A Port vintage guide back to 1960.

2008

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Dry, cool season and fortuitous late ripening for those who held out until mid-September’s unexpected sunshine. Single-quinta vintage declaration.

Weather Conditions

After a dry winter, double rations of rain drenched the Douro throughout April. The damp, stormy weather encouraged mildew, while low May temperatures delayed flowering. Fruit set was low and patchy.
Cool, dry weather continued throughout June and July, and the usual intense heat of August never materialised. Instead of the hot, dry winds from the Spanish plain – the usual scenario – later summer was cooled further by damp Atlantic breezes.
The unseasonal temperatures postponed ripening. Although early September rain ushered in a very warm period to kick-start sugar accumulation, by mid-month the port grapes still weren’t ready. A dreary long-range outlook had some growers panic-picking– unfortunate, since others enjoyed perfect harvest weather (23 September to mid-October) and could pick well-ripened berries more judiciously.

Best Appellations

The yield was low and harvested fruit healthy, with soft, thinnish skins as a result of the cooler temperatures. The pressings soon revealed a fine acidity and lovely aromas.
On St George’s Day the following April, as is traditional, the vintage was declared by the major port house, although uniquely for single quintas (not the true Vintage Port offerings). These vary from lighter, less imposing styles – but nonetheless ripe and luxuriant – like Dow’s Quinta Senhora de Ribeira to richer, rounded and silkier offerings such as Taylor’s highly-rated Terra Feita. Good grip, finish and ripe fruit will be hallmarks.
General quality will of course be quite varied: those who brought in under-ripe fruit will have struggled to make wines of sufficient power and richness.

Best Producers

Single-quintas from Taylor’s (Vargellas and Terra Feita), Fonseca (Panascal and Guimaraens), Crofts (Roeda) and Dow’s (Senhora de Ribeira and Vesuvio)…

2007

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Widely declared, cooler character vintage. Wines are fresh and elegant, with exceptionally polished tannins – fine yet dense and rich. Huge potential for ageing.

Weather Conditions

Apart from a dry January, winter was wet and the water table amply replenished for the season ahead. There were few early spring frosts and bud-burst came early, at the beginning of a sunny March. April too saw sunny days and cool nights, while unsettled weather in May disrupted fruit set in some locations and the overall yield is down.
June and July remained unsettled, delaying the onset of ripening and exacerbating anxieties over mildew. Grapes remained green right into August, though mercifully the weather was now much drier and ripening was able to pick up pace.
In September the temperatures soared and ripening was continuous and consistent right up until harvesting began – around 10 days later than usual, at the end of September. Picking continued into October under clear, blue skies.

Best Appellations

These aren’t blockbuster port s – the vintage wasn’t hot enough for that – but are instead very elegant wines with a subtle power of their own. Fragrant too – intense violet and raspberry aromas are typical.
The cooler than usual summer promoted superb acidity and also good colour extraction thanks to the grapes’ soft skins. Tannins are distinctive: fine yet sweet and rich, and the vintage should be exceptionally long-lived (15+ years).
Touriga Nacional grapes in particular benefited from the vintage’s more temperate ripening conditions, while the Barocca struggled a little to reach its rich full potential.

Best Producers

Dow, Graham, Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinto do Noval, Fonseca, Gould Campbell, Taylor Fladgate, Quinta do Vale Meao, Quinta de la Rosa.

2006

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Generally undeclared vintage but with some notable exceptions. Unrelenting hot weather.

Weather Conditions

Heavy winter rains replenished the drought-exhausted water table, while bud-burst began early April (later than usual). Good weather followed and flowering took place during the hottest May in 40 years. Strong winds late May reduced fruit set in higher vineyards.
Temperatures steadily increased until a severe hailstorm hit vineyards in the Pinhão and the Rio Torto valleys in the middle of June. Several vineyards lost up to 30% of the crop. A hot July followed, superseded by a cooler August and some very welcome rain indeed: 47mm in three days.
More hot weather late August and early September caused some raisining and crop reduction in exposed vineyards. Picking began mid-September just ahead of an unsettled spell, though dry winds helped keep the grapes healthy.
Yields were down almost everywhere by at least 15%; in some places the Barroca yield was more than halved. The thicker-skinned Touriga Nacional and Franca varieties reacted best to the heat.

