Wine Ratings: Vintage Port

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 10:31am

Port is associated with a bygone era, evoking images of cigars and gentlemen's clubs or scenes from Downton Abbey. Consumption figures are declining as the younger generation spurns fortified wines. However, it is not all bad news. According to Nicholas Heath, marketing director of the Fladgate Partnership (the group that owns Taylor's, Fonseca and Croft), annual production is about 10 million cases.

Port is a fortified wine made from a blend of red grapes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. During fermentation a neutral spirit called aguardente is added. This halts fermentation, leaves residual sugar and increases the alcohol content. There are two ways of ageing port. It can be aged in the bottle, known as a reductive method, or in large old vats, known as oxidative maturation.

There are many styles of port. Vintage port is the highest quality and rarest. It accounts for about 2 per cent of total production. It is only made in exceptional vintages. A port house decides to declare a vintage in spring, two years after the harvest, if the wine is of very high quality with ageing potential. When all port houses declare a vintage, it is known as a general declaration. An average of three vintages are declared each decade. The 2000s were an exception when four vintages were declared: 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2009.

Dow's 1997 Vintage Port Most port houses declared 1997, as the wines had longevity and structure. This is almost of the same quality as the more expensive, concentrated and richer 1994 vintage.

It is showing signs of maturity with the colour evolving into a lighter brick. Rich, raisin notes on the nose. Very full bodied with high fruit intensity. A good balance of sugar and tannins. Finishing very long. Can drink now though will keep for a decade or more.

HK$1,198 Oliver's The Delicatessen, Prince's Building, Central.

Fonseca Vintage Port 2009 The 2009 vintage saw ripe grapes, rich concentration, high alcohol and tannins. It was a low yielding vintage.

It is inky purple, spicy, rich, with a dense blackcurrant nose. Full bodied, sweet, intense fruit with firm underlying tannins and a long finish. Still a baby - will keep for at least three decades.

HK$550 ASC Wine Gallery, 22/F, Stanley 11, 11 Stanley Street, Central.

Taylor's Vintage Port 2007

In 2007 growing conditions were almost perfect. Rainfall was spread throughout the growing season. There was good heat in September to ripen the grapes consistently with perfect phenolic balance. Heath believes 2007 is the best vintage of the last four declared.

Blackcurrant with some floral notes; full bodied with balanced acidity and tannins; elegant and finishing very long. It's still youthful with an ageing potential of at least three decades.

HK$900 Jebsen Fine Wine Club,