Vintage rankings

Anything to do with Port.
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uncle tom
Dow 1980
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Vintage rankings

Post by uncle tom » 11:52 Sat 12 May 2018

I've been dusting down and revising my vintage ranking list for the 60 years 1956 - 2015, prior to an update to bring in 2016 (and lose '56), once I've had more opportunities to try the '16s.

I have ranked years on the basis of quality, consistency and number of declared ports, weighting those three factors on a 3-2-1 basis respectively.

These I have ranked relatively A to F (or Alpha to Zeta) with ten years in each group, the top three in each group accorded a plus and the bottom three a minus.

1963 A +
1970 A +
1994 A +
1960 A
1966 A
2000 A
2011 A
1977 A -
1992 A -
2003 A -
1997 B +
2009 B +
2015 B +
1967 B
1975 B
1980 B
1983 B
1991 B -
2007 B -
2013 B -
1958 C +
1985 C +
2005 C +
1964 C
1982 C
1987 C
2004 C
1972 C -
1978 C -
2008 C -
1962 D +
1986 D +
2001 D +
1959 D
1990 D
1995 D
1996 D
1968 D -
2010 D -
2012 D -
1965 E +
1998 E +
1999 E +
1957 E
1976 E
1979 E
1988 E
1961 E -
1974 E -
2014 E -
1969 F +
1984 F +
2006 F +
1971 F
1973 F
1989 F
2002 F
1956 F -
1981 F -
1993 F -

By year, the list runs:

1956 F -
1957 E
1958 C +
1959 D
1960 A
1961 E -
1962 D +
1963 A +
1964 C
1965 E +
1966 A
1967 B
1968 D -
1969 F +
1970 A +
1971 F
1972 C -
1973 F
1974 E -
1975 B
1976 E
1977 A -
1978 C -
1979 E
1980 B
1981 F -
1982 C
1983 B
1984 F +
1985 C +
1986 D +
1987 C
1988 E
1989 F
1990 D
1991 B -
1992 A -
1993 F -
1994 A +
1995 D
1996 D
1997 B +
1998 E +
1999 E +
2000 A
2001 D +
2002 F
2003 A -
2004 C
2005 C +
2006 F +
2007 B -
2008 C -
2009 B +
2010 D -
2011 A
2012 D -
2013 B -
2014 E -
2015 B +

Drawing on my own experience, literary references and the Symingtons' harvest reports, I've had a crack at ranking the next 60 years. These I have judged (as best I can..) at their relative standing at the age of 60. Here I have ditched the plus and minus attributes, and given a star ranking, zero to five.

Whilst in the first instance each star ranking has exactly ten years attributed to it, my idea is that years falling off the first list will be frozen at their final status, Alpha (A) = 5 star - Zeta (F) - 0 stars.

Some years have had to be judged on extremely little information, so I would welcome input to adjust this list:

Year - Star rating

1896 5
1908 5
1912 5
1920 5
1927 5
1931 5
1935 5
1945 5
1948 5
1955 5
1900 4
1904 4
1917 4
1922 4
1924 4
1934 4
1937 4
1942 4
1947 4
1954 4
1901 3
1910 3
1911 3
1923 3
1926 3
1932 3
1933 3
1941 3
1950 3
1952 3
1897 2
1907 2
1919 2
1921 2
1938 2
1940 2
1943 2
1944 2
1946 2
1949 2
1898 1
1906 1
1914 1
1916 1
1918 1
1925 1
1928 1
1929 1
1936 1
1953 1
1899 0
1902 0
1903 0
1905 0
1909 0
1913 0
1915 0
1930 0
1939 0
1951 0

Tackling the years prior to 1896 I defer to Broadbent, as there's just too little other information available, and recent notes are too greatly influenced by age and cellar conditions.
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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uncle tom
Dow 1980
Posts: 2931
Joined: 23:43 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Near Saffron Walden, England

Re: Vintage rankings

Post by uncle tom » 23:10 Sat 20 Oct 2018

Tomorrow is Trafalgar Day, and the day I have elected to update my vintage rankings for port

The basic component of this is a relative ranking of the sixty most recent vintages from Alpha to Zeta – or A to F, according in each sector of ten vintages, three with the suffix + and three with the suffix –

As a reminder, here is last year’s list:

2015 B +
2014 E -
2013 B -
2012 D -
2011 A
2010 D -
2009 B +
2008 C -
2007 B -
2006 F +
2005 C +
2004 C
2003 A -
2002 F
2001 D +
2000 A
1999 E +
1998 E +
1997 B +
1996 D
1995 D
1994 A +
1993 F -
1992 A -
1991 B -
1990 D
1989 F
1988 E
1987 C
1986 D +
1985 C +
1984 F +
1983 B
1982 C
1981 F -
1980 B
1979 E
1978 C -
1977 A -
1976 E
1975 B
1974 E -
1973 F
1972 C -
1971 F
1970 A +
1969 F +
1968 D -
1967 B
1966 A
1965 E +
1964 C
1963 A +
1962 D +
1961 E -
1960 A
1959 D
1958 C +
1957 E
1956 F -