Best Appellations

Average quality of the port is good to very good but there are some very fine examples to be found. The Touriga Nacional coped well with the heat and had the potential to produce wonderfully complex and aromatic wines with an impressive depth of black fruit.

Best Producers

Quinta do Vesuvio Single Quinta, Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira, Warre’s, Quinta de Roriz, Quinta do Portal.

2005

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The harvesting weather could not have been better. All indicators point to a great vintage

Weather Conditions

With only 6 millimetres of rain in June and none at all in July and August, the vines were showing signs of severe stress at the end of August. Last winter was extremely dry. Vines located in high areas as well as old vines with deep roots will produce the best grapes as they will have been able to best deal with the dry weather. Disease will not be a factor this year due to the exceptionally dry weather. There is no doubt that the good flowering and fruit-set earlier this year has played a key role in maintaining yields despite the drought. There are plenty of bunches even if the berries themselves are small.
On the 6th September the weather changed and a steady rain fell for several hours. The rain was followed by clear skies. Since then there has been absolutely perfect weather with cool nights and some heavy dew. The harvesting weather could not have been better.

2004

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A good year after a bad start.

Weather Conditions

The growing season was extraordinary with wet weather at the end of 2003 and an incredibly dry start to 2004. At Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim just 147mm of rain fell during the first four months of the year – less than half the ten-year average. Flowering went well in all three Douro sub-regions but fruit set was slightly less successful due to very rapid shoot growth encouraged by the warm, sunny conditions in May. July was hot with temperatures reaching 40C towards the end of the month. Vineyards remained in excellent condition but as August approached growers became concerned as to how the vines would cope with the low water reserves in the soil. Then rain fell on three consecutive days in early August followed by yet more rainfall in the middle of the month. In total 77mm fell at Quinta do Bomfim making this the wettest August in the north of Portugal for 104 years! The weather remained abnormally cool and overcast into September, slowing down the ripening process. When wet, unsettled weather returned in the first week of September growers faced a major dilemma: start picking under-ripe grapes early before rot sets in or hold on in the hope of better weather.

Most growers held their nerve and, luckily, the sunshine returned. Sugar levels rose suddenly, taking many by surprise, and continued to rise as temperatures exceeded 30C. Picking began around the middle of the month and continued through uninterrupted sunshine. Not a drop of rain fell until 8 October by which time the harvest was all but complete. In 40 harvests, Peter Symington (winemaker for Dow, Graham and Warre) commented that he had never seen a vintage that could have swung so easily between near disaster or success.

2003

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There are some solid, well-structured wines that, like the 1997s, will repay keeping.

Weather Conditions

The Douro Valley is not averse to a blast of heat and in 2003 this was balanced by plenty of rain which fell at just the right time.

The previous winter had been abnormally wet, with 1,000mm of rain falling at Pinhão between November 2002 and March 2003. This is more than double the ten-year average.

Spring was mild and budburst was early, but yet more rain fell in April which caused some difficulties. Flowering took place in late May amid perfect conditions. Mid-June was hot, but heavy rain fell at the end of the month and again in mid-July. This proved to be enormously beneficial.

The notorious 2003 heatwave arrived in the first two weeks of August. While the Douro is used to daytime temperatures in excess of 40C, night-time temperatures staying above 30C are more unusual, and nerves were frayed. Rain fell again at the end of August. This was crucial to the quality of the fruit harvested a few days later.

Best Appellations

In the eastern-most Douro Superior, the harvest began as early as 1 September and some growers undoubtedly picked before the grapes were physiologically ripe. With temperatures now back in the 20s, sugar levels rose rapidly in the first half of September taking many growers by surprise.

