Third time is the charm - History in the making

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Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Axel P » 08:35 Fri 07 Jun 2019

For the first time in the history of Port we have three consecutive General declarations with the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Which brings me to the definition of the term "General Declaration" that everyone likes to use quite frequently. There is none! And (maybe because) it was not necessary to have one. For the last couple of decades no one would argue that it is 2011 and not 2010 or 2012 and 2003 and not 2002/2004. Well you had years like 1966/1967 or 1991/1992 where companies decided to bottle either the first, the second or both years, but never with a quality concentration like with the last three years.

Having tasted almost all 2015s and 2016s and now halfway through the 2017s I am very happy with the quality of the Ports in general, but believe that the “world of Port” especially of Vintage Port is now getting a little more complicated for the consumers as it was clear in the past that you could not be wrong with a big name from a big year. Now we have more and more names and more and more years…

Let’s see what 2018/2019/2020 will bring. Worst case will be that it will be “as difficult” as in Bordeaux or other wine regions where they bottle every years unless there are no grapes to pick.

Comments, please…
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by AHB » 14:03 Fri 07 Jun 2019

The comparison with Bordeaux is one which strikes a chord with me. You have some big, reliable and very expensive names which make fabulous wine which are sold at eye-watering prices. I used to be able to afford to occasionally buy first growth Bordeaux but those days are a distant memory.

But I do still buy Bordeaux. I buy the smaller, independent producers. I also buy Bordeaux blends from other parts of the world. It has been a lot of fun discovering them, discovering which of them make their wines in a style which I really like. I have found a few which really resonate with my taste and which I can afford.

Port is becoming similar; the Fladgate Partnership, Symington Family Estates, Noval, Sogrape, Sogevinus all produce top quality Port and are reliable names if you are new to the field and want to be able to buy, store and drink something without too much knowledge. You certainly don't lack quality with wines from these producers!

But there are also independent producers who used to sell their wines or grapes to the bigger companies. Producers who are now marketing their own wines (Port and table wines) under their own name. Niepoort's 2017 Vintage Port is amazing, Bulas 2016 is one of my Ports of the vintage, Duorum 2015 is very impressive, Quevedo 2014 has a wonderful old-fashioned green tannic grip, Senhora do Convento's 2011 is a highlight of that vintage...

I could go on — but what I am trying to say is that there is a wealth of production coming from the Douro Valley. The big names are producing Ports which match the reputation those names have earned and deserve to retain. They are making great wines. But so too are some of the independent producers. Perhaps not every independent producer in every vintage, but seek them out. They are so worth trying. And to seek them out you can go to Portugal and visit their Quinta or go to somewhere like Portologia and see what they have. Or go to Prowein or World of Port's 2017 tasting and meet the producers and try their wines for yourself.

And this hasn't even touched on the topic of Tawny Port or White Port. Try Quinta do Mourão's 100 year old Port (OK, it's €1200 per 50cl bottle so you may have to try a very small sample, but it is astounding), or Niepoort's VV (50% of which is the 1863 that Niepoort recently sold in Asia for €100,000 for a magnum), or Quinta das Lamelas 10 year old white - such a delicious drink at a relatively good price. I am really into my White Port at the moment and it's been so much fun trying and sampling my way through everything I can find.

However complicated Port becomes, there will always be high profile, good and reliable names who produce top quality Port year after year. But it's also worth exploring the world of the independent producers to discover the gem before anyone else does. For what it's worth, I am trying to get my hands on a six-pack of the Bulas 2016. It astounded me when I tried it earlier this year. And in 2017 as well as buying Taylor, Noval and Vesuvio, I have also bought myself some of Dirk Niepoort's Vintage Port - I think it's a fabulous old-fashioned tannic brute wrapped in purple velvet.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Glenn E. » 21:13 Fri 07 Jun 2019

My understanding is that the IVDP does now "declare" a vintage, and that 2015 was not declared. Many were very disappointed that 2015 was not declared, and the reasons why it was not declared are probably best left to a different topic, but ultimately neither TFP nor SFE fully declared 2015 so it is not considered a general declaration.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Axel P » 10:30 Sat 08 Jun 2019

Glenn E. wrote:
21:13 Fri 07 Jun 2019
My understanding is that the IVDP does now "declare" a vintage, and that 2015 was not declared.
Hi Glenn,

thanks for your input.

