1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

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djewesbury
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1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by djewesbury » 16:09 Sat 03 May 2014

Image
from George Robertson, Port, London: Faber and Faber, 2nd ed., 1987, p. 79
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by LGTrotter » 16:38 Tue 20 May 2014

Twenty five years does seem a long time for a wine to be closed, it is a shame that Van Zeller did not leave a few more thoughts about how exactly it was undrinkable. Hard, the only other clue, comes from the author. I wonder if there will be other ports that stay closed, I mean completely closed, for such a long time again?

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by djewesbury » 22:19 Tue 20 May 2014

Very few I imagine. Perhaps some of the really big 2011s? I don't see the Dow being a handy quaffer any day soon.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by DRT » 22:50 Tue 20 May 2014

djewesbury wrote:Very few I imagine. Perhaps some of the really big 2011s? I don't see the Dow being a handy quaffer any day soon.
A very well-known and respected Port-maker told me a couple of years ago that the advances in technology and particularly the improvements in the quality of aguardente now in use means that VPs are less likely to go through a dumb phase (i.e. be closed down) in future as the integration of fruit and alcohol is more of a seamless process.

I don't know if that is true or not, but that is what I was told.

Another factor might be that VPs of the future are less likely to be full of elderberry juice.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by djewesbury » 22:54 Tue 20 May 2014

I don't know whether Van Zeller thought the NN31 undrinkable merely because it was closed or because it was just too big and unintegrated. Hard to say.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by uncle tom » 09:11 Wed 21 May 2014

A very well-known and respected Port-maker told me a couple of years ago that the advances in technology and particularly the improvements in the quality of aguardente now in use means that VPs are less likely to go through a dumb phase (i.e. be closed down) in future as the integration of fruit and alcohol is more of a seamless process.
Have heard the same..
I don't know if that is true or not, but that is what I was told.
I find myself wondering: 'how have they arrived at that conclusion?'

With every change, I worry about unintended consequences. Will the rough old arguardente go unlamented, or will there be a belated realisation that some of the rough elements serve an important (but currently unrecognised) role? Will the VPs that have seen nothing but stainless steel in their formative years hold up as well as those that have had some exposure to wood?

A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports.

Excess confidence in new ideas is a dangerous thing..
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: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by djewesbury » 16:11 Wed 21 May 2014

uncle tom wrote: A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports.

Excess confidence in new ideas is a dangerous thing..
The very same book from which my quote came displays exactly this hubristic self-confidence: quite a lot along the lines of "new technologies are making the homely old ways obsolete". Foot treading is not the only example!
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by jdaw1 » 16:30 Wed 21 May 2014

Mention should be made of Cockburn’s ingenious time- and money-saving ‘Moving Must’ technique, which resulted a few decades of rubbish Port that was alleged to be Vintage.
  • This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by TLW » 21:40 Wed 21 May 2014

"A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports."

Having not been to the Douro, am I to understand that some are again treading their grapes?

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by AHB » 21:48 Wed 21 May 2014

TLW wrote:"A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports."

Having not been to the Douro, am I to understand that some are again treading their grapes?
Many - perhaps most - are now treading grapes at least for premium ports. Treading is sometimes by human foot and sometimes in modern lagares fitted with artifical treaders that simulate the human foot as closely as possible.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by TLW » 22:54 Wed 21 May 2014

AHB wrote:
TLW wrote:"A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports."

Having not been to the Douro, am I to understand that some are again treading their grapes?
Many - perhaps most - are now treading grapes at least for premium ports. Treading is sometimes by human foot and sometimes in modern lagares fitted with artifical treaders that simulate the human foot as closely as possible.
Thank you.