Tannin seems to be the hallmark of this vintage, making these wines hard to taste and appreciate at this early stage. They are much more difficult than the somewhat atypical, super-ripe and voluptuous 1994s, or even the 2000s. There are some solid, well-structured wines that, like the 1997s, will repay keeping.

Best Producers

Taylor’s began picking at São Xisto in the Douro Superior on 8 September with the Cima Corgo growers downstream following a week or so later. Fine, abnormally warm weather continued until 29 September when the first autumn depression swept in from the Atlantic. By this time all the best wines had already been made.

One or two wines show the heat of the vintage but the best also have plenty of ripe fruit and flesh hanging from their tannic superstructure. On early tasting, my favourite wines fell into two distinct camps. There are those like Dow, Fonseca, Quinta do Noval and Noval Nacional which are massively powerful and impenetrable, giving very little away at this stage but certain to develop well over the very long term.

Then there are those wines like Croft, Graham, Taylor and Warre, which are more open at this stage, beautifully fragrant, floral with fine tannins and great purity of fruit. These wines will close up in due course but are certain to retain their elegance and finesse.

Although few shippers divulge the size of their declaration, in general the 2003 vintage amounts to about 30% less than 2000. Prices are up by a modest 2% or 3% so demand is likely to be strong when the wines are first offered over the summer months.

2002

drink now

After high hopes at the outset, 2002 proved to be something of a damp squib.

Weather Conditions

After high hopes at the outset, Port 2002 proved to be something of a damp squib. The winter was dry and there was very little rain during the summer, although fortunately without any of the extreme heat that can burn the grapes on the vine. Rain in early September helped to swell the berries and by the middle of the month, the grapes were in near-perfect condition. However just as picking began in the Cima Corgo, the weather broke and for most it became a stop-start vintage between bouts of torrential rain, The rain continued on and off, well into October.

Best Appellations

Those who managed to pick before the rain (mostly in the Douro Superior) have small quantities of good, possibly outstanding wines. A general declaration is unlikely but some producers should have sufficient quantity of high quality wine for a single quinta declaration in the spring of 2004.

2001

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Most declared either single quinta Ports or under their second label.

Weather Conditions

After one of the wettest winters since records began, mild, humid conditions led to an early bud-burst in March. From April onwards the weather cleared and only 110 mm pf rain fell until the end of August. With flowering taking place under optimum conditions and the ground-water supplies thoroughly replenished, there was a large crop. Temperatures were uneven during August but rain at the end of the month helped to swell the grapes. The weather was generally fine during picking with warm days and cold nights.

 

Best Producers

After a unanimous declaration in 2000, it would have been surprising if the main shippers had chosen to declare 2001 as well. Most declared either single quinta Port or under their second label. The exception was Quinta do Noval who declared Nacional, made in tiny quantities and certainly one of the best wines of the vintage. Other outstanding are Fonseca Guimaraens and Quinta do Vesuvio. Good wines from Quinta dos Canais (Cockburn), Quinta das Carvalhas (Real Companhia Velha), Quinta Senhora da Ribeira (Dow), Quinta do Panascal (Fonseca), Secundum (Niepoort), Pocas, Quinta da Terra Feita (Taylor).

2000

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A classic port vintage that is remarkable for the sheer depth of colour and richness evident in nearly all the wines.

Weather Conditions

After pleasantly wet weather during and following the 1999 harvest, the winter was cold and dry. Budburst occurred during this abnormally dry period and potential yields were reduced. Then during April and May the heavens opened and half the normal annual rainfall fell in just two months. Flowering in late May coincided with heavy showers and cool weather, which caused coulure, particularly in the A-grade vineyards at lower altitudes which flower first. Yields were cut further as a result. Warm, dry weather returned during June and July and the ripening was homogenous, occurring in Mid-July. The dry weather continued through August with high temperatures during the early part of the month, and a few days of rain in mid-September helped to finish off ripening prior to the harvest which began as usual around 20 September. Yields per vine of little over half a kilo produced musts of extraordinary richness and concentration. As the sun continued to shine during picking, it became clear that a fine vintage was in the offing.

