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What's happening to all the port?

Posted: 14:29 Fri 13 Jul 2018
by AHB
I was having a chat the other day with Carlos Alves, port maker for Sogevinus since 2013, who was in London briefly this week.

One of the topics we discussed was why there is so much less vintage port made and sold today, compared with 40 or 50 years ago. We agreed that beneficios had not reduced by the same proportion as VP production has — so where is all the juice going?

I had formed the impression in my mind that there had been a flight to middle quality in the market, that consumers were buying less entry / basic level wines and were trading up. Winemakers are becoming more selective and are using grapes of consistently better quality, so able to make more LBV or reserve level port, especially if less juice is going into VP.

Carlos had a different view. He pointed out that IVDP statistics show that sales of basic port to France / Spain / Belgium are up last year. His belief is that the thirst for tawny port, especially top end tawny port, has generated such a demand on barrel aged ports that the industry is being forced to leave far more of its quality production in wood than it has previously had to. While VP and LBV generate good margins, tawny ports generate margin and volume - but take an average of a decade to reach the level where the margins start to strengthen.

Carlos also suggested that with the recent reduction in minimum stocks to become a port shipper, we might see fewer families making and aging their own tawnies for sale to the larger producers, and more selling under their own names.

Interesting times!