Tawny ports are typically non-vintage dated blends bottled at 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old, with each decade of aging adding greater depth and character—and cost. But this month, Taylor Fladgate, which boasts one of Portugal’s largest reserves of older cask-aged wines, released a rare vintage-dated, unblended Single Harvest Tawny from its famous 1896 crop, representing one of the finest harvests of the 19th century and which signaled a renewal for the area following a devastating phylloxera epidemic. After 125 years of aging in handcrafted oak casks sequestered in the company’s cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia and the inevitable evaporation that ultimately occurs, only two port pipes’ worth of the burnished bronze-colored wine (out of 18 filled originally) remained. It was just enough to fill 1,700 specially crafted Glencairn Scottish-crystal decanters, each sealed with a hand cut, eight sided engraved crystal stopper, and priced at $5,500 each and accompanied by a cherry wood case, a commemorative booklet on the 1896 Single Harvest Tawny, and a signed certificate from Taylor Fladgate managing director Adrian Bridge.
“The launch of a wine as old, valuable and unique as this one occurs only a handful of times in a generation,” said Bridge. “It is by its nature a historic event in its own right, which Taylor Fladgate is proud to share with wine collectors and connoisseurs of rare wines. Savoring such a wine is a once in a lifetime experience.”
To be sure, with its stewed-plum bouquet and flavors of cedar and candied apple, this port lingers on the palate for an extraordinary duration, befitting its great age.
Leaping from 19th- to 21st-century vintages brings us to the six just-released Symington 2019 Single Quinta Vintages, each coming from its own farm within the Symington Family Estates, one of the world’s largest port producers. Coming from an erratic growing season, with a little over 50 percent of the average winter rainfall in the Douro and almost none in the summer, the result was one of the longest harvests in recent years, which ended up producing small volumes of wine possessing fantastic depth and complexity. Deemed too spectacular to blend into one classic vintage, Symington’s head winemaker, Charles Symington, bottled each quinta separately.
“These exciting and lively young wines represent the absolute pinnacle of the 2019 harvest,” said Symington. “They are stunning today and I believe they will age beautifully over many decades.”
The 2019 Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira ($75) is elegantly floral, while the intensely fruity 2019 Quinta do Vesúvio ($85) will also be available as part of a limited-edition Single Quinta Vintage set ($400) alongside bottlings from the 2009 and 1999 vintages. Reserved for future releases: the Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais.