Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

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uncle tom
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
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Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by uncle tom » 11:27 Mon 21 Oct 2019

Trafalgar Day 2019

My assessment of the 2017 port vintage, its inclusion in my rolling evaluation of the sixty most recent vintages, and my updated full vintage rankings.

The near full declaration of the 2017 vintage immediately after declaring 2016 was a remarkable break from past tradition.

Soon after the 2017 harvest it was common currency that the producers had two very good but very different vintages on their hands, differing in a manner that well illustrated the enduring dilemma when it comes to defining what is a great port vintage.

Classic vintage ports can take upwards of half a century to show their best. As it approaches it’s half century, few would dispute that the 1970 vintage is still improving, although it may be close to its zenith now. Yet of all the vintage port bottled in that plentiful year, I doubt more than five to ten percent remains un-drunk, and still available to be enjoyed at it’s peak of perfection.

Today’s customers for vintage port, especially in emerging markets, have limited enthusiasm for laying down bottles for decades, so the need to produce vintage ports that will show well when customers want to drink them does tend to conflict with past tradition.

Whilst I take great pride in cellaring bottles for posterity whilst enjoying those laid down by those of yore, my assessment of vintages balances tradition against pragmatism. It is also worth noting that several past vintages that were dismissed as being light or insubstantial when released, have subsequently shown great tenacity.

When scoring vintages, I assess the mean performance of the top selling wines. Half my scoring is awarded to quality, a third to consistency and the last sixth to attendance by the producers.

On the quality front, both 2016 and 2017 rank very highly. There is little to choose between them in that regard, but I give 2017 the edge, primarily because I found the finish to be far more elegant, an area where 2016 was notably lacking.

On the consistency front 2017 is a clear winner. 2016 was characterised by a noticeable degree of variation, not only between the wines, but also between the wines and their traditional house styles. 2017 very much reminds me of the solid consistency we saw with 2011.

For attendance, Niepoort was the only major absentee from the 2016 vintage, whereas all the Sogrape houses absented themselves from 2017, something that strikes as a little strange given the way both Sandeman and Offley frequently declare extra years, and usually attend both years when a declaration has previously been split.

The conclusion

My rolling 60 year assessment of vintages has a fixed number of positions for each ranking tier. Only one year in six passes muster as an Alpha vintage, and 2016 was ranked as Beta +.

Whilst the absence of the Sogrape houses does slightly dent an otherwise excellent scorecard, I am very pleased to acclaim 2017 as an Alpha vintage

It’s opening position being at the lower end of that tier (A-)

The removal of the modest 1957 vintage and replacement with 2017 raises for a second year the overall quality of vintages in the sixty year window, so there are some necessary casualties to keep the proportions constant.

Demoted for this reason are:

1992 to B+
2009 to B
2015 to B-
1991 to C+
2013 to C
1964 to C-
2008 to D+
1978 to D
1986 to D-
1959 to E+
2010 to E

Other adjustments

I have not made any other adjustments from my drinking experience of the past year, but I do have one big caveat:

1994 is going through a really awkward phase. However it would not be the first time a great vintage has gone through the doldrums. At about the same age, both critics and producers lost faith in the 1977 vintage, and before that 1960. Ten years ago, 1983 was also really awkward too.

My advice would be to not major on drinking 1994 for the time being. If it does not show signs of recovery over the next year or two, it’s A+ ranking will be in serious jeopardy.

Listings

Below are my balanced adjustable rankings, Alpha plus (A+) through to Zeta minus (F-) for the current sixty year window of 1958 – 2017. Following are my rankings for the next 62 years back to 1896, judged on a zero to five star basis, and are based, as best I can; 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

2017 A -
2016 B +
2015 B -
2014 E -
2013 C
2012 D -
2011 A +
2010 E
2009 B
2008 D +
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 B +
1991 C +
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 E +
1958 C +

My star rankings continuing back to 1896

1957 1
1956 0
1955 5
1954 4
1953 1
1952 3
1951 0
1950 3
1949 2
1948 5
1947 4
1946 2
1945 5
1944 2
1943 2
1942 4
1941 3
1940 2
1939 0
1938 2
1937 4
1936 1
1935 5
1934 4
1933 3
1932 3
1931 5
1930 0
1929 1
1928 1
1927 5
1926 3
1925 1
1924 4
1923 3
1922 4
1921 2
1920 5
1919 2
1918 1
1917 4
1916 1
1915 0
1914 1
1913 0
1912 5
1911 3
1910 3
1909 0
1908 5
1907 2
1906 1
1905 0
1904 4
1903 0
1902 0
1901 3
1900 4
1899 0
1898 1
1897 2
1896 5

The Broadbent scores

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

21/10/2019
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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flash_uk
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by flash_uk » 15:06 Mon 21 Oct 2019

Many thanks for this Tom - always makes fascinating reading. I took a scan down your new ratings for the last 60 vintages, and there were a group that I found very interesting:

1987 C
1985 C +
1983 B
1980 B
1975 B -

Which when rearranged into best to worst gives 1980, 1983, 1975, 1985, 1987. There are a handful of ports from '80 and '83 that I think are very good, but then I could say the same about '85. And I think there are quite a few good ports from '75, but maybe not so many as to make that year a whole grade superior to '85.