I will publish my updated lists in the morning
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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uncle tom
Dow 1980
Posts: 2931
Joined: 23:43 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Near Saffron Walden, England

Re: Vintage rankings

Post by uncle tom » 09:55 Sun 21 Oct 2018

Trafalgar Day 2018

My assessment of the 2016 port vintage, its inclusion in my rolling evaluation of the sixty most recent vintages, and my updated full vintage rankings.

Before describing how I arrived at my assessment of this vintage, it is perhaps worth noting three characteristics of the 2016 vintage that I have given no weight to, and to explain why.

Firstly these wines are almost all at the light end of the colour spectrum. Both producers and critics have accorded significant weight to the colour of vintage ports in the past, but one has to ask whether this emphasis was well-placed.

Here I think one cannot be certain. Some wines that were described as ‘inky black’ in early reviews have gone on to be very lacklustre in maturity, whilst I am often puzzled as to why wines that are very sound in maturity sometimes earned only passing mention when released, or were described simply as ‘light’, leading me to suspect undue attention to colour.

Intensity and colour can run in tandem, but don’t always do so, so I decline to rate a vintage on colour alone.

Secondly, the tannic structure of these wines is very soft, making many of them very drinkable as two year olds. Whilst this might adversely affect the maturation quality of the wines a few decades hence, it has to be accepted that a high percentage of vintage port gets drunk at an early age, with perhaps little more than 10% reaching its fortieth year. It follows that early drinking vintages have a role to play.

Thirdly is the sentiment of the producers. This has been really rather bizarre this year. We expect wine makers to sing the praises of the vintage they need to sell today, and to be a little more candid further down the line. Sometimes there is an overt confidence and a pro-active eagerness to get as many people as possible to sample their wares.

In addition, it is usual with port for the prospects for the following vintage to be quickly dismissed, yet there was a palpable excitement about the ‘17s before even the first ‘16 was formally declared, and events to promote the ‘16s have seemed somewhat thin on the ground.

How does one measure sentiment? How does one evaluate producer confidence? It seems too difficult to attempt, too subjective to put a number on.

In this regard though I’m reminded of the medical researchers’ attitude to alcohol. They know that alcohol reduces stress, generates pleasure and deepens the rest from sleep, but because they can’t readily measure these benefits on a long term basis, they disregard them and focus on the negatives that they can readily put a number on.

So should I take sentiment into account? Perhaps I should, but I haven’t.

The vintage

The 2016 vintage was characterised by a slightly tricky growing season that punished producers who were tardy with their spraying regimes. This was followed by an exceptionally long vintage period. It was to be expected that these factors would cause some inconsistency in the finished wines.

In practice the differences divide along the lines of the production groups – Symingtons, TFP, Sogrape etc - and are not as large as might have been feared.

The year was generally declared, and relatively few houses absented themselves from the party, Niepoort being the only notable exception.

Half of my vintage assessment comes down to the wines themselves, a third rests on consistency and the remaining sixth on the attendance of the producers.

2016 is not as consistent a vintage as 2011, but loses only a few points on the back of that. For attendance it loses one point for the absence of Niepoort, but that did not swing my final reckoning.

The wines themselves I judge against the average performance of the top selling vintage ports, rather than the premium cuvees. Half my scoring of the wines goes on mouth feel and palate, a third on finish and the remaining sixth on nose.

On the nose these wines are universally fine, but for many of them I found them woefully weak. Maybe an excess of stainless storage perhaps, and too little wood? Often disappointing.

On the palate they perform well, with rather better complexity than the 2015s I feel, but the finish is a let-down for many of them, being often rough and unsophisticated. Too much spitting and not enough swallowing in the tasting rooms perhaps?

The conclusion

Only one year in six gets an alpha rating in my ranking system, so nearly half of declared years will fail to make the grade. I place 2016 in the top 20% of vintages over the past sixty years however, and accordingly give it an initial ranking of Beta + (B+)

The removal of the disastrous 1956 vintage and replacement with 2016 raises the overall quality of vintages in the sixty year window, so there are some necessary casualties to keep the proportions of the vintages constant.

Demoted for this reason are:

2015 to B
1975 to B-
2013 to C+
2005 to C
1982 to C-
1978 to D+
1986 to D
1990 to D-
2010 to E+
1965 to E
1976 to E-
1961 to F+
1969 to F
1971 to F-

Other adjustments.

