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Port vintage guide: 1960-1999

Learn about vintage Port with Decanter’s comprehensive guide to vintages all the way back to 1960. Port expert Richard Mayson gives an expert summary of each year, with recommended wines and tips on whether to keep or drink each vintage.

Vintage ratings updated in 2019.

Want to find out how your birth-year fared? Or want to know which vintages are drinking well now? Our Port vintage guide has you covered.


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1999


Drink

Prospects of an excellent year dashed by rain. Good single-quinta wines from the Douro Superior.


1998


Drink

Small harvest. Some excellent single-quinta Ports for drinking in the medium term.

Vintage summary

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 14 September and by 24 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.

No major declaration, but some good, concentrated wines were produced by quintas in the Douro Superior, which picked before the rain.


1997


Drink

A widely declared vintage producing well-structured wines. Approachable now and for drinking over the next two decades.

Vintage summary

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.

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.

Best wines

  • Dow’s
  • Fonseca
  • Graham’s
  • Niepoort
  • Quinta da Corte (Delaforce)
  • Quinta da Roeda (Croft)
  • Quinta do Noval
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
Vineyards on a hillside

Quinta do Noval


1996


Drink

A huge crop produced forward, fruit-driven single-quinta wines drinking over the medium term.

Vintage summary

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 at the end of September and early October. Yields were vast but sugar levels remained on the low side and many of the wines tasted dilute.

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.

Best wines

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

1995


Drink

A hot summer allowed a few producers to declare a vintage. Some good single-quinta wines.

Vintage summary

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 7 September the harvest was underway throughout much of the Douro region as grapes began to shrivel on the vine.

The extreme heat made for some rather coarse, burnt wines with roasted coffee notes, 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.

Best wines

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

1994


Drink

The start of the modern era for vintage Port, with outstanding wines that are ripe and well structured. May be approached now but the best will continue to improve.

Vintage summary

A wet winter brought an end to three years of drought, and when the sun began to shine in March and 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 20 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.

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 US 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.

Best wines

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

Revisiting vintage Port 1994


1992


Drink

A split declaration – a year favoured by Taylor’s and Fonseca over and above 1991. Rich, concentrated wines for drinking now and over the next 20 years

Vintage summary

The winter was unseasonably dry throughout Portugal and the drought continued 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 21 September but those who held off another week probably made better wines.

A split declaration (with 1991); Taylor’s/Fonseca famously declared 1992 whereas the Symington-owned houses all opted for 1991. Niepoort declared both. It now seems that 1992 produced the better wines for drinking over the medium- to long-term: big, rich and complete.

Best wines

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

1991


Drink soon

Soft and relatively early maturing, declared by Dow’s, Graham’s and Warre’s among others.

Vintage summary

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 11 and 12 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.

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’s, Graham’s, Warre’s, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell and Quarles Harris in preference to 1992. Taylor’s and Fonseca declared single-quinta wines. 1991 was a watershed vintage in that, for the first time, more vintage Port was shipped to the US than the UK.

Best wines

  • Croft
  • Ferreira
  • Graham’s
  • Niepoort
  • Rozès
  • Taylor’s

Related articles

Port vintage guide: 2000-2022

Know your Port styles

Seasonal Ports: 15 to try this winter

Video: How to decant vintage Port


1987


Drink soon

A handful of shippers declared good wines for the medium term.

Vintage summary

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 raisined. 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.

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.

Best Producers

  • Quinta da Eira Velha (Martinez)
  • Quinta da Terra Feita (Taylor’s)
  • Quinta do Bomfim (Dow’s)
  • Quinta do Panascal (Fonseca)
Port Vintage Guide

Treading the lagares


1985


Drink

Universally declared. A warm summer produced some outstandingly good wines for the long term, but some emerged with serious faults. Buyer beware! The best are lovely now and can be drunk over the next 15 years.

Vintage summary

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 winemakers was the midday heat (up to 32C) and this may account for the variability in some of the 1985s.

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.

Best wines

  • Dow’s
  • Fonseca
  • Graham’s
  • Warre’s

1983


Drink

Widely declared, although a few shippers preferred 1982. Firm, tight-knit wines that can be drunk now, and the best will keep for another 10-20 years

Vintage summary

The year began badly with a long, cold winter extending into spring. Snow fell on the Serra do Marão to the west of the Douro as late as 20 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.

The majority of shippers chose (rightly in retrospect) to declare 1983 instead of 1982, making this something of a ‘split vintage’. Initially the 1983s 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.

Best wines

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

1982


Drink soon

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

Vintage summary

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.

1982/1983 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.

Best wines

  • Churchill
  • Niepoort
  • Quinta do Noval
  • Sandeman

1980


Drink

An underrated vintage that produced approachable, easygoing wines for the medium term. Dow’s, Graham’s and Warre’s are very good.

Vintage summary

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, at 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.

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.

Best wines

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

1977


Drink

Highly rated at the outset – and widely declared – these wines have developed faster than expected.Drink now – 2030.

Vintage summary

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 for 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.

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, 20 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.

Best wines

  • Dow’s
  • Fonseca
  • Graham’s
  • Smith Woodhouse
  • Taylor’s
  • Warre’s
Vineyards

Patchwork vineyards in the Douro Valley


1970


Drink

Classic, tight-knit wines, some outstanding, that will will last a lifetime. Drink now to 2030+.

Vintage summary

Cool weather during the flowering reduced yields and, following a dry summer, prospects at the start of picking looked good. The harvest began around 20 September in extreme heat. Due to the dry summer, sugar readings were on the low side but the heat served to raisin a portion of the crop, thereby concentrating the musts. Cooler night-time temperatures as the vintage progressed helped to slow down fermentations and produced wines with exceptional colour and body.

Early tastings tended to play down the overall quality of the 1970s and it is only several decades on that these tight-knit, beautifully balanced wines have come to be judged in their true light. Although not as fine overall as the undeniably impressive 1963s, there are wines from 1970 that deserve to be ranked among the great vintage Ports of the 20th century. This being the last vintage to be bottled both in Portugal and in the UK, there is inevitably a certain amount of variation from bottle to bottle. All subsequent vintages were bottled in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Best wines

  • Cálem
  • Delaforce
  • Dow’s
  • Fonseca
  • Graham’s
  • Kopke
  • Niepoort
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
  • Taylor’s

1967


Drink soon

Two leading shippers declared 1967, but there was little that was memorable

Vintage summary

After a cool summer (without any real heat in July or August), the grapes were still green and backward when picking began around 20 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.

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.

Best wines

  • Cockburn
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional

1966


Drink

Some outstanding wines, combining power and elegance, the best on par with 1963. No hurry to drink, some wines will last a lifetime.

Vintage summary

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 raisin-ise. 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.

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.

Best wines

  • Cálem
  • Dow’s
  • Fonseca
  • Graham’s
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional
  • Taylor’s

1963


Drink

A post-war classic. Superb wines, wonderful to drink now and many with a long life ahead. The best will last a lifetime.

Vintage summary

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.

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.

Best wines

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

1960


Drink soon

Erratic conditions reduced yields and dramatically compromised quality

Vintage summary

A hot, dry summer was relieved at the last minute by refreshing rain just before picking began on 19 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.

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.

Best wines

  • Cockburn
  • Dow’s
  • Graham’s
  • Quinta do Noval Nacional

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