How would the IVDP communicate this? Did you ever see any statements or else?

I think there is a lot of "I believe" in the market when it comes down to a "General Declaration". It cannot depend on two companies to decide this. As the IVDP does not differentiate between SQVP and Vintage Ports by the defintion by their quality points, it would be tough to consider them to be the legal entity to do this.

Nevertheless I believe many 2015s are fantastic Ports and I consider 2015 to be a General Declaration until someone proves me otherwise.

Hope to taste many 2015, 2016, 2017 (and others) with you in the near future

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by winesecretary » 12:19 Sat 08 Jun 2019

I agree the phrase 'general declaration' is not one with any legal force. But it is surprisingly difficult to come up with a definition, because what we are in fact talking about is a lot of individual decisions aggregating.

If you go to the IVDP website [https://www.ivdp.pt/pagina.asp?codPag=9 ... 2&idioma=1] it has a list of what many would describe as 'vintage port years' on it (probably compiled in 2014-2016 as it's not been updated to consider 2015, 2016, or 2017). The phrase 'general declaration' is used only once on that list, in 1994, and that descriptively. I draw your attention to the fact that the list includes 1982.

Oscar Quevedo writing in 2013 [https://quevedoportwine.com/vintage-por ... s-it-mean/] says that "there is no official organism with the duty or power to announce a certain year as a Declared Vintage. This absence of official declaration includes the Port and Douro Wines Institute – IVDP". He also refers to the wise words of a certain 'Glenn E' on FTLOP...

FTLOP in 2010 went with the 'ask the producers what they think' [https://www.fortheloveofport.com/taylor ... larations/]. I think that is the single most useful source on the point. Dominic Symington is there quoted as saying "The term ‘General Declaration’ is one that has historically and traditionally been used by the Port Producers to describe a year in which the majority of the great Vintage Port houses ‘declare’ a Vintage."

If we take that definition then we have to decide what for these purposes constitute 'the great Vintage Port houses'. A non-exclusive list (that is, everyone would accept that these names ought to be on it, but might reasonably argue for the inclusion of others) would be Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Niepoort, Noval, Taylor, Warre.

2015 had of the this list of nine Cockburn, Niepoort and Noval. Cockburn has occasionally declared slightly out of sync. (notably 1967). Niepoort and Noval go their own way, and very nice that way often is, too. Missing of the list I have created above were Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Taylor, Warre.

This, then, does not constitute a 'majority of the great Vintage Port houses' declaring 2015 which I think argues against 2015 being considered a 'general declaration'.

But then, nor did the majority of those houses (just Croft, Niepoort and Noval) declare 1982, which is on the IVDP list...

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Axel P » 13:14 Sat 08 Jun 2019

Fantastic research. Well done.

Now you could argue "the great Port houses". I would challenge at least Ramos Pinto to be a great Port house, too.

Let us keep discussing...
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by jdaw1 » 20:59 Sat 08 Jun 2019

winesecretary wrote:
12:19 Sat 08 Jun 2019
… then we have to decide what for these purposes constitute 'the great Vintage Port houses'. A non-exclusive list (that is, everyone would accept that these names ought to be on it, but might reasonably argue for the inclusion of others) would be Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Niepoort, Noval, Taylor, Warre.
Cockburn was the greatest. Then it declined, and from the late seventies until recently, it wasn’t great at all. Noval also had a weak patch from 1970ish to 1993.

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Glenn E. » 05:36 Sun 09 Jun 2019

I'll have to do some digging to find when things changed (assuming they actually have), but my understanding is that this new trend was very recent - after the 2013 post. It might have been 2015? It was a surprise to me when I heard about it.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by DRT » 09:06 Sun 09 Jun 2019

I suspect that the concept of a general declaration came into being amongst the British houses in the mid nineteenth century. There were many more of them then than there are today and it is likely that at least some of the decision making would have taken place informally over lunch at the Factory House on a cold Wednesday in February or March each year.