Interesting three ports of the year for 2014. Although I have not tried the 2011s yet, the 1994 Graham is certainly a pleasant drink - albeit young by 10-20 years.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by Andy Velebil » 14:45 Thu 22 May 2014

uncle tom wrote: A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports.
.
While some are heading back to doing small amounts of treading, I disagree with the last part of this statement. Dow's VP's, which are regarded world-wide and within this group as a top notch VP, has been made by autovinification since 1963. So if treading is necessary to make the finest Ports how do you explain Dow's?

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by LGTrotter » 15:07 Thu 22 May 2014

Andy Velebil wrote:
uncle tom wrote: A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports.
.
While some are heading back to doing small amounts of treading, I disagree with the last part of this statement. Dow's VP's, which are regarded world-wide and within this group as a top notch VP, has been made by autovinification since 1963. So if treading is necessary to make the finest Ports how do you explain Dow's?
Just think how much better it would have been if it had been foot trodden. I think the wider point that new=good and old=bad has been rightly trashed.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by LGTrotter » 16:07 Thu 22 May 2014

Or indeed that new=bad and old=good. Although I will allow that by nature and inclination I am more in the new=bad camp.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by Andy Velebil » 17:27 Thu 22 May 2014

LGTrotter wrote:
Andy Velebil wrote:
uncle tom wrote: A generation ago, most port makers were confident that their lagares could be consigned to history - yet most now recognise that treading is necessary for the finest ports.
.
While some are heading back to doing small amounts of treading, I disagree with the last part of this statement. Dow's VP's, which are regarded world-wide and within this group as a top notch VP, has been made by autovinification since 1963. So if treading is necessary to make the finest Ports how do you explain Dow's?
Just think how much better it would have been if it had been foot trodden. I think the wider point that new=good and old=bad has been rightly trashed.
Absolutely not true. Wine making and viticulture advancements in the past 20+ years have changed quite a bit and are the reason we all get consistently good products now. Even the inexpensive "commodity wines" are far better now then they ever have been. So new is very much a good thing and thankfully some of that old is gone. But I will conceded that some old things are good and some new things may end up not. But when it comes to wine a whole lot of new has been a very good thing overall.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by jdaw1 » 17:40 Thu 22 May 2014

You are agreeing. New is typically but not always better. Old is typically but not always worse.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by LGTrotter » 19:02 Thu 22 May 2014

jdaw1 wrote:You are agreeing. New is typically but not always better. Old is typically but not always worse.
I am not sure that either me or Andy would claim to be in agreement here and no harm in that.
Andy Velebil wrote: Wine making and viticulture advancements in the past 20+ years have changed quite a bit and are the reason we all get consistently good products now. Even the inexpensive "commodity wines" are far better now then they ever have been. So new is very much a good thing and thankfully some of that old is gone. But I will conceded that some old things are good and some new things may end up not. But when it comes to wine a whole lot of new has been a very good thing overall.
These are delightfully rosy spectacles you have, when I wade through the overly sweet homogenised dross which I am generally served by people who I still count as friends but who won't spend money on wine I shall think to myself 'This is good'. However it won't be, it will simply be a uniform kind of awfulness rather than the wildly varied type I drank all those years ago.

And I also concede that not everything new is a bad idea. Just most of it. :wink:

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by jdaw1 » 20:27 Thu 22 May 2014

I concede. You weren’t agreeing.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by Glenn E. » 20:46 Thu 22 May 2014

LGTrotter wrote:These are delightfully rosy spectacles you have, when I wade through the overly sweet homogenised dross which I am generally served by people who I still count as friends but who won't spend money on wine I shall think to myself 'This is good'. However it won't be, it will simply be a uniform kind of awfulness rather than the wildly varied type I drank all those years ago.
Wildly varied is not better than uniform. In fact, most of the time it is worse. (Uniform != average. In this case, we're talking about uniformly good.) That's why it's wildly varied. It does allow for the occasional astoundingly good result, but most of the time it does not. Perhaps more to the point, that occasional astoundingly good result stands out more because the overall "variety" is so bad.

