The philosophy of drinking old port

Anything to do with Port.
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AHB
Quinta do Noval Nacional 1962
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The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by AHB » 16:43 Fri 23 Mar 2018

One question I sometimes wrestle with is when to open a bottles of 19th century port. The chances are that a bottle like this will be old and oxidised, academically interesting for the snapshot of history it represents but not necessarily a great drink.

Of course, there are exceptions, but these are rare.

So when is the best time to open bottles like these? Should they be included in verticals when they will be overshadowed by their younger siblings and forgotten in the WotN vote, consigned to be an afterthought on the evening's review.

Or should they be collected together with a small group of similarly aged peers, opened and enjoyed with the reference that their years demands. Discussed on equal merits, put into the context of contemporaneous world events — and then washed down with copious amounts of Fonseca 1970 while their memory fades, like the wines they once were.

Personally I think I favour opening them in the company of their peers 2-6 bottles of 19th century wines; tasted, compared and discussed in the cerebral part of the evening before moving on to the second half of the evening which focuses more on something which has every expectation of being delicious.
Top Port in 2017 (so far): Graham Stone Terraces 2015 and Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
2016 Port of the year: Cockburn 1908

Andy Velebil
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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by Andy Velebil » 17:27 Fri 23 Mar 2018

I assume you mean bottled in the 19th century, as Tawny's of this age are usually spectacular and bottle aged ones not so much as you describe.

I tend to agree with your train of thought. I prefer to enjoy them with other very old Ports of somewhat similar age. As you mention, these tend to be more academic than great so putting them with others much younger often results in them getting overshadowed. The only issue with this is sometimes they are so academic they are not so enjoyable beyond a glass or two. In which case having a younger fresher Port (or a good beer!) is sometimes necessary later.

The exception would be in a big vertical of the same Ports. In that case, they often provide a view into how the styles and traits may or may not have changed over the years. Not to mention a glimpse of how younger ones may age. In this case they provide a service of sorts toward the overall learning experience for that particular Port brand, even though they are often overshadowed by their younger siblings.

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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by Will W. » 22:53 Fri 23 Mar 2018

I think that the answer depends upon with whom one is drinking. I have been collecting port for less than three years and, whilst there are a few hundred bottles of (mostly) decent stuff in the cellar, those in my social circle know even less about port than myself. As such, when I roll out a truly old bottle, my drinking companions tend to be mesmorised by the age of the thing rather than by its quality. As a host, such moments obviously bring me great joy, even where the wine itself is something of a disappointment to me, personally. At the same time, having read your (Alex, Andy) thoughts, I suspect that the better approach is, as you suggest: assemble a few port afionados around one or more old bottles, approach them with a certain detachment, perhaps marvel at the fact that something so old remains potable, and then move onto wines at their peak.

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jdaw1
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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by jdaw1 » 19:49 Sun 25 Mar 2018

It is a very fair question, and the tempting answer must be “all, if only stocks allowed”.

But what’s wrong with comparing oldsters to those that followed? What’s wrong with them being “ overshadowed by their younger siblings and forgotten in the WotN vote”? In many things newer can be better (people in their twenties are said to be more attractive than those a few decades older; new phones better than old), so why is it wrong to relearn that can be true in Port too.

And when it isn’t (e.g., Noval 1927) our praise is fulsome.

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uncle tom
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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by uncle tom » 17:12 Mon 26 Mar 2018

I'm not a great enthusiast for putting 120yr + bottles in verticals, because they tend to get lost in the crowd and not really appreciated.

Better for these old bottles to be brought out at small gatherings that allow reasonable pours, together with an eclectic mix of other fine wines, both fortified and non-fortified, to allow them to be appreciated in a broadly non-competitive environment.
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by PhilW » 13:29 Tue 27 Mar 2018

I tend towards a "rule of peers", i.e. that I would generally prefer to drink wines alongside others of a similar age, where the older the wine, the wider the definition of "similar" age.

Pragmatically, this might roughly equate to something like:
- for <30 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 10yr apart;
- for 30-50 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 15yr apart;
- for 50-80 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 20yr apart;
- for 80-100 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 25yr apart
- for >100 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 30yr apart

Note that this does not mean all bottles in the set have to be of the same age, just that there should be at least one "peer" present for each wine; inclusion of older bottles in a vertical works provided there is not too large a gap to the next youngest, each being compared to their "peers" on either side, if not further.

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jdaw1
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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by jdaw1 » 23:17 Tue 03 Apr 2018

PhilW wrote:
13:29 Tue 27 Mar 2018
- for <30 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 10yr apart;
- for 30-50 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 15yr apart;
- for 50-80 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 20yr apart;
- for 80-100 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 25yr apart
- for >100 year old wines, prefer to taste with at least one peer not more than 30yr apart
Broadly, within a factor of ×/÷ √2.

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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by Christopher » 22:46 Thu 05 Apr 2018

Generally agree with Tom
Basically I like to get them out with friends who will appreciate them. Not making a big thing of it and enjoyed with some other interesting wines.

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Re: The philosophy of drinking old port

Post by JB vintage » 20:29 Sat 14 Apr 2018

We prefer to drink them in company of at least one peer from the same year.

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