I think it is very difficult to reconcile that traditional practice with today's population of Port producers as 80% of them are single quintas so are likely to produce a VP in almost every year. We are therefore left with a small group of companies who make a different wine in great years to determine when a the modern equivalent of a general declaration takes place. On that basis I think 2015 wasn't a general declaration.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Axel P » 13:14 Sun 09 Jun 2019

DRT wrote:
09:06 Sun 09 Jun 2019
I think it is very difficult to reconcile that traditional practice with today's population of Port producers as 80% of them are single quintas so are likely to produce a VP in almost every year. We are therefore left with a small group of companies who make a different wine in great years to determine when a the modern equivalent of a general declaration takes place. On that basis I think 2015 wasn't a general declaration.
Good assumption! Nothing to add on this.

If we however put the Quality of the better known houses in, I would vote for yes, because I believe that the following 8 out of the 14 from the companies which "make a difference" produced some fantastic Vintage Ports. These are: Niepoort, Bioma, Vesuvio, Cockburn, Graham Stone Terraces, Ramos Pinto, Noval and the Nacional (if this exists :D ).

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by DRT » 17:18 Sun 09 Jun 2019

Axel P wrote:
13:14 Sun 09 Jun 2019
DRT wrote:
09:06 Sun 09 Jun 2019
I think it is very difficult to reconcile that traditional practice with today's population of Port producers as 80% of them are single quintas so are likely to produce a VP in almost every year. We are therefore left with a small group of companies who make a different wine in great years to determine when a the modern equivalent of a general declaration takes place. On that basis I think 2015 wasn't a general declaration.
Good assumption! Nothing to add on this.

If we however put the Quality of the better known houses in, I would vote for yes, because I believe that the following 8 out of the 14 from the companies which "make a difference" produced some fantastic Vintage Ports. These are: Niepoort, Bioma, Vesuvio, Cockburn, Graham Stone Terraces, Ramos Pinto, Noval and the Nacional (if this exists :D ).

Axel
The two highlighted phrases are not the same thing :wink:

What I meant was that in great years the old traditional shippers make their classic blends form many quintas, whereas in other years they make SQVP. That means they make a different wine. Most of the newer producers have one quinta so do not make blends, they always make SQVP, so they do not make different wines in great years they just (or should) make better wines.

In your list I would have to exclude Bioma, Stone Terraces and Nacional as they are all "Second Wines".

I look forward to your next attempt to convince us that 2015 was a general declaration 88)
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by winesecretary » 21:29 Sun 09 Jun 2019

Incidentally, Cockburn have declared 2015, 2016, 2017. I thought it unusual for a major house to declare three vintages in a row. But, the Book suggests it was not uncommon in the 19th century. Croft apparently declared eight vintages in a row from 1827...

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by flash_uk » 21:35 Sun 09 Jun 2019

winesecretary wrote:
21:29 Sun 09 Jun 2019
Incidentally, Cockburn have declared 2015, 2016, 2017. I thought it unusual for a major house to declare three vintages in a row. But, the Book suggests it was not uncommon in the 19th century. Croft apparently declared eight vintages in a row from 1827...
Yes 2015 was their 200th anniversary.

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Axel P » 12:25 Mon 10 Jun 2019

DRT wrote:
17:18 Sun 09 Jun 2019
I look forward to your next attempt to convince us that 2015 was a general declaration 88)
I am already convinced which is absolutely satisfactory for me.

Btw I challenge you that 2015 in general produced better Vintage Ports than 2016!

Please ask this question next time you are in the Douro and you will be surprised....
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Andy Velebil » 19:37 Mon 10 Jun 2019

DRT wrote:
09:06 Sun 09 Jun 2019
I suspect that the concept of a general declaration came into being amongst the British houses in the mid nineteenth century. There were many more of them then than there are today and it is likely that at least some of the decision making would have taken place informally over lunch at the Factory House on a cold Wednesday in February or March each year.

I think it is very difficult to reconcile that traditional practice with today's population of Port producers as 80% of them are single quintas so are likely to produce a VP in almost every year. We are therefore left with a small group of companies who make a different wine in great years to determine when a the modern equivalent of a general declaration takes place. On that basis I think 2015 wasn't a general declaration.
I could be mis-remembering, but I thought Paul Symington said the "general declaration" as it's known today is a relatively new thing and came about just after WW2. This when they tightened the rules on many other things as well. Prior to that it was more of a free-for-all with people making it and bottling it whenever they saw fit.

