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Vintagewise, by André L. Simon

Posted: 03:31 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1
Members of :tpf: may well have in their possession old out-of-print books with chapters on or reference to Port. If it is reasonably believed that the © owner would not object please be encouraged to start threads with interesting excerpts from such works. If there is doubt, ask the © owner and then type and post the work.

Note for © owners: if you do object, which would be most grumpy and anti-social of you, please contact the poster or an admin.
jdaw1, in an email dated Thu 21 Aug 2008 accompanying a permission-request form that was sent to the Adult Permission department of Penguin Books, wrote:Please be nice to us we make no profit, and are just enthusiasts. And the book is long obsolete, and even longer out-of-print. Thank you.
In an email, dated Wed 03 Sept 2008, Mary Fox wrote:Dear Julian Wiseman,

Thank you for your email and request form. I am afraid that I have been unable to trace the original contract or any other rights information regarding the above title. This is often the case with Michael Joseph titles published before our 1980's acquisition of the list. I cannot, therefore, give you formal permission to quote from this book.

Whilst Penguin have no objection to the use of the extract, we cannot warrant that such use would not infringe any third party rights, and it must be at your own risk should you wish to proceed. Should you use the extract, please include details of the original publication and a disclaimer in your list of acknowledgements.

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Mary Fox
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Penguin Group UK, 80 Strand, London, WC2R 0RL
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If the reader is or represents a third party who owns the copyright, please contact jdaw1, ideally granting permission and saying what acknowledgment is wanted.

Vintagewise: This Text

Posted: 03:32 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1
Throughout the text, grey square parentheses [] indicate a comment by the typist. Links added by the typist, of course are mostly to Wikipedia.

This thread contains the text of the chapter on Port in André L. Simon’s book Vintagewise, as typed by jdaw1. There will doubtless be errors in the typing, and readers may well have other comments. Please post corrections and comments in the thread Vintagewise: Corrections and Comments.

Vintagewise: Front Matter

Posted: 03:32 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1
A Postscript to Saintsbury’s Notes On A Cellar Book
by André L. Simon [picture with the young Hugh Johnson], published by Michael Joseph Ltd of 26 Bloomsbury Street, London W.C.1 [now part of Penguin]
First published October 1945 Fifth (Revised) Impression 1950

This copy of the book, for which jdaw1’s mother paid the trifling sum of twenty new pennies, is inscribed on the page opposite the inside front cover.
Presumably ‟David”, in pencil, with a flamboyant hand, wrote:To Daddy,

Wishing you very many happy returns of the day, and with my fondest love


17th January 1951.
Presumably David’s father subsequently died, and the offspring, not wanting his old stuff, sold it for flumpence to a tat shop.

Vintagewise: Port

Posted: 03:32 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1
[Starting on page 30]

Port enjoys, in England, the privilege of being recognized and protected by the law of the land. Since 1916, no wine has been allowed to be sold in England under the name of Port, if not made from grapes grown in the Valley of the Douro, fortified by the addition of of brandy at an early stage of its fermentation, and eventually shipped from Oporto. There are, of course, many wines which, whilst complying with all three conditions, are entirely different. The quality of the Douro grapes varies from year to year, and from vineyard to vineyard, according to more or less favourable climactic conditions and to the care given by the growers from the pruning of the vines to the gathering of the grapes. The quality and quantity of brandy added to the newly made wines to check its fermentation are also of importance. And much may happen after the newly made wines are sent to the shipper’s lodges and before they are shipped to this or any other country. The wine of one particular vineyard may be kept by itself, but this is the exception; as a rule the wines of various vineyards and of the same vintage are blended together; if shipped eighteen months or two years from the date of the their vintage, and bottled soon after their reach their destination, such wines are known as Vintage Port. But if kept longer in the shippers’ lodges, blended with older wines, and matured in cask, in Portugal, they are sold eventually as Tawny Port, Crusted Port or Ruby Port.

There are fortified wines made in many parts of the the world where grapes grow and where wine is made on a commercial scale: all of them are made to resemble Port as nearly as possible, and some of them succeed in approximating to the colour, strength, sweetness and flavour of tawny or Ruby Port. None of them, however, can hope to match Vintage Port; they do not even try. Vintage Port owes its individuality to and excellence to two entirely different set of factors: the first being what may called the raw material, the best grapes of the Douro vintaged under particularly favourable conditions and expertly treated in Portugal before the new wine is shipped; and the second being the knowledge, love and patience of the vintner, in England, who bottles, matures and eventually delivers a type of wine which is unobtainable anywhere else in the world, not excepting Portugal, where the wine originally came from. Whether the legal protection which the law at present accords Port, as a name, whether Vintage or Tawny, good, bad or indifferent, is continued or withdrawn at a later date is not all-important. There are bound to be more and more colourable imitations of the lighter types of Port, the Port that is matured in the cask and not in bottle, and they are likely to appeal, because of their lower cost, to an ever growing number of none too fastidious wine drinkers, whether these wines have the benefit of being taxed at a lower rate of duty, when from Empire vineyards, or when they are British wines, that is, manufactured in Great Britain. Vintage Port, however, is above all imitations: it is safe from that dangerous form of flattery; it is in a class by itself, and it is the only type of port that I propose to deal with in this review of the past hundred years.

