There are two questions we get asked a lot at MWH Wines. First is which is the best Port shipper and the second is which is the best vintage for vintage Port? The first question is something we’ve looked at in some depth on this blog but the second is one we’ve not covered before.
This is a curious omission as between us the MWH Wine team have tasted and enjoyed innumerable wines that date back to the early twentieth century. Venerable wines like the Taylor’s 1963 will live long in the memory as one of the most extraordinary wines we’ve ever tried. So, which is the best vintage for Port? Well leaving aside ancient legends such as 1912 as they are virtually impossible to find, here are our top ten Port vintages. In assembling this list, we were surprised by how some excellent declarations’ popularity has faded over time and have gone from aspirational to affordable, and how one year still stands above all others.
Number 10: 1985
There’s something utterly joyous about the 1985s. In youth they were fruity, forward and sweet, a combination that had some questioning their capacity to age and develop. These fears were quite unfounded. Over the years they have lost their puppy fat and emerged as fruity, well-structured and delicious. Drinking well now, they have years of life ahead. You can see our collection of 1985 vintage Ports here.
Number 9: 1994
A great vintage and one that was drinkable at a young age. The growing season was kind without excessive heat and the grapes were harvested in ideal conditions. Fruit-driven and plump, they were approachable after a decade and the picks of the bunch – Taylor’s 97-point effort, for example – are only now revealing their full brilliance. You can see our collection of 1994 vintage Ports here.
Number 8: 1955
Lauded when released, overlooked ever since, there’s no denying the quality of 1955 Port. We had Taylor’s in May and it was magnificent, rich, spicy and full of dried white fruits, figs, nuts and honey. For whatever reason though it doesn’t enjoy the acclaim that vintages like 1948, 1963 or 1970 do. The upside to this is that the wines are relatively plentiful still and are often great value for money. You can see our collection of 1955 vintage Ports here.
Number 7: 1970
Were we looking exclusively at Taylor’s 1970, then 1970 would be higher up this list as Taylor’s 1970 has been a consistently outstanding wine. Across the piece this is a lovely year with a classic mix of fruit, tannin and power that has gifted many with elegance and glorious complexity and which will give pleasure for years to come. You can see our collection of 1970 vintage Ports here.
Number 6: 2011
An extraordinarily fine year, one that was declared by all major shippers. The word that is most often associated with the 2011s in elegance. While these wines are no less powerful than most Ports, they have aromatics, complexity and finesse that is utterly captivating. The Late Bottled Vintage wines displayed these characteristics to the full early on and the vintage wines are already starting to show great charm. Unsurprisingly, given the style of the vintage, Graham shines brightly. You can see our collection of 2011 vintage Ports here.
Number 5: 1977
I recall drinking Taylor’s 1977 in 1995 and my notes included terms such as ‘tannic’, ‘closed’ and ‘massive’. If ever there was an immortal year for Port, this is probably it. Everything was in abundance but it came encased in a fortress of tannin that has taken decades to denude. Even now decanting and aeration are required to tease these mighty wines into revealing their charms, but what a treat awaits! You can see our collection of 1977 vintage Ports here.
Number 4: 1963
Simply magnificent across the board, in 1963 even lesser shippers produced wines that were special. The growing season could not have been much better and the resulting wines are balanced, full-bodied and charming. While they may not have the drama of the ‘45s or ‘27s, they are classically styled wines that are drinking beautifully. Some say this is the Port lovers’ vintage, a sentiment we’d agree with. Quinta do Noval’s Nacional is arguably as good as Port gets. You can see our collection of 1963 vintage Ports here.
Number 3: 1948
Unfairly overshadowed by the 1945s, 1948 was a hot year that produced wines that have the intensity of the ‘63s with the power of the ‘77s. In youth – a period that ran well into the 1960s – they were almost too much of a good thing and were wines that needed decanting and long periods open before the decadent fruit and extract levels could harmonize. Today they are sublime. Still showing some of the super ripe fruit tones, they have mellowed and become nutty, dry and beguilingly complex. You can see our collection of 1948 vintage Ports here.
Number 2: 1927
For some this is the vintage of the century. An early harvest produced a huge crop of wines that were declared by 30 shippers. It’s really hard to fault these wines other than to say they are now rather hard to find. Sadly, despite their immense quality and potential a depression-hit market meant buyers were few and a lot of these wines were blended or released as LBV, such a shame! If you are fortunate enough to have a chance to try a wine from this year you won’t be disappointed. You can see our collection of 1927 vintage Ports here.
Number 1: 1945
The wine trade tends to eulogise the 1945 vintage. The backdrop of the outbreak of peace and the demise of various horrendous regimes has romanticised it to an extent, but there is no denying that from Bordeaux to Burgundy, Port to Italy, this was a classic year for many regions. In terms of Port the wines are exquisite, stunningly concentrated and were always destined for an extremely long life. Like the best wines of this incredibly hot year, patience was always going to be required and even now the best have a vitality that is astonishing. These are wines that Port lovers must try if only once. You can see our collection of 1945 vintage Ports here.
Like Some Vintage Port Help?
We hope you found this of interest, but if you are looking for a specific vintage Port, then please do get in touch by calling Mike on 0118 984 4654 or by emailing MWH Wines here. A recognised authority on these wines, he’ll be happy to advise you on which wine is right for you.