 

Best Producers

Overall the 2000 vintage is remarkable for the sheer depth of colour and richness that is evident in nearly all the wines. The wines are notable for their aromatic qualities together with their balance and harmony. The best match ripe, fleshy fruit with structure and concentration, while those that lack intensity merely show up as being sweet and rather one-dimensional. Truly great wines of the vintage are Fonseca, Graham, Niepoort, Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Noval Nacional. Also highly recommended are Cockburn’s Quinta Dos Canais, Croft, Dow, Niepoort‘s Secundum, Taylor, Quinta Do Roriz, Smith Woodhouse and Warre. Recommended wines are Broadbent, Calem, Cockburn, Churchill, Hutcheson, Martinez, Martinez Quinta De Eira Velha, Niepoort’s Quinta Do Passadouro and Silva from Noval.

1998

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Some excellent single quinta Ports for drinking in the medium term

Weather Conditions

A cool, wet spring and early summer slashed yields and induced mildew and oidium in many vineyards. After a period of unrelenting heat in high summer, a minute but potentially outstanding vintage appeared to be on the cards. Picking began in the Douro Superior on 14th September and by 24th September the harvest was underway. Unfortunately, the heavens opened at the same time, diluting sugar levels and turning a potentially great vintage into a curate’s egg: merely good in parts.

Best Producers

No major declaration but some good, concentrated wines were produced by quintas in the Douro Superior which picked before the rain. It is too early to assess the 1998 Ports as (at the time of writing) most are not yet in bottle.

  • Possibly… Quinta Senhora da Ribeira (Dow)
  • Quinta do Vesuvio

1997

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An almost unanimous declaration. The wines are well structured and appear ageworthy

Weather Conditions

An uneven year in that an abnormally warm, dry spring led to an early burst of growth and then gave way to cool, wet weather in June and July. The heat returned in August and by mid-September grapes were showing good sugar levels and the harvest began in earnest. Apart from a localised downpour, picking continued without incident and it was clear that a good, possibly great, vintage was in prospect.

Best Producers

Apart from Croft and Delaforce who opted for single quinta Ports, all the major shippers declared in the spring of 1999. The most promising wines (combining elegance and structure) are those from well-situated quintas at lower altitudes in the Cima Corgo and these wines form the basis of the finest declared wines. A few wines are rather lean and one-dimensional but the best have solid, sinewy tannins and will age well for the long term. There is a strong similarity in style with 1983. Prices were up by around 30% on the highly acclaimed 1994s but it remains to be seen if the 1997s are overshadowed by the earlier vintage.

  • Quinta da Corte (Delaforce)
  • Dow
  • Fonseca
  • Graham
  • Niepoort
  • Quinta do Noval
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
  • Quinta da Roeda (Croft)

1996

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With a couple of exceptions only the canny or the lucky will strike gold

Weather Conditions

The prolonged drought that had become quite desperate in parts of southern Portugal broke spectacularly in the winter of 1995/96. The winter deluge gave way to a mild spring and, with so much ground water, vines sprouted in all directions. Development was slow and, as a result the harvest began late (end of September/early October). Yields were vast but sugar levels remained on the low side and many of the wines tasted dilute.

Best Producers

The best Ports came from old, low yielding vines and a handful of quintas declared promising wines for drinking over the medium term. Quinta do Noval Nacional (the first declaration of Nacional by the new owners) stands out as the only wine for the long term.

  • Quinta da Agua Alta (Churchill)
  • Quinta Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Burmester)
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
  • Quinta de la Rosa
  • Quinta do Vesuvio

1995

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Eccentric weather conditions permitted only a few producers to declare a vintage

Weather Conditions

After a generally cool spring and early summer, August provided four weeks of unrelenting heat. In the Douro Superior (which is always the hottest and driest of the Douro’s three sub-regions) some growers began picking as early as mid-August. By 7th September the harvest was underway throughout much of the Douro region as grapes began to shrivel on the vine.