Vintagewise: The Forties

Posted: 03:33 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

[Typist’s note: the best rendering of these tables possible in phpBB 3 is as a table, shown in a fixed-width typeface. The originals looked better.]

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1840   A very fine vintage         33,190
1841   A complete failure          26,355
1842   A fine vintage              27,431
1843   An irregular vintage        26,521
1844   A fine vintage              33,946
1845   A poor vintage              31,623
1846   A good vintage              29,482
1847   A remarkably fine vintage   31,516
1848   A good vintage              33,474
1849   A fair vintage              43,043
    (A pipe holds about 115 gallons.)
There was an exceptionally large quantity of fine wine made in the Alto Douro during the Forties, according to the records of the time, but the only Vintage of of which I have had any personal experience is that of 1847. Professor George Saintsbury wrote in Notes on a Cellar Book that 1847 was about perfection in 1870, and that, when he tasted it in 1917, it was ‟little but a memory, or at least a suggestion.” I was more fortunate. When I returned from the ‟other” war, in 1919, there were still at Mark Lane four Magnums of Cockburn 1847, and one of them was opened in 1922, in honour of Sir James Agg-Gardner, the then Chairman of the House of Commons Kitchen Committee, who was born in 1847. [Wikipedia reports a birth date of 25 November 1846, and that during 39 years in the House he made only two speeches, but we need not let such details disturb a good drinking story.] It was, much to my surprise, in splendid form and condition: dark; sweet and lively still. In a fit of generosity, such as a good wine readily encourages, I promised Sir James another Magnum if he were re-elected at the forthcoming general election, and he was not only re-elected then but at the two other general elections which took place during the ensuing two years; each time he came and claimed ‟his” Magnum of Cockburn 1847 and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last of them was opened on January 10, 1924 and, perhaps, the freshest and best of the four: we were seven at the ‟death,” of whom but two have lived to this day to tell the tale, Jumbo Jolliffe and myself. that was the end of a fine bin but not the last of the ’47 Ports. We had some very fine bottles of Roriz ’47 on April 30, 1926, at the Wine Trade Club, when we entertained members of the wine trade born in 1847; T. P. O’Connor had no right to be there, but he was and thoroughly enjoyed himself. I had met him a few days before the event and had mentioned it to him: ‟Do let me come!” he pleaded, ‟I’d so love to see those old boys.” So I asked what his year was and he promptly replied ‟1848” [confirmed by Wikipedia]; and so he came as my guest, in spite of being much too young.

And the ’47’s were not at the end of their tether even then. I remember a lunch at Mark Lane, in January 1932, when I opened a bottle of Roriz 1851 for Walter Elliot, Yeats Brown (Bengal Lancer), Donald Wardley and Francis Berry. It was very good and all praised it so much as the perfect bottle of Port, that I could not resist the temptation of putting up a bottle of Quarles Harris ’47 against it: it made the ’51 look quite silly; it was darker, fuller, and fresher; the ’51 was a beautiful ‟old” wine; the ’47 a beautiful wine.

A few months later, still at Mark Lane, we had quite as fine a bottle of ’47, when Sir Max Pemberton came to lunch, chaperoned by James and Willie Todd and Clifford Smith, and we drank a last bottle of Kopke ’47, which turned out to be a perfect bottle: dark and warm in colour, the body still full and firm, the bouquet fresh, no trace of decay or even fatigue; quite as fine, I would have thought, as when the Professor drank it sixty odd years earlier. Surely there never was another Port like the ’47’s. They were all good and lasted as no other Port ever lasted.

As far as I can remember, the last bottle of ’47 that I drank was one, shipper unknown, which Charles and Geoffrey Turner opened when Maurice Healy and I lunched at their office in 1933; and it was still excellent.

Vintagewise: The Fifties

Posted: 03:34 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

Code: Select all

1850   A very good vintage                             38,487
1851   A remarkably fine vintage                       32,947
1852   A good vintage                                  31,664
1853   A remarkably fine vintage                       55,611
1854   A very fair vintage, in spite of the first      35,304
       inroads of the oïdium
1855   A bad vintage: ruined by the oïdium             34,386
1856   Another complete failure owing to the oïdium    41,621
1857   Yet another failure owing to the same scourge   28,736
1858   A very good vintage                             16,690
1859   A poor vintage                                  19,547
This decade in the valley of the Douro, as at Jerez, saw the invasion of the oïdium, a scourge which was checked chiefly owing to the whole-hearted and intelligent efforts of such men as J. J. Forrester, better known as Baron Forrester, James Dow and other members of the English factory at Oporto. James Dow wrote that the reason why oïdium made such lightening progress when it first appeared in the Valley of the Upper Douro was that the vines had little power of resistance, having been exhausted by too long a series of fine vintages, from 1846 to 1853; he was probably right.

