Vintage Reports

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Fonseca 1963
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Vintage Reports

Post by AHB » 22:47 Mon 17 Aug 2009

Some years ago, I started to collect vintage reports when I came across them. It is not a comprehensive list, but I thought it might be of interest and future reference. Anything that can be added, please post and I will update this first post.


1756 ”“ In the late 19th century (1896), the Companhia Vinícola do Norte had bottles of this wine on sale, considered to be quality wine.

1765 ”“ In 1768, for the first time, Christie’s revealed a ‟Vintage” from that year, in its catalogue.

1775 ”“ In the opinion of some authors, this is the first Wine from the Douro Region to be exported to England, which is truly deserving the designation ‟Vintage.” An exceptional wine, very similar to that of 1765.

1790 ”“ According to Sandeman, with its activity in London, the first ‟Vintage” was bottled by George Sandeman in 1792. Bottles of this wine could still be found in the late 19th century.

1797 ”“ In 1809, at the time of the French invasions, George Sandeman, during a dinner in Torres Vedras with General Wellington, refers to this wine as being ‟the finest of all.” Also present at that same dinner was General Calvert, who asked George Sandeman to ship two casks of this wine to England, one of which was to be offered to the Duke of York, who was Commander-in-chief of the British Army. Since that time, the 1797 Sandeman has been known as the ‟Duke of York Port.”

1798 ”“ A year of very high-quality wines, considered by some as being even better than those of 1786.

1802/1806/1810/1811/1812 ”“ A very good Vintage in 1806, with the remaining years comprising some wines warranting a special distinction, as they were regarded as ‟very fine.”

1815 ”“ Appearance of ‟Waterloo Port”, undoubtedly one of the great Vintage wines of the 19th century. This wine, which was a hit at International Exhibitions during the second half of the century, was still being marketed in the 1930’s.

1820 ”“ Forrester said, ‟an excellent novelty! where all wines were naturally (and unusually) full-bodied, sweet and flavorful.”

1821 ”“ An excellent Vintage, in terms of quality and quantity. The Companhia’s «Judgment of the Year» felt that «the said novelty has maturity, a pleasant aroma and taste, close to that of the previous year (1820), to which it is compared, though with a little less color, and maturity; however, there are casks of eve better quality wine than that of the aforementioned Novelty...».

1834 ”“ A famous and very fine Vintage, regarded as one of the best of the 19th century.

1840 ”“ Also according to Forrester, this was the year of ‟generally pure, dry wines. A remarkable wine.

1847 ”“ An excellent Vintage year.

1858 ”“ This full-bodied wine was another great Vintage of the 19th century. That year, the harvest took place at an earlier date, in early September.

1863 ”“ A sublime Vintage, considered to be one of the best in the annals of Port Wine, in the opinion of Ernest Cockburn. All companies announced they had Vintage wine.

1868 ”“ An exceptionally hot year, in the month of August the harvest appeared doomed, since the grapes showed signs of burns. However, a light rain prior to the harvest saved the year. This gives rise to a rich, robust wine, one of the finest Vintages of the 19th century. All companies announced they had Vintage wine.

1870 ”“ Years of thin production, with every company announcing they had Vintage wine. An excellent wine, compared by some to that of the year 1834.

1872 ”“ Not all companies announced they had Vintage wine. Unlike what was originally expected, this wine showed itself as being an excellent Vintage, with very rich, elegant wines.

1873 ”“ Nearly all companies announced they had Vintage wine. A year with ideal conditions, with a late harvest. A Vintage greatly characterized by its sweetness.

1875 ”“ The inexorable progression of phylloxera was notorious, thus giving rise to very thin production. A very hot, dry summer caused grapes to almost look like raisins at harvest time, with a high sugar content. All companies announced they had Vintage wine. These good, slightly dry Vintages ended up being somewhat disappointing, as they matured quickly.

1878 ”“ Disturbing times because of phylloxera, with a few landowners in Cima Corgo deciding to no longer grow grapes. According to Ernest Cockburn, news from the Douro region was alarming: because of Phylloxera, a thin harvest was expected. The weather in July and August was quite variable; fortunately, however, there were significant changes for the harvest which took place as of mid-September. All companies ended up announcing they had Vintage wine, which turned out to be an exceptional wine.

1881 ”“ Several companies announced they had Vintage wine. When these wines were bottled, they offered much promise, but ended up being a disappointment. Various exporting companies arrived on the scene, but felt that Vintage wines would no longer be produced in the future, because to phylloxera.