Best Producers

The extreme heat made for some rather coarse, burnt wines (roasted coffee) but the sheer jammy concentration of flavour justified a fully fledged declaration for some Barros, Burmester Krohn, Osborne, Noval Roses and Pocas declared outright with the remainder opting for second label or single quinta Ports. Drink over the medium term.

  • Quinta do Crasto
  • Fonseca Guimaraens
  • Quinta do Noval
  • Quinta de la Rosa
  • Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha (Taylor)
  • Quinta do Vesuvio

1994

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An excellent year, with wonderfully rich, ripe wines. Quantities were small and demand extremely big

Weather Conditions

A wet winter brought an end to three years of drought and when the sun began to shine in March-April the vines began to sprout in all directions. There was some concern when heavy rain fell in May but fortunately it was not unduly warm and the unsettled conditions merely served to check the overall size of the crop. From then on it was plain sailing all the way through to the harvest. The threat of rain in mid-September rekindled memories of 1993 (a quagmire) and a few growers panicked and harvested too early. The majority kept their nerve and by 20th September the grapes were fully ripe and picking was well underway. Winemakers were helped by cool clear nights which served to slow down fermentations and the lagares took plenty of work.

 

Best Producers

It was clear as soon as the wines were run from the lagares that a fine vintage was in the bag and the shippers could hardly conceal their glee at the prospect of a major vintage declaration. By the time the wines were offered in the spring/summer of 1996 the market had recovered fully from the recession of the early 1990s with the USA having become particularly receptive to Vintage Port. Opening prices rose considerably and in some cases have continued to soar, perversely overtaking mature vintages like 1970. The wines were appealing from the start with ripe fleshy fruit concealing the underlying tannic grip that will enable these wines to stand the test of time.

Recommended Wines:

  • Burmester
  • Croft
  • Dow
  • Quinta da Eira Velha (Martinez)
  • Fonseca
  • Gould Campbell
  • Graham
  • Quarles Harris
  • Quinta do Vesuvio
  • Taylor
  • Warre

1992

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Poor weather at harvest time meant that few shippers declared. Those who did produced very good

Weather Conditions

The winter was unseasonably dry throughout Portugal and the drought continued through until June when a few days of rain proved to be very beneficial. Fortunately the flowering was early and therefore not affected. The remainder of the summer was generally dry but not unduly hot and a few short sharp showers in August helped to swell the grapes. Most growers began picking on 21st September but those who held off another week probably made better wines.

Best Appellations

Taylor’s, Delaforce, Quinta do Infantado, Quinta do Vesuvio, Fonseca, Niepoort, Quinta do Passadouro (Niepoort), Malvedos (Graham’s), Quinta da Agua Alta (Churchill),

Best Producers

A split declaration (with 1991); it remains to be seen which year produced the better wines for the medium to long term. Taylor/Fonseca famously declared 1992 whereas the Symington-owned houses all opted for 1991. Niepoort declared both. Big, rich and complete, I have the hunch that 1992 might just be the more impressive year in the long term.

1991

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Quantities were low but the quality was excellent. Widely declared

Weather Conditions

Growing conditions were good: a wet winter was followed by a dry, settled spring and early summer when flowering took place under ideal conditions. High summer was hot and very dry, relieved only by some timely rain on 11th and 12th September and again just before the harvest. When picking began, ambient temperatures were still high, presenting real problems for those producers without means of controlling fermentations.

Best Appellations

Taylor’s, Croft, Rozès, Ferreira, Niepoort, Graham’s.

Best Producers

The grapes tended to be small with little juice resulting in deep, dense powerful wines for the medium to long term. It was declared by the Symington-owned houses Dow, Graham, Warre, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell, Quarles Harris) in preference to 1992. Taylor and Fonseca declared single-quinta wines. 1991 was a watershed vintage in that, for the first time, more Vintage Port was shipped to the United States than the United Kingdom.

1987

drink soon

This was a low output year few declared and the world slump was detrimental to vintage port export

Weather Conditions

After a successful flowering, the prospects were for a large crop but exceptionally hot dry weather from mid-June intervened. By early September the grapes were looking distinctly small and somewhat raisinised. The weather broke during the vintage but those who picked early made intense concentrated wines, marred in some cases only by a slightly roasted character.