The 1851’s were Professor George Saintsbury’s first love, when he started his Cellar Book: ‟’51 in all its phases, dry, rich and medium, was, I think, such a wine as deserved the famous and pious encomium (slightly altered) that the Almighty might no doubt have caused a better wine to exist, but that He never did.” Although I am not prepared to go quite so far, I would be unpardonably ungrateful did I not give the ’51’s the full praise which they certainly deserve. They were fine, indeed, finer than any Port of the present century [reminder: ‟First published October 1945 … Fifth (Revised) Impression 1950”], and they lasted remarkably well, but they were never quite so dependable as the ’47’s. We had, at Mark Lane, two fine bins of ’51, one a Cockburn and the othera Kopke, both quite different. The Cockburn was a lighter wine with a somewhat dry finish—that is towards the end of its life, when four score years in a bottle—but it retained to the very end a rare degree of distinction; it was ever a real aristocrat. The Kopke was darker, sweeter, more mellow and a delightful glass of Port, indeed, but it has not quite the ‟breed” of the Cockburn, that wonderful charm which is so difficult to define, and the greatest privilege of the born aristocrat. Francis Berry also had a bin of the Kopke ’51 at Wimbledon, but it was a ‟tired” wine, not nearly so good as mine; it may have been bottled a little later or, more probably, badly cellared at some time or other of its long life. A fine specimen of ’51 was the Quarles Harris ’51 which was served at the first meeting of the Saintsbury Club, at Vintners’ Hall, in October 1931; it was fresh and delightful even if not quite up to the high standard of the Cockburn ’51.

In 1853, when the unprecedented figure of 55,611 pipes of Port were shipped from Oporto—much of it was wine of the 1851 vintage—exceedingly fine wines were made, which never received the full measure of appreciation which they deserved, many merchants having ‟put their shirt” on the ’51’s—and, apparently having no other to spare for the ’53’s. I would not hesitate to put ’53 ahead of ’51, a short head, of course, but enough to be adjudged the winner. It had a sweeter finish, a more gracious farewell than the ’51, that is when both were already half a century old; maybe the ’51’s were the better of the two when both were appreciably younger.

I do not recall ever tasting a ’54, of which Professor Saintsbury wrote: ‟I cannot find that I ever possessed any ’54, which, though not a large or very famous vintage, some not bad judges ranked with the ’51 itself.”

Coming after three consecutive disastrous vintages, ’58 was hailed as a fine wine: it was good but not great. I never owned any and I do not remember tasting any except once, at Ernest Cockburn’s Oxted home, in 1938. It was interesting but too old.

Vintagewise: The Sixties

Posted: 03:34 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

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1860   Fair to middling; wines rather too dry      27,860
1861   Fair but not fine; wines rather too light   26,920
1862   Good, sound wines, but too dry              29,710
1863   A splendid vintage                          34,905
1864   A poor vintage                              35,619
1865   A moderate vintage                          39,209
1866   A bad vintage                               40,507
1867   A very fair vintage                         34,686
1868   A splendid vintage                          35,727
1869   A poor vintage                              40,833
This decade produced two quite outstanding vintages, those of 1863 and 1868, but there were also some ’61, ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67, and even one ’69 shipped as Vintages.

Between the ’63 and ’68 I would not hesitate to place ’68 first, but that is probably because my experience of both these vintages was when they had already spent about forty years in bottle and the ’63, a lighter wine, did not stand up to the ordeal of time with the sweet smile which the ’68’s did not lose for many years after that. The two best ’68’s, or the two ’68’s which I knew best, were Cockburn and Dow: we had a bin of each at Mark Lane and whenever one was opened so was the other in order to try to settle the much vexed question as to which was the better wine, and both bins came to an end before we could make up our minds; both were delightful wines right up to 1930, when there was no more.

Cockburn ’68 was a truly magnificent wine which I have met many times at the board of many friends as well as at my own, always with keenly pleasurable anticipation that was never disappointed. But I do not think that it ever stood out in greater glory than upon a memorable evening, in November 1936, at “Bachelors,† Mr. and Mrs. Eustace Oldham’s charming home in Ockham [pictures of the farm], when our guests placed before us—and Ernest Cockburn was one of the guests—a symposium of Cockburns, four perfect specimens of the 1912, 1908, 1900 and 1868 vintages. The ’68, which had been bottled in 1870, by Palmer, of Hull, had a finer bouquet than any of the youngsters, more colour than the 1900, the sweetness and fresh charm of the ’12, but with greater intensity or concentration. It was, indeed, a magnificent wine. The last time I tasted a ’68, presumably Cockburn, the cork was branded “Biggs 1868† (Biggs, of Dorchester, being the bottlers of the wine), it came from Charles Hasslacher’s private cellar. He gave it to us in June 1944, at 6 Idol Lane, Ian Campbell, Alfred Heath, William Clemow and I being the guests, and it was still delicious. It had lost some colour and power, of course, but none of its charm.

I have never owned any ’61 Port and I do not remember ever tasting any except once, when staying with Sir Francis Colchester-Wemyss [author of Pleasures of the Table]; the name of the shipper was not known, but the wine was very pleasant. In his Notes on a Cellar Book, Professor George Saintsbury mentions the ’61, without name of shipper, Sandeman ’63 and ’67, Rebello Valente ’65, and, of course, the ’68. Of the ’65 he writes: “Now ’65, like ’53, has no general repute as a vintage, some people think the Rebello Valente ‘coarse’. I can only say that this, for a ‘black-strap’ wine, was excellent, and I confess that I do not despise ‘black-strap.’ †

Although there is every reason to believe, from contemporary evidence, that ’64 and ’66 were both bad vintages, two firms, and two of the best-known among shippers, Martinez Gassiot and Offley Forrester, offered and sold a ’64 vintage and a ’66 vintage, which goes to prove that there is no bad year in which it is not possible to find some good wines somewhere. The case is different with another notoriously bad vintage, that of ’69, which was shipped by one solitary shipper, Messrs. Croft, and a beautiful wine it was, but it was not a ’69 and everybody knew it.

