I was going to ask some questions about port production at the next offline to try and build my understanding of how things work...might as well ask them here, now, as this discussion is quite relevant to what I'm trying to understand better.
My imperfect understanding is currently as follows:
- vintage port gets made from a variety of grape types
- a producer sources grapes from various places, to make the vintage port
- the winemaker brings his/her magic to the whole affair, choosing the "best" mix of grape varieties and sources
- sometimes the producer owns a specific vineyard, planted with certain grape varieties, and chooses to make use of the grapes from that vineyard for certain port products
- as an example, Dow's Bomfim vineyard is the sole source for grapes going into the Quinta do Bomfim SQVP
Now the questions come...
- When someone like Dow produces a declared vintage, are there any rules/stipulations at all, about what went into the port? Or could they technically source grapes from anywhere in the Douro, brew something up, call it Dow's 2012, and declare it? This first question is a hypothetical...I get that one of the fundamentals is that the shippers probably maintain a high degree of consistency over what they input into a vintage, as that is the basis of what defines the brand of the shipper - their signature for want of a better phrase.
- Presumably some shippers own no vineyards? and everything they produce is from grape sourced from various 3rd parties?
- And then, the word shippers is up for debate...are they not really only brands?
- If yes, then, for example, when we read Graham 1985, that is a VP made from a mixture of grape varieties, sourced from various vineyards, which SFE have cooked up, and slapped a Graham's 1985 label on it? And yes yes, it is not any old grapes from any old place. This is a signature brand, so the grapes are the best, mainly from Malvedos, perhaps even in a very specific "recipe" which has been refined over time to deliver what we've all come to know and love as a Graham VP.
- Turning then to QH and Tesco. What does it actually mean to say a port is Quarles Harris? Can that tell you anything for certain about grapes used - variety or source?
- Is it possible/probable that in 1994, SFE bought lots of grapes from lots of places, the winemaker(s) got busy and created some port wines from these grapes. Those creations got bottled. Perhaps one or two creations, perhaps 15 or 20 or more. Those bottles sat happily in VndG. Sometime mid 2000s, Tesco phoned up. "can we have some Tesco branded VP?" "Yes" Some of those bottled creations were shipped to the UK and had Tesco labels slapped on. Then some more were sent. Maybe the same "creations" maybe one of the other 15 or 20. But whatever got sent, got a Tesco label slapped on. Is that possible/probable?
- And then maybe SFE took some of those bottled creations and slapped a QH label on? Is that possible, probable?
- If any of the above is possible/probable, then Tesco 94 may = QH94, or it may not.
That was a lot of typing. My hand is sore.