I say that as TFP and SFE were not the dominate force at the time. Didn't Cockburn's command the highest prices back in the early to mid 1900's?

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Andy Velebil » 19:48 Mon 10 Jun 2019

winesecretary wrote:
12:19 Sat 08 Jun 2019
...

FTLOP in 2010 went with the 'ask the producers what they think' [https://www.fortheloveofport.com/taylor ... larations/]. I think that is the single most useful source on the point. Dominic Symington is there quoted as saying "The term ‘General Declaration’ is one that has historically and traditionally been used by the Port Producers to describe a year in which the majority of the great Vintage Port houses ‘declare’ a Vintage."

If we take that definition then we have to decide what for these purposes constitute 'the great Vintage Port houses'. A non-exclusive list (that is, everyone would accept that these names ought to be on it, but might reasonably argue for the inclusion of others) would be Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Niepoort, Noval, Taylor, Warre.

2015 had of the this list of nine Cockburn, Niepoort and Noval. Cockburn has occasionally declared slightly out of sync. (notably 1967). Niepoort and Noval go their own way, and very nice that way often is, too. Missing of the list I have created above were Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Taylor, Warre.

This, then, does not constitute a 'majority of the great Vintage Port houses' declaring 2015 which I think argues against 2015 being considered a 'general declaration'.

But then, nor did the majority of those houses (just Croft, Niepoort and Noval) declare 1982, which is on the IVDP list...
Regarding the bolded part above. I think it's important to remember this list of producers is always in flux. In the early 1900's you wouldn't of had Noval or Vesuvio. Ramos Pinto, Sandeman, Silva & Costen, Rebello Valente, Taylors and some others would most likely have been regarded as the top producers. Today it's easy to say Noval, TFP, SFE, Niepoort, and Sogrape are probably leading the pack for the top ones needed for a "general declaration."

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by winesecretary » 20:56 Mon 10 Jun 2019

On the reputation of Cockburn: a wonderful old lady of my acquaintance, born 1910, and at the time of this discussion 'rising ninety-five' told me (over an extremely good claret) how her grandfather had offered her as a child a small glass of each of Cockburn and Taylor, saying that she should decide then and there whether she was a 'Cockburn girl' or a 'Taylor girl'. She expressed her preference for Cockburn, and he thereafter laid in a stock for her. In her view the Cockburn '70 was the best wine of the lot. It genuinely took me a few minutes to realise she was talking about the 1870 not the 1970...

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by jdaw1 » 21:04 Mon 10 Jun 2019

winesecretary wrote:
20:56 Mon 10 Jun 2019
On the reputation of Cockburn: a wonderful old lady of my acquaintance, born 1910, and at the time of this discussion 'rising ninety-five' told me (over an extremely good claret) how her grandfather had offered her as a child a small glass of each of Cockburn and Taylor, saying that she should decide then and there whether she was a 'Cockburn girl' or a 'Taylor girl'. She expressed her preference for Cockburn, and he thereafter laid in a stock for her. In her view the Cockburn '70 was the best wine of the lot. It genuinely took me a few minutes to realise she was talking about the 1870 not the 1970...
That is fantastic.

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Glenn E. » 00:37 Tue 11 Jun 2019

DRT wrote:
17:18 Sun 09 Jun 2019
Axel P wrote:
13:14 Sun 09 Jun 2019
DRT wrote:
09:06 Sun 09 Jun 2019
I think it is very difficult to reconcile that traditional practice with today's population of Port producers as 80% of them are single quintas so are likely to produce a VP in almost every year. We are therefore left with a small group of companies who make a different wine in great years to determine when a the modern equivalent of a general declaration takes place. On that basis I think 2015 wasn't a general declaration.
Good assumption! Nothing to add on this.

If we however put the Quality of the better known houses in, I would vote for yes, because I believe that the following 8 out of the 14 from the companies which "make a difference" produced some fantastic Vintage Ports. These are: Niepoort, Bioma, Vesuvio, Cockburn, Graham Stone Terraces, Ramos Pinto, Noval and the Nacional (if this exists :D ).