What happened was this: the summer of 1868 was exceptionally hot and the grapes were shrivelled by the heat; there was no question about this; the head of the House of Croft had seen them with his own eyes, when visiting the firm’s vineyards in the Alto Douro; and so he declared to all who met him on his return to Oporto that there would be no Vintage—and hardly any wine at all. But it so happened that the moment he had turned his horse’s head towards Oporto, a fine rain had descended upon the shrivelled grapes which were bursting forth sugar and only wanted this gift from heaven to swell out and bring forth a wonderful wine, one of the finest vintages ever made in the Douro. But Croft would not go back upon their word: they had declared that there was not going to be a ’68 vintage and there was no Croft ’68—but everybody knew that Croft ’69 was ’68.

Both the ’65 and ’67 vintages were shipped by a limited number of shippers, all of whom shipped both the ’63 and ’68; here are their names:
1865: Croft; Dow; Fonseca; Graham; Martinez; Morgan; Offley; Rebello Valente; Sandeman; Smith Woodhouse; Taylor; Tuke Holdsworth.
1867: Cockburn; Croft; Dow; Feuerheerd; Gould Campbell; Graham; Martinez; Offley; Sandeman; Tuke Holdsworth.

Vintagewise: The Seventies

Posted: 03:34 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

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1870   Quite a fine vintage               42,696
1871   A failure                          43,471
1872   A fairly good vintage              50,182
1873   A very good vintage                49,646
1874   A very poor vintage                56,531
1875   An excellent vintage               60,549
1876   A poor vintage                     58,864
1877   An even poorer vintage than 1876   61,419
1878   An exceptionally fine vintage      47,251
1879   A complete failure                 48,691
The ’78 was undoubtedly the finest vintage of the decade; it was shipped by all shippers. Then, in order of excellence, came the ’70, ’73, ’75 and ’72, all four being shipped as vintage wines by a majority of the Port shippers. Nobody thought of shipping the ’76 as a vintage, but Sandeman shipped a ’77, Feuerheerd shipped a ’71, and the wines of ’74 were shipped by no less than three firms, Martinez, Offley, and Tuke Holdsworth.

Professor George Saintsbury has named Dow ’78 as “one of the best wines of the century,† besides which he had, in his own cellar, at some time or other, Dow ’70, Feuerheerd ’73, Croft ’75, and Sandeman ’70, ’72, ’73, and ’78. He also has recorded his appreciation of a late bottled ’73, shipper’s name unknown, in the following terms: “But the gem of the three was a ’73, which had been allowed to remain in wood until it was eight or nine years old, and in bottle for about as much longer before I bought it. It had lost very little colour and not much body of the best kind; but if there ever was any devil in its soul that soul had thoroughly exorcized the intruder and replaced it with an angel. I had my headquarters at Reading at the time, and a member of my family was being attended to by the late Mr. Oliver Maurice, one of the best-known practitioners between London and Bristol. He once appeared rather doubtful when I told him that I had given his patient Port; so I made him taste this. He drank it as Port should be drunk—a trial of the bouquet; a slow sip; a rather larger and less slow one, and so on; but never a gulp; and during the drinking his face exchanged its usual bluff and almost brusque aspect for the peculiar blandness—a blandness as of Beulah if not of heaven itself—which good wine gives to worthy countenances. And when he set the glass down he said, softly but cordially, ‘That won’t do her any harm.’ But I am not entirely certain that in his heart of hearts he did not think it rather wasted on a lady, in which, as I have said, I think he was wrong.†

n April 1938, and again in October 1941 and in April 1944, we had the Sandeman ’78, at the Saintsbury Club Meetings, and it had stood the test of time admirably: it was deep in colour, fresh, full and fragrant; a real bargain at 65s. per dozen, which was the price the Club paid for it at the Queen Charlotte’s Hospital Sale, in April 1937. We also bought at that same sale some Offley’s Boa Vista ’70, for which we paid the same price. We tried it at the April meeting, in 1939; it was still sweet and pleasing, but showing traces of being tired of its long solitary confinement, and we gave what was left of it to the Red Cross Sale in 1942.

The only ’73 of which I have any pleasant recollections is a Dow of that vintage which Frank Mayor gave me, in 1934. The ’75’s had greater charm than body; they might have been called “ladylike.† We had quite a fair bin of Martinez ’75 at No. 24 and it was one of Ian Campbell’s favourites. At the dinner given at the Vintners’ Hall, in 1922, on the occasion of the Pasteur’s Centenary, when the Brewers and Vintners of London entertained Pasteur’s grandson, Dr. Pasteur Vallery-Radot, Martinez ’75 was the Port that crowned a remarkable sequence of fine wines.

The last time that I ever tasted a ’75 was at Israel Sieff’s Park Lane flat, in December 1936, when he opened a bottle of Cockburn ’75, and it was still good, though it had obviously been better.

