Vintage port terrible teens?

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Tadhg555
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Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by Tadhg555 » 01:19 Fri 15 Feb 2019

Hello -

I am relatively new to the world of port, so apologies if I use the wrong terminology. While I have enjoyed port-style wines (from California) for years, I hadn't experienced true vintage port until recently when I tried a Graham's 1990 Centenary Malvedos, followed by Taylor's Very Old Single Harvest 1968. Suffice it to say, I was hooked...

I am interested in building a (small) collection of vintage port, some to save for myself and future generations, others to drink and enjoy over the next 5-10 years. I have already picked up a few bottles of Dow's:

1994 (2 bottles)
2000 (2 bottles)
2011 (2 bottles)

I know that quality VP improves with decades of cellaring; I also know that some VP's can be drunk while young. I've also heard that there is a period of "difficult adolescence" when the wine is going through growth pains and isn't as approachable (as the father of a 15-year-old I can totally understand that).

Here's my question: When will I know when my port has entered those teen years? Is there a general rule of thumb, or does it depend on the producer and the vintage?

Thanks for your advice!

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g-man
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by g-man » 02:08 Fri 15 Feb 2019

The fun part about being with the port community is that folks are quite diligent about trying/posting and sharing ports and notes, allowing another fellow forumite to make their own informed decisions fitted to their tastes!

Unfortunately there is no hard rule, my "dumb phase" starting at 5 to say 15 years is not the same as another taster's dumb phase. I've had fellow tasters who just enjoy drinking young port and feel as if the young ports are always ready to drink, and i'm sure we have the other spectrum of folks who feel nothing younger than 20 years could be considered ready to drink.

Also there can be weird instances, where wines that were previously drinking well, seem to have shut down again, the Fonseca 1985 is one that comes to mind. Considering this wine is 30+ years old, I find it surprising, but i'll still happily drink them along the way to see how they evolve.

That said you have 3 powerhouses of vintages in your cellar, all 3 will offer different forms of enjoyment at this stage in their life. The 2011 is everything you can imagine in a young port still. Tannic, powerful, gripping, gobs of purple fruit. If it were to go into a dumb phase, I can see the tannins really showing up and the fruit hiding behind that rich thick mouthfeel. The 2000 I haven't had in 8 years so I unfortunately can't comment. The 1994 is absolutely lovely to drink now, shedding the tannic baby fat, retaining alot of rich dark fruits but having some fine balance.

I'd recommend peaking the Offline planning section of the forums and joining a few merry port lovers in enjoying this fine wine.
Disclosure: Distributor of Quevedo wines and Quinta do Gomariz

Tadhg555
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by Tadhg555 » 04:51 Fri 15 Feb 2019

Thanks for the advice! I purchased two bottles from each vintage so that I could try one early and one later. Sounds like I should go ahead and start with the 94.

Where is the Offline planning section? I will need to check that out!

PhilW
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by PhilW » 12:39 Fri 15 Feb 2019

Tadhg555 wrote:
01:19 Fri 15 Feb 2019
Here's my question: When will I know when my port has entered those teen years? Is there a general rule of thumb, or does it depend on the producer and the vintage?
Welcome to :tpf: and what an excellent starting question, which I think would get many different replies from both ourselves and the port producers too!

There is some general agreement along the following lines:
- some people enjoy drinking their port young, which usually means up to 3 years from release (note vintage port is released at 2 years old, effectively this is the 2-5yr age range).
- the actual time the port enters a closed period will vary by producer and vintage, but a general rule of thumb for entering the closed period might be 4-5yrs old.
- some people then differentiate the closed-down and subsequent "not closed but awkward/unbalanced" phase, with the latter being the teen years (and also being roughly teen-age. No real guideline for entry to this, and is perhaps less important since you probably stopped drinking when it entered the closed phase; the real interest is when it exits the teenage years and becomes ready for drinking and subsequent full maturity.
- exit from teen-age into drinking phase does vary considerably, but a nominal "rule of thumb" has always been that (vintage) port is "ready to drink" at 21 years old, though note that this is certainly not full maturity; this is also where all the debates will begin depending on personal preference.