Best Producers

A handful of shippers declared (Ferreira, Martinez, Niepoort) but the majority held off and bottled single-quinta wines. More may have taken the plunge but for the fact that the market for Vintage Port was looking distinctly shaky by the time of the would-be declaration in the spring/summer of 1989.

  • Quinta do Bomfim (Dow)
  • Quinta da Eira Velha (Martinez)
  • Niepoort
  • Quinta da Terra Feita (Taylor)
  • Quinta do Panascal (Fonseca)

1985

drink soon

A very widely declared vintage with rich, well-structured wines

Weather Conditions

A textbook growing season: a wet winter was followed by a cool spring and from June onwards the weather was magnificent. The grapes were gathered under perfect conditions with unbroken summer-like weather from early September until the end of the harvest. The only serious problem for the wine-makers was the midday heat (up to 32oC) and this may account for the variability in some of the 1985s.

Best Producers

A unanimous declaration but some of the wines have not lived up to their early promise having subsequently turned volatile in bottle. However the power and concentration that is the hallmark of the 1985 vintage continues to live on in many of the wines. These will remain impressive to drink over the medium to long-term.

  • Dow
  • Fonseca
  • Graham
  • Warre

1983

drink soon

A smaller vintage in quantity than 1982 but much more robust in style

Weather Conditions

The year began badly with a long, cold winter extending into spring. Snow fell on the Serra do Marao to the west of the Douro as late as 20th May! The vines were three weeks behind. From June to mid- August the weather was hot but unsettled and, despite a successful flowering, the vines remained backward. Picking consequently began late (end of September) but fortunately the weather remained fine into October and some outstanding wines were made despite the uneven spring and summer.

Best Producers

The majority of shippers chose (rightly in retrospect) to declare 1983 instead of 1982 making this something of a ‘split vintage’. Initially the ’83s were quite difficult to taste, the fruit being wrapped up in powerful muscular tannins. With age however, the wines gained flesh and appeal but the cast iron backbone remains. The best will last forever.

  • Dow
  • Gould Campbell
  • Graham
  • Niepoort
  • Smith Woodhouse
  • Taylor
  • Quarles Harris
  • Warre

1982

drink soon

Forward and relatively fast-maturing, with soft, sweet character

Weather Conditions

After a dry winter and warm spring June and July were abnormally cool with high cloud and hazy conditions with some showers. Consequently the vines were well able to cope with the extreme heat in August and early September with beneficial heavy rain over the last weekend in August. The grapes were uniformly healthy with high sugar readings throughout the Douro.

Best Producers

1982/1883 is a classic example of a so called ‘split vintage’ (see also 1991/1992) where there was a lack of consensus among the Port shippers as to which of the two is the better year. In the end, 1983 won hands down. Although the ripe, healthy fruit is reflected in the soft, sweet raisiny character of the 1982s they are relatively forward and early maturing. Those who decided not to opt for a fully fledged declaration bottled some successful single quinta wines.

  • Churchill
  • Niepoort
  • Sandeman
  • Quinta do Noval

1980

drink soon

An unfairly under-rated vintage which produced relatively dry, highly drinkable wines

Weather Conditions

An unusually early spring was followed by an extremely dry growing season and sugar readings were on the low side when picking began (a week or so later than normal) an the end of September. Ambient temperatures were high during the harvest and the lagares fermented furiously fast and therefore took little work before being run off.

Best Producers

Perhaps deterred by a steep hike in opening prices, the 1980s were largely overlooked by the trade. The wines however are very attractive; open, fresh and fruit-driven which has stood them in good stead for drinking over the medium to long term. As a result, 1980 is something of a Cinderella vintage, delicious for drinking now and over the next ten or more years.

