View Full Version : Vintage Port

02-03-2006, 06:24
Based on past messages (prior to my joining the group), I know that there are some bourbonites that also enjoy a good vintage port. (I never had a bad vintage port). Although I like bourbon, I would like a great vintage port as my last beverage.
I have a number of mature vintage ports from various shippers. I plan to travel to the Sampler in April and if anyone is interested in possibly trading bourbon for vintage port let me know.

02-03-2006, 10:41
Along those lines - can anybody suggest some particularly good ports? My wife likes port, and we buy some periodically, but I don't really know what I'm getting. A few years back I carried a bottle home with me from Australia, and she says nothing since has quite matched up. On a good evening, after the kids are in bed, we like to pour a glass of our favorite respective beverages (bourbon and port) and have an actual discussion without interuption (emphasis here on "after the kids are in bed...").


02-03-2006, 14:11
check out this article on ports

this is the online page

here is the actual PDF of the article in the magazine

02-03-2006, 15:16
Along those lines - can anybody suggest some particularly good ports? ... A few years back I carried a bottle home with me from Australia, and she says nothing since has quite matched up...

Well, the Aussie 'stickies' may be a little sweeter than many true ports, but look for Yalumba's Museum or Antique Tawny dessert ports. They should run around $20 for 500ml. Bet you'd like the R.L. Buller & Son Tokay Victoria, too ($14-$16 for 375ml).
Many late bottled vintage (LBV) ports from Portugal dated 1994 and 1997 -- you'll even find some from 2000, most likely -- are drinking well and need a good home soon. I've seen Dow half-bottles in the $14-$16 range.

02-04-2006, 04:44
A few years ago, I tried few Australian ports and did not like them as much as those from Portugal. Since that time. I'm sure that there are many more to choose from and they most likely got better. Selecting a port is somewhat like selecting a bourbon. It depends on your mood. Sometimes I like a ruby port such as Cockburn. They tend to be very dark, fruity, and with noticable alcohol. Other times I am in the mood for a nice 10-year old tawny port such as Taylor Fladgate. Due to their age they are lighter, somewhat brown, and have the taste of raisins. Occasionally, I will drink a late-bottled vintage port; however, the best port is a vintage port. It should be at least 15 preferably 20 years old before drinking. The taste is outstanding. It is very fruity, the alcohol is fully resolved, and the flavors remain on the palate for quite some time.

Unfortunately, purchasing a 15-20 year old vintage port is quite costly. A good late-bottled vintage port is good second choice. However, if you and your wife have the opportunity to taste a freshly opened bottle of a 15-20 year vintage port, I am sure that you will love it. Vintage port as well as late-bottled vintage port must be decanted or filtered and once opened, they change over time. After 2 days in a decanter, the taste changes. That can be the danger of ordering a glass of vintage or late-bottled vintage port in a restaurant.

02-22-2006, 17:08
I'm new to ports, but have tried some of the vintage and nv selections from Dow, Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca , Graham, Sanderman, etc.
Tonight I tried my first Aussie," Jonesy,Old Tawny Port", by Trevor Jones, and although it may not be the " real thing", it will probably be my choice when I go to this type of drink. For $12.00, I think it's incredible.

02-23-2006, 07:36
I find it interesting that you have tried vintage port and seem to prefer an Australian tawny port. Is that true or do you feel that vintage port is simply not worth the high price? I like tawny port; however, in my opinion, it does not come close to the incredible taste and complexity of vintage port.

02-23-2006, 09:15
As I said, I'm new to ports, so my taste, appreciation and knowledge for it has not really developed to a point that I can justify $100.00+ for a vintage port, especially when many of the NVs and Aussies score high in various publications. I can be content, for the time being, with the Jonesy for $12 or the NV Taylor Fladgate ,Tawny 10 yr. for $24
Bourbon and wine consume most of my booze dollars so I need to stay on the cheap side of port.

02-23-2006, 09:19
I'm no expert, but I believe most vintage port is tawney, which simply means that the port has been aged in barrels for a length of time. That as opposed to ruby port which has spent no time in wood. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.