Personally, for vintage port I think this is too young, and would set such a minimum threshold around 25yrs - and generally I would not open a bottle under 30yrs except for specific reason (such as a vertical tasting or to "see how it's going"). Changes in production through the 80s seem to me to have produced wines which take longer to mature (this is a personal view which I have no idea whether others might agree/disagree with btw); I will be interested to see whether the ports from the 90s follow this pattern further or not.

Of course, the best way to find out how, say, the 91s or 94s are doing currently, would be to suggest a tasting with theme of "The early 90s" or similar where everyone attending brings a bottle and you get to try several and see how they are all doing.

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flash_uk
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by flash_uk » 14:23 Fri 15 Feb 2019

A ‘94 horizontal would be a fine idea.

Tadhg555
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by Tadhg555 » 19:13 Fri 15 Feb 2019

Thanks! And to clarify:

A "horizontal" = tasting different ports all from the same year (e.g. '94 Dow, '94 Warre, '94 Graham, etc.), whereas a "vertical" = different vintages from the same winery (shipper)? Is that right?

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g-man
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by g-man » 04:03 Sat 16 Feb 2019

Tadhg555 wrote:
19:13 Fri 15 Feb 2019
Thanks! And to clarify:

A "horizontal" = tasting different ports all from the same year (e.g. '94 Dow, '94 Warre, '94 Graham, etc.), whereas a "vertical" = different vintages from the same winery (shipper)? Is that right?

Correct. And looking at the main page of the forums, the offline section is called the "Organising Tastings and Get-togethers " and get together

If you're based around / near London there are alot of tastings going on.

Those of us on the eastern coast of the US get together more occasionally
Disclosure: Distributor of Quevedo wines and Quinta do Gomariz

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uncle tom
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by uncle tom » 09:46 Tue 26 Feb 2019

When the online port community got together nearly 14 years ago now, people were drinking quite a lot of Vesuvio, despite the fact that the oldest bottles were only 16 years old then. '85s were frequently drunk, despite being only 20 and there was a lot of discussion about the 94s - then a mere 11 years old.

Then it began to dawn on people that teenage bottles went through some really awkward phases - wines that I dubbed 'Kevins'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLuEY6jN6gY

In 2009, recognising that young bottles often failed to impress or inform, I imposed a minimum age for my home consumption of 18 years, this I then upped to 21 in 2012 and again to 24 in 2014. In my final incarnation of restraint, I have limited the consumption of bottles under 30 to an average of just 6 p.a. out of a total of 48 drunk at home each year.

Others now seem to share this restraint - when organising an Offley vertical last December, I found there was no enthusiasm for including vintages more recent than 1985..
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

Tadhg555
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by Tadhg555 » 22:39 Thu 28 Feb 2019

uncle tom wrote:
09:46 Tue 26 Feb 2019
Others now seem to share this restraint - when organising an Offley vertical last December, I found there was no enthusiasm for including vintages more recent than 1985..
So it appears that some of my more recent purchases might be gifts for my children...

PhilW
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by PhilW » 11:10 Fri 01 Mar 2019

Tadhg555 wrote:
22:39 Thu 28 Feb 2019
uncle tom wrote:
09:46 Tue 26 Feb 2019
Others now seem to share this restraint - when organising an Offley vertical last December, I found there was no enthusiasm for including vintages more recent than 1985..
So it appears that some of my more recent purchases might be gifts for my children...
Well, you did say you were intending to drink the bottles - 6 bottles, from vintages '94, '00 and '11 - over the next 5-10 years, implying roughly one bottle every 2 years. On that basis you would be looking at:
In 2019, drinking a '94 at 25yrs old
In 2021, drinking a '94 at 27yrs old
In 2023, drinking a '00 at 23yrs old
In 2025, drinking a '00 at 25yrs old
In 2027, drinking a '11 at 16yrs old
In 2029, drinking a '11 at 18yrs old

While many people here would prefer a little more age on the bottle, certainly drinking the first four of those at those ages is perfectly sensible; the last two are perhaps a little young and since they are fantastic wines I would hold off drinking them while still in their teens, as they will reward patience.