Of the ’78’s Cockburn was the one I knew best and had most of, but I remember gratefully a truly remarkable bottle of Croft ’78 which the late C. C. B. Moss [perhaps the Scottish mountaineer?] gave me, in 1931, at his Clement’s Lane office. A rather unusual and very agreeable recollection which I also treasure is that of a bottle of Graham 1878, bottled in 1882, which Ian Campbell gave us at his office one hot August day, in 1929; the occasion was the anniversary of his wedding day, and although we rather wished he had chosen the winter to get married, this charming late-bottled vintage Port managed to beat the weather.

Vintagewise: The Eighties

Posted: 03:35 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

Code: Select all

                                       Total   Shipments
                                     Shipments  to U.K.
                                       Pipes     Pipes
1880   Moderate to fair quality        62,599   27,363
1881   Fair to fine quality            55,654   24,429
1882   Poor to moderate quality        59,479   26,130
1883   Middling to bad quality         65,912   27,187
1884   A very good vintage             62,303   26,793
1885   Fair to middling quality        65,144   26,816
1886   A poor vintage                  75,173   27,952
1887   A good vintage                  52,679   30,010
1888   A small vintage; fair quality   50,191   27,481
1889   Fair to moderate quality        56,155   36,536
There was no outstanding vintage wine made during the Eighties, but some very nice wines indeed, chiefly, in order of excellence, those of 1881, 1884 and 1887. But it so happened that Queen Victoria celebrated her Jubilee in 1887, an accident which was responsible for making the ’87 Ports immensely popular. Professor George Saintsbury called them ‟the (as it seemed to me) always over-rated ’87’s.” The wines of the Eighties which were in his cellar at some time or other were: Martinez 1880; Cockburn, Graham, and Sandeman 1881; Cockburn, Warre, Taylor, and Graham 1884; Croft 1885; Croft, Dow, Martinez, Offley, Sandeman, Silva & Cosens, Smith Woodhouse, Taylor, and Warre 1887.

There were only three firms who shipped the ’80’s as a vintage, Graham, Martinez and Taylor; four who shipped the ’85’s, Croft, Gould Campbell, Graham, Martinez and Offley [sic]; only one (Martinez) the ’86’s; one also (Offley) the ’88’s; whilst practically everybody shipped the ’81’s, ’84’s and ’87’s.

Personally I preferred the ’84’s to both the ’81’s and ’87’s; the first, I thought, were a little weak-kneed and the second rather harsh, whilst the ’84’s I had, more particularly Graham, possessed that happy combination of grace and power which a fine Vintage Port should possess.

Vintagewise: The Nineties

Posted: 03:35 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

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                                          Total   Shipments
                                        Shipments  to U.K.
                                          Pipes     Pipes
1890   Fair, even if rather light wines   57,172   34,620
1891   Moderate to fair quality           58,046   37,618
1892   Irregular: some very fine wines 
       and others quite poor              67,963   48,512
1893   A poor vintage                     48,555   27,663
1894   A fairly good vintage              45,144   26,927
1895   A failure                          51,031   29,097
1896   A splendid vintage                 52,289   31,056 
1897   A fine vintage                     54,492   34,500  
1898   A failure                          58,867   38,855  
1899   Fair to middling quality           52,279   34,479
The best wine of the Nineties was that of 1896, but there is little doubt that 1897 would have ranked as a very fine vintage also, had it not had the misfortune to follow too close upon the heels of the ’96’s. Besides these two vintages, there were also some nice wines made in 1890, 1892 and 894, all three vintages being shipped by most shippers although not in any large quantities. Professor George Saintsbury owned at some time or other some Cockburn, Rebello Valente, Dow, Silva & Cosens, Sandeman, Taylor, Tuke Holdsworth, and Warre ’90; Sandeman ’91; Gould Campbell, Offley, and Sandeman ’92; Dow ’94; Cockburn, Feuerheerd, Graham, Silva & Cosens, and Smith Woodhouse ’96; Graham, Sandeman, and Smith Woodhouse ’97; and Dow ’99, a vintage which was not shipped by any other firm. Curiously enough the Professor names the ’90 with the ’51 and the ’70 as ‟the three best ports I ever had.” We has some Sandeman ’90 at the Saintsbury Club, which came from Lord Leconfield’s cellars [perhaps the 2nd Baron Leconfield?], and all one could say about it was quite sound and very dark, but it was graceless and sweetless. We paid 62s. 6d. per dozen for it and it was not worth more, but maybe it had been kept too long when we had it, in April 1940. We presented the balance of the bin to the Red Cross Wine Sale in 1942, and it fetched a very high price.

Of ’96 I have had more than my fair share, maybe, but every drop of it have I accepted gratefully and enjoyed thoroughly. The three best bottles of this remarkable vintage which stand out in my memory are a perfect bottle of Cockburn, on my [75th] birthday, in 1952 [on Thursday 28th February], at Widcombe Manor [pictures 1 and 2], with Horace Annesley Vachell and his brother; a no less perfect bottle of Taylor, at the Windham, as Maurice Healy’s guest, and a Ferreira of the same vintage at Dolamore’s office, in Baker Street. As to the ’97’s, I place Graham easily first, having been given many opportunities of becoming intimate with this at the hospitable board of my friends Reid, Pye, Campbell and Hall, in the heyday of Mark Lane.

