage declared: 2017 Port


2017 Vintage Port. Photograph: Jason Lowe
Photograph: Jason Lowe
On St George’s Day, our Cellar Plan Manager and Port devotee Tom Cave explains how Port declarations work, and why 2017 is of particular significance

Vintage Port, the zenith of all Port styles – with its unrivalled capacity to age into one of the wine world’s greatest expressions, is occasionally referred to as “the Englishman’s wine”. Although happily these days by no means restricted to just the English, it still feels right and apt this St George’s Day to bring news of a new and exciting Port Declaration: 2017.

Earlier this month, one of the two main players in the Douro, Symington Family Estates (who are behind Graham’s, Dow, Warre, Cockburn and Quinta do Vesuvio), along with an array of other notable shippers announced that 2017 would follow 2016 as a vintage worthy of being “declared”.  It would be sage to expect the other main player, the Taylor Fladgate Partnership, to follow likewise, perhaps even later today.

Many are calling this the first generally declared, consecutive vintage since the 1934 and ’35 (it should be noted that, strictly speaking, these were not universally declared), which makes the 2017 all the more notable.

Declarations are made in the second spring following the harvest, by which time the youthful wines have settled, and been assessed thoroughly to see if they are of high enough quality to be a “Vintage”. 

The old rule of thumb for vintages was that there were generally three per decade – think ’70, ’75 & ’77; ’80, ’83 & ’85; ‘91/’92 (a split declaration), ’94 & ’97; ’00, ’03 & ’07. Improvements to winemaking coupled with vastly greater knowledge of the region’s vineyards, however, are factors suggesting that in the future more vintages will be declared. This decade we’ve seen 2011, ’16 and now ’17 – perhaps with room for a couple more?

Knowing the winemakers’ passion, you can appreciate their desire to make every new vintage a better one than the last. These people who work so hard to make these wonderful, world-class wines must look abroad to Bordeaux, California and beyond and wonder, if they can make a vintage every year – why can’t we aspire to match them?

The fabled Quinta do Noval has, after all, made a “vintage” every year since 2011. No one can deny the quality they offer.

We’ll taste the 2017s in late May and we plan to offer the wines just prior to the spring Bank Holiday, so do look out for these. The 2017s’ quality seems assured, though we gather it was a low-yielding harvest and so there will be limited quantities of these wonderful wines. Two consecutive vintages, perhaps one day to rival the ‘34/’35? Time will tell.

Since this post has been published, both Taylor’s and Fonseca have declared.

Keep an eye out for the 2017 Vintage Ports on bbr.com; in the meantime, browse our range of Port here.