Of course, if you speed up your schedule, e.g. drinking them over 5 year rather than 10, then this reduces their ages further, and I would recommend pre-loading the front end with some extra <=94 bottles. If you're like many people here, you may suddenly find that 1 bottle/year turns out to be a substantially low estimate once you start!

As for choosing to drink '94 now vs waiting, you can certainly do either. It certainly has not reached peak maturity yet, and will likely not do so for the major brands for another decade+, but equally is already drinking well, and is in the lists of available ports at some good establishments; The Boot and Flogger in London for example currently has both Dow '94 and Graham '94 available by the glass.

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AHB
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by AHB » 08:54 Sun 03 Mar 2019

The 1994 vintage is well out of its terrible teens. Although it might well be better in 10 or 20 years, they are absolutely delicious today.
Top Ports in 2019 (so far): Cockburn 1947 and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
2018 Ports of the year: São Leonardo 1927 White Port (Bottled 2018), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994

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uncle tom
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by uncle tom » 11:28 Sun 03 Mar 2019

flash_uk wrote:
14:23 Fri 15 Feb 2019
A ‘94 horizontal would be a fine idea.
94@25 Ought to be one of our offlines this year - care to lead the charge?
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

Glenn E.
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by Glenn E. » 20:29 Sun 03 Mar 2019

uncle tom wrote:
09:46 Tue 26 Feb 2019
In 2009, recognising that young bottles often failed to impress or inform, I imposed a minimum age for my home consumption of 18 years, this I then upped to 21 in 2012 and again to 24 in 2014. In my final incarnation of restraint, I have limited the consumption of bottles under 30 to an average of just 6 p.a. out of a total of 48 drunk at home each year.

Others now seem to share this restraint - when organising an Offley vertical last December, I found there was no enthusiasm for including vintages more recent than 1985..
When I started drinking Port, I felt that VP needed to be at least 30 years old... or less than 5. I've always enjoyed extremely young VP because it is so vibrant, boisterous, and fruity. But once you decide to let it age I've always felt that it needs more time to mature than anyone else. The tradition of opening a bottle from a case on its 21st birthday never appealed to me... those bottles always seemed too young to me.

That said, starting with roughly 1994, and certainly with 2007, Vintage Port is being made in a way that leaves it more approachable throughout its youth and its teens. The "terrible teens" still exist to some degree, but not like in the old days. Most VP these days will be fine throughout its life though better at 30+.
Glenn Elliott

Tadhg555
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Re: Vintage port terrible teens?

Post by Tadhg555 » 21:17 Fri 08 Mar 2019

PhilW wrote:
11:10 Fri 01 Mar 2019
Tadhg555 wrote:
22:39 Thu 28 Feb 2019
uncle tom wrote:
09:46 Tue 26 Feb 2019
Others now seem to share this restraint - when organising an Offley vertical last December, I found there was no enthusiasm for including vintages more recent than 1985..
So it appears that some of my more recent purchases might be gifts for my children...
Well, you did say you were intending to drink the bottles - 6 bottles, from vintages '94, '00 and '11 - over the next 5-10 years, implying roughly one bottle every 2 years.
I realized that my post wasn't exactly clear. My original idea (as half-baked as it may be) was to drink one bottle from each vintage within the next 5-10 years, but to save the second bottle of the vintage for the longer term (15-20+ years).

For example:
2019: Drink one bottle of the '94
2022: Drink one bottle of the '00
2025: Drink one bottle of the '11

However, I get now that 2025 might be a little too soon for the 2011... Therefore, I should probably extend that timeframe -- and more importantly, buy more (older) bottles!

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