Vintagewise: First Decade of the Twentieth Century

Posted: 03:36 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

Code: Select all

                                                         Total   Shipments
                                                       Shipments  to U.K.
                                                         Pipes     Pipes
1900   Fairly large yield of good wines                  51,557   33,582
1901   Irregular quality                                 50,262   33,831
1902   Small yield; some fair wines                      51,446   34,364
1903   A failure                                         48,007   29,952
1904   Plentiful vintage; good wines                     40,423   25,276
1905   Middling to fair vintage                          44,047   25,677
1906   Disappointing vintage, but some very fair wines   49,366   32,174
1907   A small yield; wines of poor quality              45,901   28,079
1908   Plentiful vintage and excellent wines             43,167   26,691
1909   A small yield but very good quality wines         43,928   25,898
The first two Vintage Ports of the century, 1900 and 1904, were, and still are, good wines, but very different from the old type of Vintage Port of the ‟black-strap” school. They both had their charm and good manners, but not the same stamina as their elders. Professor George Saintsbury bought some Cockburn, Croft, Burmester, Gould Campbell, Martinez, Sandeman, Taylor, and Warre 1900; also some Graham 1901, Graham being the only shipper to offer the ’01 as a vintage; some Offley ’02, and again, no other shipper but Offley offered the ’02 as a vintage; Croft and Dow ’04; and Sandeman ’08. This was the last Port which the Professor bought.

Although practically all shippers all but Dow and Graham shipped a 1900 vintage, and all of them shipped a ’04, neither the one nor the other of these two years was in the same class as the ’08’s, a far more complete, more robust wine, but not in the least brutal. The three ’08’s that we had at the Saintsbury Club were Ferreira, Graham, and Sandeman, all three delightful, and I am not sure that we did not drink them rather too soon, but the poor keeping quality of the 1900’s and 1904’s had put the fear of ‟age” into me and I felt that we had better enjoy the ’08’s which had been presented to the Club before either wine or giver had become too old. They had, when we drank them, already spent close upon twenty-five years in bottle, so that they were not immature by any means, but I am particularly sorry that we did not keep the Graham ’08, because it was in Magnums and had every chance of keeping well. I think that I have tasted most if not all ’08’s, but never one that I would not be glad to taste again: they were all good. The one I knew best was Graham ’08, and it is also the only Vintage Port that I can remember drinking with real pleasure outside England or Scotland. It was served in June 1929, at Elledam, near Copenhagen, at the dinner given by Aage Asmussen, when my wife and I and Francis Leslie were guests, and it was absolutely delicious full, fresh and fruity, as well as, of course, a complete surprise. Graham ’08 most pleasantly provided another surprise one cold day in February 1933, wen I was given a delightful Port to drink which my host, Ian Campbell, called casually ‟Graham ’08.” I did not like to challenge him since, in his own office and serving his own wine, he must know what the wine was. All the same I could swear that it was not the Graham ’08 that I knew. And it was not. It was the true Graham ’08 right enough, but whilst the one I knew was bottled in England in 1910, the one in my glass that day had been bottled at Oporto and in 1911.

I have very pleasant memories of the ‟off” years of this opening decade of the twentieth century, the 1901, 1902 and 1909. Of the three the ’09 was by far the best, better, as a matter of fact, than either the 1900 or the 1904, but nobody shipped it as a vintage. So much Vintage Port had been sold in England at a time when the demand was falling owing to changes in social habits, chiefly to the growing fashion of entertaining at hotels and restaurants instead of at home, that it had not been easy to sell the 1908 vintage, excellent as the wines of that year were, and the merchants in England had been assured by the shippers that there would not be any 1909 vintage. And the shippers kept their word. It was a pity, but the wines of 1909 were not wasted, far from it. They helped raise the quality of ruby and Tawny wines, that is to say wines matured in the wood.

The 1902 vintage was a very moderate one, both as to the quantity and quality of the wines made; but, as in all moderate or even poor years, there is some good wine made somewhere, and there certainly was some good Port made in 1902 at Roncao, one of the best Quintas of the Alto Douro. It was a remarkable wine, with the most eel-like satiny body imaginable; it just vanished, leaving a very pleasant and puzzling aftertaste, which actually compelled one to have just one more glass. I never tasted it but once, but never forgot it. It was served at the dinner which Carl Williams gave in March 1933, at the Savoy, when his son, Charles Riddell Williams, joined Messrs Williams and Humbert.

Vintagewise: The Second Decade of the Twentieth Century

Posted: 03:36 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

Code: Select all

                                                         Total   Shipments
                                                       Shipments  to U.K.
                                                         Pipes     Pipes
1910   Small yield and irregular quality                 58,307    33,072
1911   Small yield but some fine wines of fine quality   47,986    27,839
1912   Fair quantity of excellent wines                  53,052    28,753
1913   A failure                                         54,100    31,504
1914   Fair yield of fairly good wine                    49,453    33,930
1915   Average quantity of mostly good wines             51,067    34,526
1916   Plentiful vintage and good quality                74,313    54,182
1917   Rather small yield but very good wines            39,186    22,418
1918   Very small yield but some fine wines              85,024    56,918
1919   Average quantity; quality irregular              183,161   117,063
The only wine of this decade to be shipped by all shippers as a vintage wine was that of 1912, but the 1917’s were shipped by a dozen or so shippers, and half a dozen (Delaforce, A. A. Ferreira, Kopke, Mackenzie, Martinez, and Offley) also shipped a ’19. The best of the three was undoubtedly the ’12, a charming enough wine but not a stayer. We never had but the Cockburn ’12 [meaning that the only ’12 had was the Cockburn?], at the Saintsbury Club, and we drank the last of it in 1944, when it was at its best—or just past it. Fifteen years earlier, in 1929, Donald Wardley had given me a bottle of Cockburn 1912, which had made me grateful, because it was so good, but it also made me doubtful, because it was so good so young.

