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Port houses finding 2011 vintage hard to follow

Port houses have shied away from widespread declarations of the 2012 vintage, following the excitement generated by the 2011 wines a year ago.

With the traditional day for declarations, 23 April, now passed, the prospect of widespread declarations from 2012 look increasingly slim.

George Sandeman confirmed to Decanter.com last week that Sandeman does not plan to declare. The Fladgate Partnership, ownes of Taylor’s, Croft and Fonseca, has also held back – choosing instead to release 2012 vintage Ports from three individual Quintas, Vargellas, Roeda and Guimaraens.

Although several producers have reported a good quality 2012 harvest, with Fladgate CEO Adrian Bridge describing the wines as ‘showing wonderfully pure, vibrant fruit’, this is a vintage that always risked having to live in the shadow of the critically acclaimed 2011 crop.

Speaking to Decanter.com at a tasting of vintage Ports dating back to the end of Second World War in London last week, George Sandeman said it is risky to declare back-to-back vintages.

‘Economics comes into it,’ he said. ‘[For example] If you had enormous demand for vintage Port and the quality was half-way decent, people would declare it because of the economics.’

Global demand for Port remains muted. Total bottle Port sales fell by 3.6% in 2013 versus 2012, to 8.73m nine-litre cases, according to official industry figures, albeit premium Port sales increased by 3.4% to 1.86m cases.

Several merchants have reported decent demand for the 2011 vintage, but it has not generated the same kind of furore among consumers as, say, a top vintage might from certain other key wine regions, such as Bordeaux or Burgundy.

‘We sold a fair amount en primeur with Taylor & Fonseca the most popular,’ said Marcus Titley, of Seckford Wines. ‘A year on the prices are the same. There has been no growth but also very little discounting as merchants were able to buy what they sold from the Port Houses’ agents.’

Justin Gibbs, of the fine wine trading platform Liv-ex, said there was generally ‘very little’ Port changing hands between its members.

More generally, Sandeman said that he feels optimistic that Port has found a better balance between supply and demand. ‘Stock versus demand is pretty much in-line now,’ he said. ‘Still, it’s going to be a while before the trade is looking to expand.’

Written by Chris Mercer

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