02-23-2006, 10:38
Jeff, I was about to comment on the other posts and first would say (I am sure Jake Parrot will correct me if I am wrong) that vintage port in fact does not receive very much barrel age before bottling. It may receive some, but the object is not to impart a tannic or other barrel effect to it. The idea is to bottle it young and fresh and subject it to the oxidation effects of many years of bottle age. In fact when a bottle is opened even after 20 years or so, the port is ruby red (in my experience). If it does become brown (as some red wines do) this is due to extended bottle maturation not from early oak aging. Late bottled vintage is an attempt to mimic the long bottling age of genuine vintage port. It is an excellent value but according to experts does not offer quite the same palate. I believe tawny ports do experience even longer barrel aging precisely to impart a particular oxidation effect (the raisiny taste, of course this is done in a controlled fashion), so your 20 year old Dow tawny say will have been aged 20 years in barrel, but that is why it is "tawny". I must say I have not seen really what the fuss is about vintage port. I have had 15-20 year old examples from decent houses (Warre's, Dow, Graham). I don't find them all that different from a good ruby port. I am far from being an expert though and accept the testimony of those with long experience, maybe I haven't had the right ones, or vintage ports that are old enough. I do admire greatly the tawnies: a 20 or 30 year old tawny port can be a real treat. And I like late-bottled vintage perhaps precisely because of the barrel age on the product. I just bought a bottle of Warre's 1995 Late Bottled Vintage Port. It has 20% ABV and the label says it received 4 years oak aging before bottling without fining or any other filtration. Further, it is given 4 years more aging in the Warre cellars, so 8 in total, half in oak. The label says that the additional 4 years in bottle give it its special character. So you can see that this is a kind of an accelerated version of regular vintage port: in the regular one, there is no or little oak aging but a very long bottle aging (for maximum taste and quality). But you have to wait the 15-30 years or more. With late bottled vintage, the first 4 years in oak give a head start to the aging and it is finsihed off (for this Warre one) by 4 years in the bottle. Not quite like cycling in bourbon, but the same general idea, to mimic what would take brute nature and time much longer to do.. I'll post taste notes on this bottle soon.


02-23-2006, 11:09
Thanks Gary, I stand corrected. Leslie and I do enjoy port a lot, but we typically buy just the standard ruby and tawney offerings from the different wineries, as we may not drink a bottle fast enough to risk purchasing an expensive vintage or well-aged product. I did have a 20yo Dow at Postrio's in San Francisco that I thought was outstanding.

02-23-2006, 11:11
IIRC, vintage prots spend 2 years in barrels before hitting the bottle then sitting in the warehouse to age until considered ready to sell, though not neccesarily ready to drink, whereas tawnies spend their entire life in wood before being bottled ready to drink. Their is another harder to come by version called a colheita(sp?), it is a vintage dated tawny, sometimes considered the best of the ports, spending its enitre life in barrels, but culled from a single vintage-I guess you could call this the BIB of ports, when most tawnies would be more of a small batch style with a minimum age for the wine stated on the bottle, yet the possibility to mix in older stock to reach a desired profile. I believe that for whiskey drinkers who like some wood in the flavor profile it is worth the effort to search out this style of port. I have gotten some '63 colheita for a reasonable price in the past(<$100) though have seen stuff from the 30s costing considerable sums(>$500)

Need to edit myself here: seems the age statement on tawnies is the weighted average of the wines inside the bottle(ie. if there is 50% 18yo and 50% 22yo then the age statement would be 20yo) seems a bit suspect to me, but that seems to be the way it works.