Axel
The two highlighted phrases are not the same thing :wink:

What I meant was that in great years the old traditional shippers make their classic blends form many quintas, whereas in other years they make SQVP. That means they make a different wine. Most of the newer producers have one quinta so do not make blends, they always make SQVP, so they do not make different wines in great years they just (or should) make better wines.

In your list I would have to exclude Bioma, Stone Terraces and Nacional as they are all "Second Wines".

I look forward to your next attempt to convince us that 2015 was a general declaration 88)
I would also exclude Vesuvio as it is not a traditional house. And I might exclude Cockburn on the grounds that its declaration had an ulterior motive - to celebrate their anniversary.

Essentially, neither TFP nor SFE really declared 2015. I have heard many stories about they whys, the wherefores, and the quality, but the end result is that 2015 can't really be considered a general declaration. Amongst the biggest names, those that declared are the smallest or had ulterior motives. There's no Croft, Dow, no Graham, no Fonseca, no Sandeman, no Taylor, no Warre. Also no Gould Campbell and no Smith Woodhouse, but for other (more dire) reasons.

It's a "Vintage Confraria" though. Doesn't take much to get 10 producers for that to happen these days.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Glenn E. » 00:43 Tue 11 Jun 2019

winesecretary wrote:
12:19 Sat 08 Jun 2019
1982, which is on the IVDP list...
I've never heard of 1982 being considered a general declaration. 1980, 1983, and 1985.

I have occasionally heard reference to 1982 being a split declaration, but that makes little sense in that 1983 is widely regarded as a general declaration.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by winesecretary » 00:58 Tue 11 Jun 2019

The IVDP list is pretty odd in places, not least because it also has 1987 and 1989 on it...

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by flash_uk » 12:48 Tue 11 Jun 2019

Glenn E. wrote:
00:37 Tue 11 Jun 2019
.... Also no Gould Campbell and no Smith Woodhouse, but for other (more dire) reasons.
The no Gould Campbell was certainly an other more dire reason. Smith Woodhouse not so dire I thought - that brand still lives on in the SFE portfolio.

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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by Glenn E. » 17:40 Tue 11 Jun 2019

flash_uk wrote:
12:48 Tue 11 Jun 2019
Glenn E. wrote:
00:37 Tue 11 Jun 2019
.... Also no Gould Campbell and no Smith Woodhouse, but for other (more dire) reasons.
The no Gould Campbell was certainly an other more dire reason. Smith Woodhouse not so dire I thought - that brand still lives on in the SFE portfolio.
They made a SW16 so hopefully you are correct.

FWIW GC also still technically exists, it just isn't being used.
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by SushiNorth » 19:47 Tue 11 Jun 2019

Glenn E. wrote:
17:40 Tue 11 Jun 2019
flash_uk wrote:
12:48 Tue 11 Jun 2019
Glenn E. wrote:
00:37 Tue 11 Jun 2019
.... Also no Gould Campbell and no Smith Woodhouse, but for other (more dire) reasons.
The no Gould Campbell was certainly an other more dire reason. Smith Woodhouse not so dire I thought - that brand still lives on in the SFE portfolio.
They made a SW16 so hopefully you are correct.

FWIW GC also still technically exists, it just isn't being used.
I think everyone agreed that GC would be hard pressed to ever outshine its 1980 bottling. ;)
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Re: Third time is the charm - History in the making

Post by idj123 » 22:47 Tue 11 Jun 2019

SushiNorth wrote:
19:47 Tue 11 Jun 2019
Glenn E. wrote:
17:40 Tue 11 Jun 2019
flash_uk wrote:
12:48 Tue 11 Jun 2019
Glenn E. wrote:
00:37 Tue 11 Jun 2019
.... Also no Gould Campbell and no Smith Woodhouse, but for other (more dire) reasons.
The no Gould Campbell was certainly an other more dire reason. Smith Woodhouse not so dire I thought - that brand still lives on in the SFE portfolio.
They made a SW16 so hopefully you are correct.

FWIW GC also still technically exists, it just isn't being used.
I think everyone agreed that GC would be hard pressed to ever outshine its 1980 bottling. ;)
What we heard is that SW hasn’t yet been consigned to history, it’s just that there weren’t enough good grapes to justify a meaningful declaration for 2017.

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