La Vino Dolce

There's No Shame in Being Sweet ™
April 18th, 2012 by Troy Stark

Vintage Port Follow Up

Not too long ago, I wrote an article explaining the differences between Late Bottled Vintage Ports and other styles of Port. I made a couple of claims in that article that I wanted to follow up on.

LBV Ports without a traditional cork don’t age well

A couple of my friends who read this blog questioned me when I claimed that LBV Ports with a cork stopper, as opposed to a traditional cork, don’t age well. Most people are under the impression that just about any type of port can be aged. The fact is, I stand by my assertion that, unless your port has a traditional cork, it will not age. To test my theory, I decided to consume the oldest bottle of LBV I could find.

Needless to say, this bottle of Sandeman’s 1989 Late Bottled Vintage Port was not good. It had absolutely no fruit left and was nothing but alcohol on the palette. I suppose if you were desperate you could probably have choked it down, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I even took my test a couple of steps further. I found a bottle of 2002 vintage dated South African port with a cork stopper. This “vintage port” was from a very reputable South African producer. Even though it was vintage dated and most vintage dated port style wines should age well, the cork stopper made all the difference. It was lifeless and undrinkable – definitely not what you would expect from a “vintage port” that’s only 10 years old. 

Finally, I found a non-vintage port-style wine from Ficklin Vineyards, one of the oldest port producers in California. I concluded this bottle is from 2002 or earlier, because Ficklin changed their label on this wine in September of 2003. So, it’s at least as old as the 2002 South African port, but I suspect it may even be older. At any rate, this wine has a traditional cork and, as you may have guessed, it was drinking beautifully.

Based on these experiments, I am going to revise my claim to make it a little broader: any port-style wine bottled with a cork stopper will not age well, while those with a traditional cork generally will. If your experiences don’t match mine, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

– If you find a 1984 LBV Warre’s you should buy it –

In that same article, I also described one of the best wine tasting experiences I’ve had to date, which was the 1984 Warre’s LBV “Traditional” Port. I recounted in that article how 1980, 1983 and 1985 were all exceptional years for Porto, leaving the 1984 vintage to be blended into or bottled as a lesser wine. Warre’s, however, made the decision to late bottle their 1984 in the same manner as a true vintage port; it was unfiltered and closed with a traditional cork. I claimed that, in the unlikely event you should run across it, you should definitely buy a bottle of this wine.

Well, as I was browsing through the Bloomington Haskell’s, which is a chain of wine shops here in the Minneapolis area, I noticed something that may be even better: the 1985 Warre’s Vintage Port. I was amazed to find this wine in such quantity (looks like they have about 6-7 bottles). I just about bought a bottle, but at $170 the price is a little too steep for me. Not to say that it wouldn’t be worth the price – it most certainly would.

At any rate, if you have some money and want to be blown away by an aged vintage port buy this wine. They may even be able to ship it to you if you live in another state. If you’re ever going to spend this kind of money on a wine, why not do so on this one?


2 Responses to “Vintage Port Follow Up”
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