Although there are some very nice Colheitas from 1959, there are virtually no vintage ports from that year. The 1968 VPs however have acquitted themselves well on their 50th anniversary.

I have therefore demoted 1959 from D to D-. Taking its place, 1968 rises from D- to D.

Around ten years ago it became apparent that the 1960 vintage was gaining a ‘second wind’ of maturity, and the question arose as to whether the weakening ‘63s would also recover strength. A tasting this year showed this to be partially the case, with a robust showing from half the wines but with continued weakness from the remainder.

The resulting inconsistency now weighs against this vintage, and it therefore loses its Alpha plus (A+) status, going down to a straight Alpha. Up in its place as the new A+ year is 2011.

Listings

Below are my balanced adjustable rankings, Alpha plus (A+) through to Zeta minus (F-) for the current sixty year window of 1957 – 2016. Following that are my rankings for the next 61 years back to 1896, judged on a zero to five star basis, and are based, as best I can establish; on the standing of each year when it was sixty years old.

Prior to 1896 are the star ratings given by Michael Broadbent, going back to 1811. In those listings, a ? indicates a year that he passed without mention and a () indicates a year that he recorded, but did not afford a star rating.

60 year adjustable rankings:

2016 B +
2015 B
2014 E -
2013 C +
2012 D -
2011 A +
2010 E +
2009 B +
2008 C -
2007 B -
2006 F +
2005 C
2004 C
2003 A -
2002 F
2001 D +
2000 A
1999 E +
1998 E +
1997 B +
1996 D
1995 D
1994 A +
1993 F -
1992 A -
1991 B -
1990 D -
1989 F
1988 E
1987 C
1986 D
1985 C +
1984 F +
1983 B
1982 C -
1981 F -
1980 B
1979 E
1978 D +
1977 A -
1976 E -
1975 B -
1974 E -
1973 F
1972 C -
1971 F -
1970 A +
1969 F
1968 D
1967 B
1966 A
1965 E
1964 C
1963 A
1962 D +
1961 F +
1960 A
1959 D -
1958 C +
1957 E

Fixed star rankings continuing back to 1896

1956 0
1955 *****
1954 ****
1953 *
1952 ***
1951 0
1950 ***
1949 **
1948 *****
1947 ****
1946 **
1945 *****
1944 **
1943 **
1942 ****
1941 ***
1940 **
1939 0
1938 **
1937 ****
1936 *
1935 *****
1934 ****
1933 ***
1932 ***
1931 *****
1930 0
1929 *
1928 *
1927 *****
1926 ***
1925 *
1924 ****
1923 ***
1922 ****
1921 **
1920 *****
1919 **
1918 *
1917 ****
1916 *
1915 0
1914 *
1913 0
1912 *****
1911 ***
1910 ***
1909 0
1908 *****
1907 **
1906 *
1905 0
1904 ****
1903 0
1902 0
1901 ***
1900 ****
1899 0
1898 *
1897 **
1896 *****

The Michael Broadbent star ratings for the vintages 1895 back to 1811.

1895 ***
1894 **
1893 ***
1892 *
1891 *
1890 ***
1889 ()
1888 ()
1887 ***
1886 ?
1885 *
1884 *****
1883 ()
1882 ()
1881 ***
1880 **
1879 ?
1878 *****
1877 ***
1876 ?
1875 ****
1874 *
1873 ***
1872 ***
1871 ()
1870 *****
1869 ***
1868 ****
1867 *
1866 ?
1865 ()
1864 ()
1863 *****
1862 ?
1861 ?
1860 ()
1859 ?
1858 ***
1857 ?
1856 ?
1855 ?
1854 ***
1853 ****
1852 ?
1851 ****
1850 ?
1849 ?
1848 ?
1847 *****
1846 ?
1845 ?
1844 ()
1843 ?
1842 ?
1841 ?
1840 ***
1839 ?
1838 ?
1837 ***
1836 ?
1835 ?
1834 *****
1833 ?
1832 ?
1831 ?
1830 ?
1829 ?
1828 ?
1827 ?
1826 ?
1825 ?
1824 ?
1823 ?
1822 ?
1821 ?
1820 ***
1819 ?
1818 ?
1817 ?
1816 ?
1815 ****
1814 ?
1813 ?
1812 ?
1811 *****

THRA

21/10/2018
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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AHB
Quinta do Noval Nacional 1962
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Location: Berkshire, UK

Re: Vintage rankings

Post by AHB » 12:03 Thu 25 Oct 2018

Thanks Tom. It's always interesting to read your thoughts on the way different years compare with each other and the logic you've applied when making changes to the years.
Top Ports in 2018 (so far): Niepoort VV (1960's Bottling), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994 and San Leonardo Very Old White (Bottled 2018)
2017 Ports of the year: Fonseca 1927 and Quinta do Noval 1927

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