Uniform is not, by definition, bland. Bland comes from the target profile being bland. I think we would all likely agree that if all Port produced today were uniformly as good as 1963 Noval Nacional, that things would be very good indeed. The problem in that case would be that we'd get bored of it. It would no longer be special. Tesco would be selling NN63 for $20/bottle with a 25% discount if you buy 12. As good as that would be, it's hard to get excited about it if every Port available is NN63.

It isn't that you like wildly varied Port. You like that the occasional astoundingly good Port really stands out amongst the rest of the wildly varied dross, and you have the knowledge and experience to know which is which before you buy.

I like being able to buy a bottle of Port without having to worry about whether or not it is going to be good. It's all good. In fact it's all very good. But it does mean that a 2011 Noval Nacional looks a little absurd priced at $1000/bottle next to a nearly equally good 2011 Noval at 1/10 the price.

The bar has been raised across the board.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by uncle tom » 21:23 Thu 22 May 2014

I like being able to buy a bottle of Port without having to worry about whether or not it is going to be good. It's all good. In fact it's all very good. But it does mean that a 2011 Noval Nacional looks a little absurd priced at $1000/bottle next to a nearly equally good 2011 Noval at 1/10 the price.
There is an expectation in certain quarters that there must be some rare ports from each vintage that stand head and shoulders above all others, and therefore deserve an exhorbitant price tag.

In practice, as we saw with last month's 66 horizontal and 60 v 63 event; a selection of really good mature ports from a vintage rarely has one player towering over the others

Strangely, NN were able to lay claim to this elevated market for several decades before there was any serious challenge, despite producing some dismal wines in the eighties; - but now there are several contenders.

Personally, I don't put any weight on the hype, packaging and physical presentation of the 'super cuvees' - only a blind tasting will convince me.

It follows that when those with a pretence to excellence absent themselves from major blind events, I am disinclined to give them the benefit of the doubt..
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: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by Glenn E. » 22:10 Thu 22 May 2014

uncle tom wrote:
I like being able to buy a bottle of Port without having to worry about whether or not it is going to be good. It's all good. In fact it's all very good. But it does mean that a 2011 Noval Nacional looks a little absurd priced at $1000/bottle next to a nearly equally good 2011 Noval at 1/10 the price.
There is an expectation in certain quarters that there must be some rare ports from each vintage that stand head and shoulders above all others, and therefore deserve an exhorbitant price tag.

In practice, as we saw with last month's 66 horizontal and 60 v 63 event; a selection of really good mature ports from a vintage rarely has one player towering over the others

Strangely, NN were able to lay claim to this elevated market for several decades before there was any serious challenge, despite producing some dismal wines in the eighties; - but now there are several contenders.

Personally, I don't put any weight on the hype, packaging and physical presentation of the 'super cuvees' - only a blind tasting will convince me.

It follows that when those with a pretence to excellence absent themselves from major blind events, I am disinclined to give them the benefit of the doubt..
Not the point.

The point is more than no one produced a '75 Hutcheson in 2011. An argument that you might be able to make as far back as 1994.

The point is that the gap between the very best Ports and the "merely average" has closed dramatically, and not because the very best Ports are any worse. The quality gap has narrowed so much that the price difference now stands out as starkly absurd, even just between name brands and second brands. The "uniformity" that Owen laments is caused by the fact that just about every Port is at least good now, if not very good or excellent. Owen's beloved variety was an artifact of there being poor Ports from which a NN63 could distance itself.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by DRT » 22:28 Thu 22 May 2014

I would venture to guess that Owen is being slightly misunderstood here. My reading of his comments leads me to believe that he is not bemoaning the fact that there is more uniformity in quality, but that his experience of other wine styles (and perhaps Port?) has led him to believe that mass-produced wine using modern "improvements" is becoming a homogeneous, nondescript product with little variety between producers and styles.