02-23-2006, 13:14
Thanks, to Jeff and Timothy for these remarks. I checked in Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine (quite an amazing book, currently being updated by Ms. Robinson) and indeed vintage port generally undergoes a couple of years or so barrel age. This is done I imagine to give the wine some structure but my main point was correct (I think) in that the aging in wood is relatively minimal for vintage port because its main character comes from the grapes. Whereas LBV, Tawny and the other major styles or variations of quality port (Colheita, Crusted, etc.) receive longer barrel age because the barrel effect is a more important part of their character. Vintage means one year, grapes of one very good year only are combined to produce a rich sweet wine that will last many years in bottle and improve through a slow maturation. The growers famously only "declare" some years, being years in which a hot summer produced a very good yield and quality of must for the wine. Interestingly, the Oxford Companion states that in some years, while the quality would justify it, the growers don't declare; this will often be when they judge that commercially the market won't accept another vintage port bottling. I'll have to persist with vintage port, but I have a suspicion that the quality of ruby has increased over the years and therefore the differences between a good ruby and a vintage port are not as great as they were.


02-23-2006, 13:21
Well I couldn't help but put my 2 cents into this subject, especially since I seen that some of you have a liking for Aussie port....:grin:

I must admit that I was unaware of the differences between the variations in the product....ie. How 'Tawny' port is so classified, so thanks for the info above!!
I have listed some Aussie brands that I can definately recommend in giving a try....
- Brown Brothers
- Penfolds
- Galway Pipe
- Seppelt
- Orlando
There are many other labels/brands available however I have stuck with the more well known brands.
I must point out also that Australian wine is constantly moving up the 'ladder' in terms of quality and price comparison between some of the other world products. If you sampled some Australian wine say 5 - 10 years ago, the offerings as far as quality comparison against some of the well know labels was very poor, however some of the offerings available now can rival even some of the best Italian and Spanish wines.

02-23-2006, 14:41
Tony, what's the story on Australian whisky?

Are there brands that compare to the Scots originals? We've asked this question before but even the Australian members (not in the trade I mean) seem not to have a lot of knowledge of this area.

Are some made in a single malt fashion, for example? Is there craft distilling of whisky going on?

Theoretically I don't see why a bourbon-type whiskey could not be made in Australia.


02-23-2006, 15:10
Troy, I have to chime in with one of my favourite ports - Grant Burge 20yo Tawny Port :yum: (The other being Barros 10 & 20yo....but they aren't Australian)


I don't profess to know a lot about Australian Whiskey. Jim Murray rates some of it highly in his 2006 Whiskey Bible.
Apparently Tasmania is producing some of the better drams as it's climate is very similar to Scotland.
www.bakeryhilldistillery.com.au (http://www.bakeryhilldistillery.com.au) has received much acclaim of late, although I haven't yet tried their products to verify this.

02-23-2006, 15:27
Thanks Cam, and any additional tips, from Tony or others, are welcome. I actually have the Murray guide 1 foot from where I am typing, I'll check that out, good suggestion!


02-23-2006, 15:49
Who's TONY.....:slappin:

ME TROY:smiley_acbt:


02-23-2006, 15:50
...The growers famously only "declare" some years, being years in which a hot summer produced a very good yield and quality of must for the wine. Interestingly, the Oxford Companion states that in some years, while the quality would justify it, the growers don't declare; this will often be when they judge that commercially the market won't accept another vintage port bottling...
Gary, there ARE instances when individual port houses will declare a vintage not generally declared. For example, as I've read today's additions to this thread, I've gone to the 'fridge and poured a bit of some 1990 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port, from a year not generally declared, but from a family -- the Symingtons (Graham's, Dow's, Warre's) -- who know port.
Quite remarkably, this ruby-ish port is still very fresh despite having been open now almost a year (I'm afraid I just forget about it most evenings). Port, of course, is brandied to keep it sweet, and that also helps to a degree make it long-lasting -- though I wouldn't push my luck to a year or more too often.
Here's a link to a page which describes port styles in more detail:

02-23-2006, 17:02
Thanks, Tim, the fact that you have kept your bottle of vintage port chilled all that time no doubt has assisted to maintain its quality.

I would suggest, since you don't use much of it (and don't take this facetiously) that you add a few drops to the next bourbon/rye vatting you do in the glass. The result will likely be very good.

Swirl hard before tasting.


