What to drink in 2020: Vintage Port


Photograph: Joakim Blockstrom
In the second instalment of our series on the wines to tuck into this year, our Cellar Plan Manager Tom Cave reports on a half-century of Vintage Port

The 1970s continue to shine on; these are a wonderful indulgence now and display all the great traits of truly venerable Vintage Port from a long-gone era. Seek some out if you can, and continue to enjoy those you have.

The 1975 vintage followed, a shadow of 1970, due much to political unrest in Portugal. This was a vintage that perhaps should never have been declared, though if you do come across any, respect them for their delicate, elegant, persistence to have reached this far.

The 1977s strode in soon after, pitched as classics, and sold far and wide. There was lots of the vintage, and there’s still quite a bit around. With few exceptions, the wines are all well onto their “drink now” plateau, even if most will remain at this stage for some years yet.

The 1980 vintage proved an undersung gem for, notably, Dow, Graham and Warre. Well into prime maturity, best kick on and enjoy rather than hold out for more.

Both 1983 and 1985 are likewise ready to go. Some ’85s will continue to improve, but – nearly two score years on – it’s time to wield corkscrew and decanter for both. By the by, Vintage Port of this age won’t fade in a decanter for a good few days; ever thought of opening a bottle on a Friday night and enjoying it glass by glass right through to Sunday evening?

On to 1991 vs 1992 and a “split declaration”: 1991 is perhaps the lighter-footed hurdler, and one to broach sooner. The 1992s (in the main, those from the Taylor-Fladgate group) have the muscle and concentration to stay longer, the staying ‘chaser.

The 1994 vintage sails on with pride and promise. Rich fruit and painless tannins mean they can be delicious now, though there is plenty more development to come. It remains a stand-out vintage to seek out now for drinking over the next two to three decades.

Wines from 1997 are more sedentary, though it was gratifying to see how well one provided praiseworthy pleasure earlier this winter. Silky fruit in balance to crisp tannins suggesting this mid-weight vintage is coming into its own.

The 2000s, little-seen, generally need lie longer and remain a little underwhelming. The 2003 vintage is one of greater note; producing big, expressive wines that while a bit short on charm can warm the soul. Overall, leave both for now.

The tempo of releases rose with 2007, ’11, ’16 and ’17 all declared and in lower quantities than of yesteryear. Many of these earning high praise. Be thankful, they can all slumber on, developing as slowly and majestically as any great vintage – though changing styles and customs hint we’ll be enjoying these a little sooner than our grandparents had to wait for theirs.

Browse our range of Vintage Port on bbr.com