I must say I agree with that sentiment at the pop-n-pour end of the market. The wines might no longer turn to vinegar or have a 1 in 12 corked rate but they all taste boringly similar. Hopefully that trend will not climb its way up the quality ladder and end up with us having 50 VPs from a vintage that are almost indistinguishable from one another, even though they all might be of very good or excellent quality.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by AHB » 22:39 Thu 22 May 2014

Glenn E. wrote:
uncle tom wrote:
I like being able to buy a bottle of Port without having to worry about whether or not it is going to be good. It's all good. In fact it's all very good. But it does mean that a 2011 Noval Nacional looks a little absurd priced at $1000/bottle next to a nearly equally good 2011 Noval at 1/10 the price.
There is an expectation in certain quarters that there must be some rare ports from each vintage that stand head and shoulders above all others, and therefore deserve an exhorbitant price tag.

In practice, as we saw with last month's 66 horizontal and 60 v 63 event; a selection of really good mature ports from a vintage rarely has one player towering over the others

Strangely, NN were able to lay claim to this elevated market for several decades before there was any serious challenge, despite producing some dismal wines in the eighties; - but now there are several contenders.

Personally, I don't put any weight on the hype, packaging and physical presentation of the 'super cuvees' - only a blind tasting will convince me.

It follows that when those with a pretence to excellence absent themselves from major blind events, I am disinclined to give them the benefit of the doubt..
Not the point.

The point is more than no one produced a '75 Hutcheson in 2011. An argument that you might be able to make as far back as 1994.

The point is that the gap between the very best Ports and the "merely average" has closed dramatically, and not because the very best Ports are any worse. The quality gap has narrowed so much that the price difference now stands out as starkly absurd, even just between name brands and second brands. The "uniformity" that Owen laments is caused by the fact that just about every Port is at least good now, if not very good or excellent. Owen's beloved variety was an artifact of there being poor Ports from which a NN63 could distance itself.
Actually, I think you've both missed the point. I believe that the point is not that these wines are better than anything else that money can buy but that they are rarer than any other port that money can buy. You want something really good to drink? Buy Noval / Dow / Graham / Taylor / Fonseca / etc and pay around $100 per bottle. There are thousands of bottles around so you have a good chance of buying one.

Want something rare and good to drink? Get a bottle of Nacional / Stone Terraces / Vargellas Vinha Velha and pay $1,000 per bottle - if you can find it because there were only 250 cases made and Glenn bought them all.

It's not quality that drives the price, it's scarcity and demand from people like me and Glenn who mop up what we can. Yes these are good products, but they are scarce good products and we want to be able to say that we have some.
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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by LGTrotter » 22:49 Thu 22 May 2014

DRT wrote:I would venture to guess that Owen is being slightly misunderstood here.
Yes, I congratulate you on your percipience and endorse the rest of your comments.
Glenn E. wrote:Wildly varied is not better than uniform. In fact, most of the time it is worse
Now I must take issue with this, at best this is opinion, I happen to like wildly varied. I would use another wink emoticon but I fancy it would not have enough of the leer about it. And later you say that even NN63 would become boring if it was all that was available; even you think that varied is better than uniform.

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Re: 1931 Nacional 'undrinkable'

Post by LGTrotter » 23:04 Thu 22 May 2014

AHB wrote:It's not quality that drives the price, it's scarcity and demand from people like me and Glenn who mop up what we can. Yes these are good products, but they are scarce good products and we want to be able to say that we have some.
This is a shocking admission Alex (and one that, of course, I relate to). Scarcity? Well that is true of a lot of ports which aren't that expensive. Hype and marketing are what Tom spoke of and I think he is nearer the mark.

And Glenn, my lamentations are not that the quality of the port has got better but that, as Derek rightly divined, it has all got better in the same way. I really love the style and taste of old Cockburn. Who now would produce a deliberately pale and medium bodied port? I can't think of one, especially one that is made as a flagship wine and not just off-cuts.

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