02-23-2006, 17:18
...I would suggest, since you don't use much of it (and don't take this facetiously) that you add a few drops to the next bourbon/rye vatting you do in the glass. The result will likely be very good...
Been there, done that, Gary! See here, in which I blame you quite prominently:grin: :

02-23-2006, 17:32
Gee Tim you got a flogging on doing that...just read the post...LOL
Ok, question....anyone sampled Beam's Masterpiece Port Finish??
Just a quick reminder....I have now had my port barrel sitting for about 3 months. I am possibly considering drinking it in a few weeks, then it's onto filling it with Bourbon....I did have a post here, let's see if I can find it...
Yeah...found it

02-23-2006, 17:39
Thanks, Tim and Troy both.

Re: Tim, I'll have to come up with new ideas (Madeira?).

Re: Troy, your idea of finishing bourbon in an ex-port barrel sounds great. It's been done before commercially as you said, but that does not mean you can't improve on what was done.


02-23-2006, 18:21
...Tim, I'll have to come up with new ideas (Madeira?)...

Funny you should mention that, Gary -- while puttering around here earlier regarding the port, I thought to run a Google search on a bottle of Malmsey I have here. Seems it's about a $300 bottle -- 'Justino's Madeira', 1933 vintage, from Vinhos Justino Henriques, imported by Broadbent -- but I didn't pay even a third that several years ago. I might just pack it along in April. Most Madeira is nigh unto indestructable, so opening won't be a big deal -- unless, of course, we empty the bottle:icon_pidu: .

02-23-2006, 18:41
Wow what a treat that would be. Malmsey goes for ages, yours would be very prime at present. Plus once you open it, unlike port, it will keep just as well as when closed. It has already been exposed to oxygen and air and heat, when first made and rolling around in barrels in sultry Old Madere before bottling. Nothing can harm it now. It is and will always be perfect - in our lifetime anyway. :)


02-24-2006, 07:45
It has already been exposed to oxygen and air and heat, when first made and rolling around in barrels in sultry Old Madere before bottling.
Agreed - after all, oxidized wine is referred to as being "madeirized."

I'd like to share a favorite poem on the topic of Madeira by the British musical comedy duo Flanders and Swann (http://www.nyanko.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/fas/). I wish you could hear it as performed. There are some wonderfully clever word plays in it. The odd numbered verses are read in couplets - i.e., two lines at a time.

Sadly, I have their album "At the Drop of a Hat" on vinyl and my turntable is out of commission, so I can't even hear it myself.

Note that they dispute that it keeps once opened, but that was clearly for the sake of argument.:grin:


Have Some Madeira, M'Dear
(Flanders and Swann)

She was young! She was pure! She was new! She was nice!
She was fair! She was sweet seventeen!
He was old! He was vile and no stranger to vice!
He was base! He was bad! He was mean!
He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat
To view his collection of stamps,
And he said as he hastened to put out the cat,
The wine, his cigar and the lamps:

'Have some Madeira, m'dear!
You really have nothing to fear;
I'm not trying to tempt you-that wouldn't be right.
You shouldn't drink spirits at this time of night;
Have some Madeira, m'dear!
It's very much nicer than Beer;
I don't care for Sherry, one cannot drink Stout,
And Port is a wine I can well do without;
It's simply a case of Chacun a son GOUT!
Have some Madeira, m'dear!'

Unaware of the wiles of the snake in the grass,
Of the fate of the maiden who topes,
She lowered her standards by raising her glass,
Her courage, her eyes-and his hopes.
She sipped it, she drank it, she drained it, she did;
He quietly refilled it again
And he said as he secretly carved one more notch
On the butt of his gold-handled cane:

'Have some Madeira, m'dear!
I've got a small cask of it here,
And once it's been opened you know it won't keep.
Do finish it up-it will help you to sleep;
Have some Madeira, m'dear!
It's really an excellent year;
Now if it were Gin, you'd be wrong to say yes,
The evil Gin does would be hard to assess
(Besides, it's inclined to affect m' prowess!)
Have some Madeira, m'dear!'

Then there flashed through her mind what her mother had said
With her antepenultimate breath:
'Oh, my child, should you look on the wine when 'tis red
Be prepared for a fate worse than death!'
She let go her glass with a shrill little cry.
Crash, tinkle! it fell to the floor.
When he asked: 'What in heaven ... ?' she made no reply,
Up her mind and a dash for the door.