1884 ”“ A year of thin production, also due to phylloxera, with a very hot July and rain in late August giving rise to a late harvest. With many companies announcing they had Vintage wine, some great wines would result, with better-than-expected results.

1887 ”“ ‟Queen Victoria’s Jubilee” Vintage. This year of thin production turned out to be one of the century’s best, comparable to 1834. All companies ended up announcing they had Vintage wine. A year with a hot summer, with harvest occurring under ideal conditions, with hot days and cool nights.

1890 ”“ Many companies announced they had Vintage wine, in a year of low production. A few good Vintage wines, somewhat light and dry.

1892 ”“ Many companies announced they had Vintage wine. This year was marked by a hot, dry summer, giving rise to very ripe grapes, which caused a few winepresses to find it difficult to control the fermentation process. In small quantities, a few good wines which, because of the difficulty in obtaining aquavitae that year, a few were fortified using aquavitae from the Azores.

1894 ”“ The vineyards were stricken with mildew. Eve under the circumstances, several companies announced they had Vintage wine. A limited harvest, but with good wines. The difficulty in obtaining aquavitae continued, with the aquavitae from the Azores being used once again; however, it should also be noted that aquavitae from the Douro region is used in the best wines. A hot, dry summer that year, with some rain in late September.

1896 ”“ An exceptional Vintage year, with all companies announcing they had Vintage wine. With an early harvest, wines that were not very mature were obtained, as they had less color and body, but which evolved very nicely in the bottle.

1897 ”“ With most companies announcing they had Vintage wine the previous year, there were few of them doing so this year. A remarkable Vintage wine at all levels, which was considered by a few wine lovers to be superior to the one from 1896. There was still a shortage of aquavitae for use in improving the wines. Along with the case of Sandeman, which fortified its legendary 1897 Vintage using Scotch Whisky, other companies chose to import alcohol and aquavitae from Germany, Denmark and even Iceland.

1900 ”“ After some rain in late September and early October, a late harvest took place with good weather. With nearly all companies announcing they had a great Vintage, both in quality and in quantity, these delicate, balanced wines had less color and body than a few more remarkable Vintages.

1904 ”“ All companies announced they had Vintage wine that was not very dark but elegant and fruity. Because of the shortage of aquavitae in Portugal, it continued to be imported. A year with a bountiful harvest followed by rains in mid-September.

1908 ”“ A year in which it was very cold in the winter but very hot in the spring and summer, especially in late September, around harvest time, with difficulty for a few producers in controlling the fermentation of the must. All companies announced they had Vintage wine. A great wine, fine, very stable, robust and a dark red, mature with a ‟roasted coffee” aroma.

1911 ”“ To commemorate George V’s accession to the throne, Sandeman separately announced the ‟Coronation Vintage.” An exception in a poor year. When speaking of this Vintage by Sandeman, Ernest Cockburn said, ‟For a very long time to come, it will be recalled as an example of everything that is superior in Vintage Port.”

1912 ”“ With nearly all companies announcing they had Vintage wine, it was an exceptional year, both in quality and quantity. A classic, full-bodied Vintage, with a concentration and harmony of fruit and tannins.

1917 ”“ Right in the middle of the War, a few companies did not announce having any Vintage wine, while most did so. A hot, dry summer, with some rain in September. A very late harvest, during the second week of October, with fine weather. This resulted in a good Vintage, full-bodied, rich in aromas and tannins.

1920 ”“ An excellent Vintage, very fine, well balanced and fruity. Nearly all companies announced their first post-War Vintage wine.

1922 ”“ An excellent Vintage, full-bodied, colorful and robust, though very fine. Nearly all exporting cellars announced they had Vintage wine.

1924 ”“ Limited production, after a chilly summer. With some rain in September. Nearly all cellars announced they had Vintage wine. An excellent-quality Vintage, dark red, full-bodied and with a pleasant aroma.

1927 ”“ One of the classics, among the 20th century’s best. Dark red, highly concentrated and with a balance of aromas. A year of exceptional production, also in terms of quantity, with quantities well above normal. All cellars announced they had Vintage wine. It was exported in 1929, the year of the Great Depression, with traders in London finding it very difficult to sell. Because of this fact, part of it was used for producing ordinary lots of Port Wine.

1931 ”“ Also as a result of the Great Depression, very few cellars decided to announce Vintage wine production, since demand for more expensive wines had decreased quite a bit. However, an exceptional novelty was presented: eventually one of the century’s best, rich wines with fruity aromas and tannins, quite capable of evolving/aging. The first Vintage from Noval, bearing the designation ‟Nacional”. In 1999, this wine was considered by ‟Wine Spectator” to be one of the 12 best wines of the 20th century.