  • Dow
  • Graham
  • Niepoort
  • Offley
  • Smith Woodhouse
  • Taylor
  • Warre

1977

drink soon

Considered one of the ‘vintages of the century’ – some concern that some wines will never soften

Weather Conditions

A wet winter was followed by a somewhat disappointing summer with only one period of real heat. August was cool and often overcast. Sugar levels were still alarmingly low at the beginning of September but this was compensated by very hot weather later in the month, which continued into early October. Sugar levels were still on the low side when picking began but it was clear from the colour and flavour of the musts that some fine wines were likely to emerge.

Best Producers

The 1977 Port vintage was hailed as a classic when it was declared in 1979 and was well received by the trade. Every shipper except Cockburn, Martinez and Noval chose to declare. Although 1977 produced some outstanding wines, overall the vintage has not quite lived up to early expectations and, twenty years on, the wines were fully mature with one or two beginning to show their age. This is a very good vintage but not up to the standards of 1963 or 1945!

  • Dow
  • Graham
  • Fonseca
  • Smith Woodhouse
  • Taylor
  • Warre

1967

drink now

Two leading shippers declared 67, but there was little that was memorable

Weather Conditions

After a cool summer (without any real heat in July or August), the grapes were still green and backward when picking began around 20th September.
Both yields and sugar levels were low. Many picked too early (fearing a repeat of the rains which had marred the latter part of the previous three vintages) however warm weather continued into October and, unusually, the best grapes with higher sugar readings were picked last.

Best Producers

Two leading shippers (Cockburn and Martinez) declared 1967 in preference to 1966 (whereas a handful – including Noval and Sandeman- declared both). At best 1967 produced gentle, middle-distance wines, but even the finest are starting to fade.

  • Cockburn
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional

1966

drink soon

May be the most under-rated year of the century: wines had structure and good flavour

Weather Conditions

An exceptionally wet winter prepared the vines for a hot, dry summer. In August temperatures of 45C were recorded twice at Pinhao in the heart of the Cima Corgo but with so much ground water, the grapes did not dry up or raisinise. Rain finally arrived during the harvest but with yields well-down on average, the crop came to no harm. The fermentations were helped by cool weather and musts registered higher than average readings with excellent colour. It was clear at the end of the harvest that a fine vintage was in prospect.

Best Producers

History has been rather unfair to the 1966s which, until relatively recently were completely overshadowed by the 1963s. Although quality is not as uniformly high as 1963, 1966 hits many of the same high spots with wines combining concentration, structure and intensity. Although bottlings vary (a consequence of bottling in both Vila Nova de Gaia and in the UK) Dow and Fonseca are stupendous.

  • Calem
  • Dow
  • Fonseca
  • Graham
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
  • Taylor

1963

drink soon

A classic. No other vintage since has such an extensive roll of honour

Weather Conditions

A textbook growing season: warm weather throughout the summer with no rain from June onwards. A little rain fell in mid-September helping to swell the grapes just before the harvest. Yields were high. Fine weather continued through the vintage which took place in perfect conditions with cool night time temperatures serving to control fermentations.

Best Producers

The combination of a near-perfect growing season and temperate weather during the harvest (at a time when temperature control was unheard of) made for a benchmark vintage. With very few exceptions, nearly all the shippers produced supremely balanced well-structured wines for a full-on declaration. No vintage since can claim quite so many classic wines (with the only caveat being the variation between different bottlings). Anyone born in 1963 has a wine for life.

  • Cockburn
  • Croft
  • Delaforce
  • Dow
  • Fonseca
  • Graham
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
  • Taylor
  • Warre

1960

drink now

Erratic conditions reduced yields and dramatically compromised quality

Weather Conditions

A hot, dry summer was relieved at the last minute by refreshing rain just before picking began on 19th September. The rain brought the intense heat to an end so that the lagares took more work and produced musts with good structure and depth of colour.

Best Producers

This beguiling vintage seemed to peak in the early 1980s but the better wines now appear to be sitting on a long plateau and are still drinking well. The wines are mostly middle-weight and lacking a little in backbone but are soft, sweet and attractive for drinking now.

  • Cockburn
  • Dow
  • Graham
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional