Be very careful of the hype around top rated Vintage Port

January 30, 2021

RIP Henry Aaron. Mr. Aaron was a champion for human rights, a generous donator, and from all reports an unimpeachable gentleman. 2020 has cost us 10 former Hall of Fame players. Hammering Hank was a baseball GOAT. 

The February issue of Wine Spectator is worth buying. It has over 500 wines rated 90 points. Most can be had under $25, a valuable tool for those who wish to increase the scope of their wine menu without placing too much at risk. I prefer not to tout other reviewers, but in this particular case, I would be remiss in my obligation to inform. 

Let’s explore Vintage Port. First a brief tutorial. Unlike most other wine, a Vintage Port is not produced every year. This designation is decided by a producer choosing to “declare a vintage” because they consider the wine which were produced in a given harvest year meet the criteria. The regulating body for the Port trade, IVDP, evaluates a sample of the wine. If it approves the producer’s decision, the wine can be bottled, following specific criteria, then sold as Vintage Port. These are specific to a particular producer and does not reach across the entire production of any vintage year. History tells us that most producers are extremely careful with their “Declarations.” Most declare 3, or occasionally 4, per decade. Those who wish to read the broad brush can go here: As a point of general information, the following Taylor Fladgate vintages are considered generally excellent: 1994, 96 McD under $200; 2000, 2003, 2007, 96 McD, under $80; ready 2027, 2011, 2016 and 2017. Of these, 1992, best, and ‘94 are ready to drink and still available around $225. Those who want to cellar look for the 2017, but be advised you get little price appreciation until the 20-year window, in most cases. Note the price on 2007 opposed to 1994. 

 Be very careful of the hype around top rated Vintage Port. Almost without exception, after great flack, they are initially way overpriced. As an example, the highly touted 2017 came in at $83 then rose to a high of $203 in November, 2017, dropped to $75 by June, 2019 and resides at $98 in December, 2020, where it is a very fair value. There are no deals on cases yet. Too many bought the hype. Most are selling around $1300/12. As a point of interest according to Roger Voss, a Port but not portly winophile, the last time there were two generally declared Vintage Ports was 1872-73 by 16 producers. By comparison, ‘63 and ‘71 respectively declared in 2016-17. And the good news keeps on coming as 2018 is looking like an unheard of three-year Port hat trick. Symington, owner of Graham’s, Dow’s, Warre’s and Cockburn, declared  six single quintas (country villa or estate, Spain) in 2018; Ferreira 100 points Voss;  Sogrape, which owns Sandeman, Offley and Ferriera, plus  Quinta do Vesuvio and Dow,Senoria da Ribiera, also declared with others to follow. I’m guessing the patient purchaser will find some excellent bargains in 2016. Keep your eyes peeled.

The reviews on the 2016 were effusive. In the June 2018 Robb Report there was an article titled, “A sneak peek at the greatest Vintage Port of the Century”. These reviews drove prices through the roof. Croft Vt Port came in at $419, and by Jan 2017 was $83; current price $94.I’m not casting aspersions, just delivering a caveat. As 2018 rest on shelves, likely most of their prices will also decline. 

Big Buckaroos who enjoy Port will be aware of Quinto do Noval Nacional VT. Port. Through diligent search I located a “wrinkle in the force.” The perfect score 2003 under $900/bottle just entered its window. Those who move quickly can buy it under $700. The 2016 and ‘17 are priced $1,000 and need at least 12 in the cellar. Do not confuse with the Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional  which, although they show a vintage on the label, aren’t declared wine. These consistently rate 90-91 McD are findable around $30-40 and are lovely. Quinta Noval Silval is another very fine look at Port for beginners. Try to find 2014 or earlier under $100.

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