1934 ”“ Quite hot in July, with some rain in September; this gave rise to a mature and fruity wine of extraordinary quality.

1935 ”“ A classic Vintage, with a few companies announcing they did not have any Vintage wine, as they had done so the previous year (‟split Vintage”). A harmonious wine that was very rich in aromas and tannins. In 1937, Sandeman opted to bottle all of its Vintage 25, while commemorating the Jubilee of George V in 1935 and the Coronation of George VI in 1937, with its bottle displaying two medallions pertaining to these events.

1942 ”“ Because of the War, this was the first Vintage wine to have been almost entirely bottled in Portugal. A year of low production. A fine, fruity wine of excellent quality.

1945 ”“ In a dry year, the harvest started early, in the first two weeks of September, after a hot summer, with only a little rain in late August. The first post-War Vintage, bottled in Portugal due to existing restrictions in England. Nearly all cellars announced they had Vintage wine. A classic, full-bodied, dark red, sweet wine with a high concentration of fruit and tannins.

1947 ”“ A high-quality, very fine and elegant Vintage wine. A year with good climate conditions, with higher-than-expected production.

1948 ”“ Undoubtedly a classic Vintage. Suckling said this was one of those ‟magical wines,” made to last a hundred years or more. Thin production. A very hot year giving rise to a sweet, full-bodied wine. The harvest took place at temperatures that peaked at 45ºC. Because the grapes were so sweet, in some cases it was difficult to control fermentation.

1950 ”“ This year resulted in a very sweet, delicate wine, called ‟the lady’s vintage.”

1955 ”“ A hot summer after a rainy winter. Nearly all companies announced they had Vintage wine. Excellent quality, harmonious, dark red, full-bodied and very fruity wines.

1960 - January cold but dry; then continental rain for two months, April perfect, May variable, June and July very hot - prospects good. August and September ideal, fine, enough rain to swell the grapes. Harvest began in heatwave, ended in rain - difficult weather in which to control fermentations. (Sandeman 1960 vintage flyer.)

1963 - By Douro standards an uneventful growing season: snow and rain dying out by the end of April, high hopes then cold and wet to mid-June. July and August fine and dry. Some rain to swell grapes in September. Picking started on 23rd in perfect weather. (Sandeman 1963 vintage flyer.)

1970 - Rare copybook weather pattern - cold and dry March, after warm April, weather ideal. Some rain in September to swell the grapes, which were in perfect condition when picked from 21 September. (Sandeman 1970 vintage flyer.)

1994 - A ‟monumental” Vintage, even more intense than that of 1992, with a concentration of tannins and fruit. James Suckling wrote in the American magazine Wine Spectator, in 1997, that he gave the top mark (100 points) to Vintages by Taylor and by Fonseca, and first place among the top 100 wines of the year, ‟Great Vintage Ports such as this year’s wines rarely come around in a lifetime.” General statement. Excellent weather, harvests occurring under ideal conditions, with perfect grapes.

1995 - The harvest of 1995 produced exceptionally good ports. Fruit set was earlier than usual, but otherwise conditions going into the warm summer months were ideal. Temperatures rose rapidly and remained at high levels, between 35ºC and 40ºC until the harvest, resulting in an early vintage that was smaller than anticipated but of superb quality. Picking at Cavadinha started on the 18th September and benefited from near perfect grape maturatio, with an average Baumé of 12.5º, producing one of the smallest but best balanced wines in many years. (Charles Symington, winemaker for the Symington Family, October 1995)

1996 - January was one of the wettest on record at Vesuvio. The abundant rainfall was welcome following a succession of very dry years. Prolific flowering, combined with a favourable growing season led to a large vintage. Picking at Vesuvio started on September 16th although it was soon halted because of rain. Picking resumed under perfect conditions and the fruit quality was quite exceptional with excellent maturation. Yields were higher than 1995 although the vintage port produced was smaller due to stricter selection. (Peter Symington - Vesuvio vintage report)

2007 - The 2007 growing season was particularly wet and marked by low temperatures in November and February, and then again during May and June. This situation changed considerably in July, August and September, when the high temperatures helped ripening and short periods of light rain reduced the potential of hydrous stress to give optimum conditions for good fruit maturation. Harvesting took place under uncertain weather, with hot days following the rain, allowing for an ideal ending to the vegetative cycle and creating the optimum conditions for the production of excellent quality wines. (Sandeman 2007 vintage flyer.)
Top Ports in 2019: Niepoort VV (1960s bottling) and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
Top Ports in 2020 (so far): Croft 1945 and Niepoort VV (1960s bottling)

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