We had a small bin of 1917 Sandeman at the Saintsbury Club; this wine was good without being great and we drank the last of it with pleasure and no regrets in 1943.

The war of 1914—1918 had far-reaching repercussions upon the consumption of Port, in England, as upon that of other wines, but, whilst it lasted, in spite of a certain amount of dislocation of transport facilities, there was never was any question of a shortage of Port in this country and the rise in the price of this, as of other wines, cannot be attributed to demand outpacing supply; prices rose, very likely, “in sympathy,† as they say on the Stock Exchange, with the upward trend of wages, war profits and prices in general. What was to be of very great benefit to the Port wine trade in the British Isles, however, was the Anglo-Portuguese Commercial Treaty Act, 1914 (5 Geo. V, c. 1), implemented by the Anglo-Portuguese Commercial Treaty Act, 1916 (6 & 7 Geo. V, c. 39), according to which “the description ‘port’ or ‘madeira’ applied to any wine or other liquor, other than wine the produce of Portugal and the island of Madeira respectively, shall be deemed to be a false trade description within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, and that Act shall have effect accordingly.†

This Act was intended to give to the wines of Oporto and Madeira the full protection of the law in England, and it did achieve its object, up to a point, even if not so fully as the port shippers had hoped. True the sale of Australian or any other wine under the name Australian Port, British Port or the like was no longer permitted, but the lawyers decided that the undertaking given to Portugal that the names of her chief wines should be protected by law was not broken when wines not entitled to such protection were sold as Port-type or Port-style.

Vintagewise: The Third Decade of the Twentieth Century

Posted: 03:37 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

Code: Select all

                                                                 Total   Shipments
                                                               Shipments  to U.K.
                                                                 Pipes     Pipes
1920   Small yield of good wines                                58,349    49,909
1921   Small vintage but fair quality wines                     47,333    39,940
1922   Average quantity but quality above the average           79,303    54,332
1923   Small yield; fair quality                                82,796    55,422
1924   Very small yield but very fine quality                  105,538    80,895
1925   Another small vintage but wines of very good quality    111,287    74,112
1926   Yet another small yield, and the wines of poor quality   98,035    68,215
1927   Large yield of very good wines                           94,428    56,419
1928   A complete failure                                       77,339    43,585
1929   An irregular vintage                                     87,228    51,682
The only wine of outstanding vintage character and merit of this decade was that of 1927, and, incidentally, was the only vintage offered during those ten years by Messrs. Cockburn, but the majority of shippers sold the ’20’s, ’22’s, and ’24’s, as well as the ’27’s. The 1927 vintage is the last to have been sold in England on anything like a large scale, and it is likely to be remembered as the saturation point of the Vintage Port trade in the United Kingdom. Wine merchants who had been led by their own optimism or the salesmanship of the Port shippers to buy the wines of ’20, ’22, ’24, ’27, as well as some “off† vintages in-between, in order to bottle them early, woke up to the fact, during the Thirties, that they had been bottling Vintage Ports much faster than the public was drinking them, and that much too large a share of their working capital was likely to be “frozen† for a considerable time.

They had, at the Junior Carlton Club, in 1939, a bin of Graham 1922 “from the wood†. which must have gone the way of all good things and very quickly; it was delicious even if not Vintage Port in the true sense of word. But a Fonseca ’22, bottled in 1924, was already quite acceptable and freely drunk, in 1939, and so was the same shipper’s ’27, after a mere ten years in bottle. I also remember a lunch at Frascati’s, the last time Alfred Schyler was in London, when we all enjoyed a Graham ’24, in May 1938, and wondering at its being so “ready† to drink. The days of the “black-strap† Ports are gone and gone for ever.

