While in Cornwall over a long weekend I spent a few minutes browsing in a particularly good second hand bookshop that I know. I bought a copy of ‟A Handbook of Wine” by William J Todd, published by Jonathan Cape of Eleven Gower Street, London in 1922. William J Todd died in 1941, which means that the book comes out of copyright on 1 Jan 2012. The copyright for the book lies with the firm Findlater, Mackie & Todd ”“ now owned by Waitrose. Despite repeated attempts by telephone, email and letter to obtain permission from Waitrose to reproduce the text below on the website, I have had absolutely no response other than ‟Someone will call you back.” The impression that I have is that my request is so unusual that no-one quite knows how to deal with it. If anyone reading this text can help obtain permission for me to reproduce it here before 1 Jan 2012, or if anyone believes that they hold the copyright to the text then please bring this to my attention and I will remove this text until the situation is clear.
A Handbook of Wine by William J Todd, published by Jonathan Cape in 1922
Chapter IV ”“ The Wines of Spain and Portugal ”“ Page 54 ”“ The Wines of Portugal wrote:
While the vineyards of France are for the most part on gentle slopes, the black grapes from which Port Wine is made grow on the rocky terraced hills of the mountainous regions of the Douro in the north of Portugal. Port is now defined, by formal agreement incorporated in a Treaty of 1916, as ‘a fortified wine produced in the Douro region and exported through the bar of Oporto.’ No wine not answering to this exact description can be sold now as Port, even with a qualifying name, as, ‘Tarragona Port.’ The grapes are tipped into shallow granite troughs and trodden by the trabalhadores. At a certain stage in the fermentation the process is checked by the introduction of Brandy. The newly-made wine is run off into vats. When the wine falls bright (the cold winter weather of these regions helping to this end) it is racked from its lees. A second racking is given in the warmer spring weather, and the wine is stored in casks.
The three classifications of Ports ”“ Vintage, Ruby, and Tawny ”“ need a word of explanation.
Vintage Ports are the finer wines bottled young (i.e. when about two years old) and matured in the cellar. It is these wines that have really made Port famous in England, as, being bottled thus early, they retain the vintage character and full fruity flavour, ruby colour, and fine bouquet. In the process of maturing in bottle they form the well-known crust.
Only years in which climatic and atmospheric conditions have been favourable to the perfect ripening of the grapes and successful harvest have any chance of coming into the category of ‘vintage years,’ for under such circumstances alone can the wine be expected to possess the necessary fruit and flavour and sufficient fullness of body to throw the firm crust in the bottle. The consumer, if he would consult his purse should buy Vintage Ports early ”“ that is, as soon as the wine merchants have bottled them. A further advantage, which every regular Port buyer knows, is that it is better for the wine to be thus ‘laid down’ and kept in the buyer’s own cellar, free from disturbances of any kind, to be opened at the owner’s discretion or that of his successor.
To preserve the true vintage character all Vintage Ports should be bottled within a period ”“ varying with the particular vintage and wine ”“ of from two to four years from the date the grapes were gathered. Purchasers should always assure themselves as to the bottling date before taking delivery of Vintage Ports.
Ruby Ports stand half-way, in character as in treatment, between Vintage and Tawny. They are good wines, kept in wood for some time before being bottled. They may be of one vintage or a blend. They have lost some of their depth of colour and strength in the wood, but have more body and colour and character than Tawny.
A Tawny Port is a Port that has been slowly maturing in wood instead of in bottle. Ports so stored lose their deep red colour. They are more suitable for consumption in hot climates, but many people in the United Kingdom prefer them to the vintage varieties.
It is a curious fact that whereas Sherries were formerly largely shipped to India ”“ a hot country ”“ on account of the benefits that accrued to the wine either through the motion of the boat or the effects of the change of temperature, Ports are sometimes shipped to cold countries, such as Newfoundland, and stored there for several winters in the very cold and bracing climate. They thus become extremely soft and free from such qualities as are supposed to be conducing to gout, etc. At the same time they retain their freshness and characteristics of true Port.
Decanting Port. When a Port is decanted the white splash on the punt-end of the bottles should be kept uppermost. The decanter must be dry and clean. If not dry, rinse it out with a little ”“ a very little ”“ of the wine. The bottle must not be shaken, even when the cork is withdrawn. If the cork breaks or there is any dust, use a strainer or piece of muslin, but avoid either, if possible. Do not allow any sediment to pass into the decanter. In a well-bottled Port the wine will usually pour out bright to the last. Wine only recently received from the merchants should be stood upright if wanted for immediate use. Stand the wine upright for, say, twenty-four hours in the dining-room to enable it to acquire the temperature of the room. By this means, any crust that may have slipped will also settle. At any rate, all old vintage wines ought to be decanted two or three hours before being consumed. This will allow the wine to develop its bouquet and flavour ”“ to expand them, as it were, after its long confinement. The same remarks apply to all old-bottled wines, whether Vintage Ports or not.
Besides the Ports shipped from Oporto the Lisbon red wines, of a similar type to Ports, grown in the neighbourhood of Lisbon, are also well known. Since the Treaty also referred to, these wines have been largely sold under their proper denomination of ‘Lisbon.’ Generally speaking, they are not so good as the wines from the Douro, as their lack their fine qualities, but some of them come up to the standard of Port of fairish quality.
Port is sold, like Champagne, under the name of the shipper or merchant-shipper. Among the well-known Oporto shippers may be noted:
Butler, Nephew & Co.
Cockburn, Smithies & Co.
Croft & Co.
Delaforce, Sons & Co.
Dow (Silva and Cosens)
Feuerheerd Bros. & Co. Ltd.
Fonseca, Graham & Co.
Gonzalez, Byass & Co.
Gould, Campbell & Co.
Graham, Wm. & John, & Co.
Hunt, Roope & Co.
Mackenzie & Co. Ltd.
Martinez, Gassiot & Co. Ltd.
Offley Forrester Ltd.
Rebello Valente (Robertson Bros. & Co. and G. Simon & Whelon).
Sandeman & Co.
Smith, Woodhouse & Co. Ltd.
Tait, Stormouth & Co.
Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman.
Van Zellers & Co.
Warre & Co.
There is also a table of Port Vintages of the Last Half-Century on page 60, but since I am not able to reproduce tables in the code required for the Board (due to my lack of skill, I suspect), I can only reproduce the information and not the layout:
page 60 of A Handbook of Wine by William J Todd, published by Jonathan Cape in 1922 wrote:1870 ”“ very good quality
1873 ”“ very fine quality
1875 ”“ excellent quality
1878 ”“ excellent quality
1881 ”“ good quality, large yield
1884 ”“ very good quality, very small yield
1887 ”“ fine quality, large yield
1889 ”“ fine quality, large yield
1890 ”“ good quality, large yield
1891 ”“ fair quality
1896 ”“ fine quality
1900 ”“ excellent quality
1901 ”“ fair quality, large yield
1904 ”“ fair quality, large yield
1905 ”“ fair quality, small yield
1908 ”“ very fine quality, large yield
1910 ”“ fair quality, small yield
1911 ”“ very good quality, small yield
1912 ”“ excellent quality, medium yield
1914 ”“ fair quality, small yield
1915 ”“ good quality, medium yield
1916 ”“ good quality, large yield
1917 ”“ very good quality, large yield
1919 ”“ fine quality, average yield
1920 ”“ good quality, small yield