Food and drink 

Fortify your wine cellar

Passing the port from generation to generation

I’m often amazed at the reaction of friends when I pull out an old bottle of wine for dinner or dessert. Now by old I mean 10 to 20 years. It is hardly old by wine collector standards, but when you consider the average drinker purchases his or her wine about 20 minutes before they drink it, a decade of cellar aging is impressive, to say the least.

Do you remember all the hype surrounding the millennium celebrations and which wines were likely to be open to mark the day? Big bottles and old bottles were all the talk, but it never really came to pass. I remember thinking that as a wine collector, I would love to be opening and sharing something with my friends from the previous century on that celebrated night.

Alas, my relatives were not in the wine business and no one in my family had considered laying down wines for their great-great-grandchildren’s enjoyment at the turn of the 20 th century.

I did manage to get back as far as my birth date, but no turn-of-the-century wines graced my table. That could all change next century for my ancestors and maybe yours, if you are willing to take a chance on the future.

Vintage port has always been a long-lived wine and in exceptional years, when the weather is perfect and the yields are low, it can live for many, many decades. Indeed, the best bottles from the finest vintages will keep comfortably into the next century. You only need the willpower to buy and hold these wines for future generations.

I’m more bullish than ever about vintage port after attending two separate tastings of the fortified elixir in Oporto late last year where the finest years of Croft and Taylor vintage port, spanning the last century, were opened.

It’s difficult to explain how satisfying it can be to taste a wine from 1927 or 1934 or even 1900 that is still in terrific shape for its age. Imagine your relatives opening a bottle of 2003 vintage port, 100 years from now. One can only hope you will be fondly remembered for your foresight and largesse.

Port’s ability to go the distance starts in the steeply terraced vineyards of the upper Douro Valley. The vines themselves grow out of near solid, stone soils in a climate frozen much of the winter and scorched all summer.


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