Vintagewise: The Fourth Decade of the Twentieth Century

Posted: 03:37 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1

Code: Select all

           Exports from Oporto
         Total    To Great Britain
         litres        litres
1930   44,184,440    22,510,560
1931   45,142,630    23,518,030
1932   41,636,360    16,982,130
1933   35,938,530    17,660,020
1934   38,153,618    18,576,143
1935   38,338,132    18,477,076
1936   44,910,253    20,756,945
1937   44,646,214    20,464,795
1938   38,321,116    17,653,140
1939   40,906,853    24,051,436
The natural consequence of the overselling which had taken place during the twenties was a slump in the shipment of Vintage Port during the Thirties. Some good wines were made in 1934, 1935 and 1939, and some very fine wines indeed were vintaged in 1931, but even the ’31’s were not shipped in any large quantity or by many of the leading shippers; there was too little space available in merchants’ cellars and too little money to spare in the bank. The world economic crisis which led to the Bank of England going off the gold standard, in 1931, affected everybody and retrenchment became a stern necessity at first and almost a fashion after a while; many rich men not only gave up buying wine but offered the contents of their cellars for sale by auction. Port was being offered at prices so low that the prestige of the wine would have been seriously threatened, even if the wines sold had been of good quality. But they were not all good wines. There were rubbishy wines which firms new to the business, firms who had entered the Port trade in the wake of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1916, sold because they were obliged to sell and at any price. The Portuguese Government stepped in and, after a number of very stormy meetings at Oporto and in the Upper Douro, the “Casa do Douro† was created, in 1932, a Federation of Vineyard Proprietors in the Douro, to operate from a central office at Regoa, with branches in the various villages of the Alto Douro, its officials being entrusted with the supervision of the making of the wines. the fixing of prices, the checking and, whenever necessary, the disposal of stocks in growers’ hands, and, generally speaking, being responsible for the upkeep of the highest possible standard of quality at seat of production. At the other end, at Oporto, the shippers were also legislated for and organized into a Port Shippers’ Association, known as “Gremio dos Exportadores,† whose members are the only ones allowed to sell Port wine. No firm to be accepted as a member of the “Gremio† which did not hold a stock of at least 300,000 litres of Port wine. Another official body created soon after and known as the Port Wine Institute, acts as a liaison between the “Casa do Douro,† that is, the growers, and the “Gremio,† that is the shippers. It is this “Institute† which is to undertake the necessary propaganda and publicity campaigns abroad, as well as watch over the quality of all wines leaving Oporto for market abroad. The Port wine trade is now highly “planned† and organized; whether it will be more profitable or not to the merchants and growers concerned is not so important to the rest of us. What we should like to know is whether Port, and particularly Vintage Port, will be as good as and no dearer than in the days of laissez-faire.

Vintagewise: where to post corrections and comments

Posted: 03:38 Sun 07 Sep 2008
by jdaw1
jdaw1 wrote:This thread contains the text of the chapter on Port in André L. Simon’s book Vintagewise, as typed by jdaw1. There will doubtless be errors in the typing, and readers may well have other comments. Please post corrections and comments in the thread Vintagewise: Corrections and Comments.

Re: Vintagewise, by André L. Simon

Posted: 04:46 Wed 11 Mar 2009
by DRT
I purchased a copy of this book from for the sum of £0.01 + £2.95 postage. I would like to share with you the first three of twelve "Menus" from this highly entertaining little book:
when my wife and I were hosts, at home or afloat, or at the office

The place:
24, Mark Lane.

The date:
December 20, 1906

The guests:
A. S. Gardiner. W. G. Master, L. Greenwood, H. M. Percy, J. H. Hewitt, H.H. Williams, C. K. Randall, J. Donelan, Toby Folks.

The fare:
Huitres Natives.
Barbue au gratin, sauce Champingnons.
Dinde rotie aux Marrons.
Pommes nature.
Choux de Bruxelles.
Christmas Pudding.
Mince Pies. Fruits.

The wines:
Chablis Moutonne 1893.
Pommery & Grenno 1893 Nature.
Chateau Huat Brion 1864.
Hine's VVSOP 1870.

The place:
The Grange, Norbiton.

The date:
February 28, 1914.

The guests:
Ian and Hilda Campbell, Charles Rolfes, W. H. Garrett, Henry Schiller, H. Molitor Moll.

The fare:
Huitres de Whitstable.
Saumon d'Ecosse.
Ris de veau.
Agneau de Pauillac.
Poulets de Surrey.

The wines:
Amontillado, bottled 1897.
Chablis La Moutonne 1985.
Chateau d'Yquem 1869.
Eitelscbacher Karthauserhofberg Auslese 1893.
Pommery 1889.
Leoville 1871.
Richebourg 1878.
Foster Jesuitengarten Auslese 1900.
Marcobrunn Auslese 1880.
Croft 1858.
Fine Brown Sherry, Solera 1860.
Hine's 1848.

The place:
24, Mark Lane.

The date:
January 10, 1924.

The guests:
Sir James Agg-Gardner, Gerald Duckworth, "Jumbo" Jolliffe, Dr George Williamson..

The fare:
Split lobsters.
Roast pheasants.
Stilton cheese.

The wines:
Pommery 1906 (Magnum).
Chateau Lafite 1878 (Imperiale).
Cockburn 1847 (Magnum).
Denis Mounie 1808.
Beyond decadence :wink: 88)

Re: Vintagewise, by André L. Simon

Posted: 04:03 Sat 04 Apr 2009
by DRT
I came back to this thread for another purpose but it caused me to read the other 9 menus from this book. The most interesting wine list I encountered, despite the lack of port, was from Menu XI, consumed at Little Hedgecourt on 16th July 1939 by Mr & Mrs Simon, Mr & Mrs Whitehead and Mr McGregor:

Madeira: Blandy's 1792, bottled 1840
Moselle: Zeltinger Rotlay Auslee 1934
Claret: Chateau Ausone 1899 and 1892
Tokay: 1811 Tokay Essence, bottled c. 1840, walled in during the revolution of 1849, rediscovered in 1925 and imported in that year by Berry Bros.
Cognac: Bisquit Dubouche 1830

Perhaps he was trying to drink up the goodies before all hell broke loose?