'Have some Madeira, m'dear!'
Rang out down the hall loud and clear.
A tremulous cry that was filled with despair,
As she paused to take breath in the cool midnight air;
'Have some Madeira, m'dear!'
The words seemed to ring in her ear
Until the next morning she woke up in bed,
With a smile on her lips and an ache in her head-
And a beard in her earhole that tickled and said:
'Have some Madeira, m'dear!'

02-24-2006, 08:16
Two good inexpensive Australian ports are 1. Benjamin 2. Clocktower Tawny.

02-24-2006, 11:18
If you'd care to hear "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear" on CD, performed by The Limeliters (1960's folk group), go here (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000002W37/qid=1140803931/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/103-6906411-9632608?s=music&v=glance&n=5174).

Although they lacked the college-boy charm of The Kingston Trio and the folksy, political sensitivies of Peter, Paul and Mary, The Limeliters became my favorite group during the folk boom. The soaring tenor voice of Glenn Yarbrough, which embodied one of the most intense vibratos I've ever heard, somehow combined with two quite ordinary baritones to create the effect of a much larger group. On their hard-driving numbers they would often end with barbershop quartet-style chord modulation at the end, with Yarbrough's voice standing out like a wind-whipped flag on a 100 ft. pole, uniting everything below it.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

02-26-2006, 00:53
That Madeira can be kept indefinitely is great news to me. I had balked from buying it to use in a recipe I learned while working as a prep cook back in college. Always figured I wouldn't use it enough to justify buying a bottle so have substituted other wines for it and have always found it lacking. Now I can buy with confidence!

02-26-2006, 05:53
Dane, I have a bottle partly opened which was first tasted about 6 months ago, and it's as good now as then. They say with Madeira that all the bad stuff that can possibly happen to a wine has already occurred (in its production - intentionally to give it that raisiny taste), so it is almost indestructible. I have some that I'll try to remember to bring to sampler. I use it to flavour some of my blends but it is nice to drink on its own too.


02-27-2006, 00:28
Thanks for thinking of me Gary, but I've had Madeira on its own and frankly would prefer to use it for my recipe for stuffed mushrooms. Of course the place where I learned the recipe only used a cheaper Madeira, Paul Masson I believe, but I have tried using many other red wines in its place and none have done justice. Possibly a good one might not taste right to me as well?

02-27-2006, 12:05
Well it's got that raisiny-like taste, it's great with veal or lighter meats (to cook them with). I could see it going well with mushrooms, too. Oh well, we'll have to stick at Gazebo with a tableful of prime bourbon and rye from numerous decades. Life is rough. :)


02-27-2006, 15:46
...Oh well, we'll have to stick at Gazebo with a tableful of prime bourbon and rye from numerous decades...
Not so, Gary -- I intend to present the above-mentioned bottle of 1933 Malmsey (pictured here):
Also, I have a bottle of generic Blandy's 5yo Malmsey which has been in bottle for a decade or more, to which to compare.

I've had Madeira on its own...Of course, the place where I learned the recipe only used a cheaper Madeira, Paul Masson, I believe...
Umm, Dane -- it might say 'madeira' on the Paul Masson bottle, but...:skep:

02-27-2006, 16:39
Well that is fantastic/amazing/incredible, thank you Tim, what a treat that will be!!


03-02-2006, 14:08
You guys may find this article interesting. I learned some stuff from it, but I don't know much about madeira anyway. Ignore the LATimes url- it ran in the Chicago Tribune- same conglommerate.

03-02-2006, 15:48
Thomas Jefferson was another Founding Father fan of Madeira -- there is a hand-signed 1800 bottle of Jefferson's in the collection/stock of the Rio Hotel/Casino's wine cellar and tasting room in Las Vegas. Speaking of dessert wines, I also salivated a while over the Chateau d'Yquem 1855-1990 vertical, noting multiple bottles of the famed 1921. We included a later d'Yquem in our 'flight' at the tasting bar.