And finally a question: Do you upgrade/downgrade prior years only by one notch? Or are you able to decide that as time has passes, the assessment of one vintage or another is no longer appropriate when compared to other vintage scores?

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uncle tom
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by uncle tom » 15:30 Mon 21 Oct 2019

Which when rearranged into best to worst gives 1980, 1983, 1975, 1985, 1987. There are a handful of ports from '80 and '83 that I think are very good, but then I could say the same about '85. And I think there are quite a few good ports from '75, but maybe not so many as to make that year a whole grade superior to '85.
We had '75 and '85 horizontals in close succession a few years back, and there was no doubt that '75 was showing better.

'85 is a desperately scattergun vintage. There are some good wines there, but also many failures.

And finally a question: Do you upgrade/downgrade prior years only by one notch? Or are you able to decide that as time has passes, the assessment of one vintage or another is no longer appropriate when compared to other vintage scores?
After settling the placing of some of the lesser seen vintages, I now observe that rule to avoid kneejerk changes.
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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SushiNorth
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by SushiNorth » 16:41 Mon 21 Oct 2019

When speaking to collectors about older ports, I am very bullish on 80's and 85's however rarely do i recommend them as a vintage. Instead, I recommend very specific houses. Based on that, your rankings Tom make sense because they rely on consistency across the vintage, not just "great ports."

I'm still annoyed that i bought a bunch of 2009, but was on hiatus during the 2011 release and basically missed it entirely. Fortunately, it was for the right reason -- and he's 6 now.
SushiNorth
Image Port wine should perhaps be added -- A Trollope

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uncle tom
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by uncle tom » 20:03 Mon 21 Oct 2019

SushiNorth wrote:
16:41 Mon 21 Oct 2019
I'm still annoyed that I bought a bunch of 2009
I don't know why - be patient (or at least, tell your offspring to be patient)

I think 2009 will have an exceptional reputation when adjoining vintages start to fade..
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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SushiNorth
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by SushiNorth » 02:07 Tue 22 Oct 2019

uncle tom wrote:
20:03 Mon 21 Oct 2019
SushiNorth wrote:
16:41 Mon 21 Oct 2019
I'm still annoyed that I bought a bunch of 2009
I don't know why - be patient (or at least, tell your offspring to be patient). I think 2009 will have an exceptional reputation when adjoining vintages start to fade..
Oh don't get me wrong, I'm always happy I bought Port, i just wish I'd bought MORE port.
SushiNorth
Image Port wine should perhaps be added -- A Trollope

DrewD83
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by DrewD83 » 11:42 Thu 31 Oct 2019

SushiNorth wrote:
16:41 Mon 21 Oct 2019
When speaking to collectors about older ports, I am very bullish on 80's and 85's however rarely do i recommend them as a vintage. Instead, I recommend very specific houses. Based on that, your rankings Tom make sense because they rely on consistency across the vintage, not just "great ports."

I'm still annoyed that i bought a bunch of 2009, but was on hiatus during the 2011 release and basically missed it entirely. Fortunately, it was for the right reason -- and he's 6 now.
Which houses would you recommend for the ‘85 vintage?

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DRT
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by DRT » 14:55 Sat 02 Nov 2019

DrewD83 wrote:
11:42 Thu 31 Oct 2019
Which houses would you recommend for the ‘85 vintage?
I have found Fonseca, Graham, Taylor and Warre to be very reliable from 1985. There is too much variability in the other houses I have tried to persuade me to spend money on them.
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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SushiNorth
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by SushiNorth » 02:10 Sun 03 Nov 2019

DrewD83 wrote:
11:42 Thu 31 Oct 2019
Which houses would you recommend for the ‘85 vintage?
Dow, Graham, Fonseca, Churchill. I've also enjoyed Croft, but others haven't enjoyed it as much. Warre and Taylor fell flat for me.
SushiNorth
Image Port wine should perhaps be added -- A Trollope

Glenn E.
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Re: Vintage rankings - 2017 awarded alpha status

Post by Glenn E. » 20:12 Sun 10 Nov 2019

DrewD83 wrote:
11:42 Thu 31 Oct 2019
Which houses would you recommend for the ‘85 vintage?
Fonseca and Graham are easily the two best for me. They're followed by Dow, Smith Woodhouse, Taylor, Gould Campbell, and Churchill.
Glenn Elliott

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