Monday, 16 October 2017

What has happened to the 1983 Port vintage?

One of the most comprehensive sites about vintage port is VintagePort.se. This site was established in 2011, by three port enthusiasts from southern Sweden. It contains details about every port brand name, and its history (with a few rare exceptions). It also contains tasting notes about nearly every vintage wine produced under those brand names, often tasted more than once — this is well over a thousand tasting notes.

Many of these ports were tasted at meetings of The Danish Port Wine Club (in Copenhagen) or The Wine Society 18% (in Malmö). Among these, there have been a few Great Tastings, during which at least 20 port brands were tasted from a particular vintage. Earlier this year it was the turn of the 1983 vintage.


The 1983 vintage was highly rated in the mid 1980s, and 36 of the houses / brands released a vintage port (ie. almost all producers declared the vintage). A survey of the vintage scores from various commentators reveals this:
Rating out of 100
Tom Stevenson
Wine Advocate
Wine Spectator
Cellar Notes
Into Wine
MacArthur Beverages
Vinous
Rating out of 10
Berry Bros & Rudd
Oz Clarke
Vintages (LCBO)
Wine Society
Passionate About Port
Rating out of 5
Michael Broadbent
Decanter
For the Love of Port
1983 vintage
95
92
92
91
91
91
90

8
8
8
7
7

4
4
3
Best recent vintage
95
97
99
97
96
99
97

10
10
10
10
10

5
5
5
So, almost all of the commentators rated the vintage as 90+, but did not rate it as among the very best of the recent Port vintages. The VintagePort.se site notes that they also previously rated the 1983 vintage as Outstanding (a score of 18 / 20 = 95).

However, earlier this year, at their Great Tasting, the three port lovers re-tasted 31 of the 36 vintage wines from 1983. They were rather disappointed: "Many wines were defective with volatile acidity, and many wines were not what we had expected ... We have now changed this vintage to the rating Very Good" (score 15 / 20 = 88). This is quite a come down.

Some of the 1983 vintage ports

It is now 30 years since the 1983 ports were put in their bottles. This is not usually considered to be an especially long time in the life of a vintage port, although most of this vintage has probably been consumed by now. So, what has happened to these wines? It seems unlikely that bottle variation is responsible for the poor results. Maybe the corks in use at the time were not up to he job? Or, maybe the grapes just weren't as good as people thought at the time.

The three port enthusiasts were in general agreement with each other about the scores of the 31 individual wines (although Sten and Stefan agreed more often than Jörgen), so that their group ratings were consistent.

However, it might be better if we base our overall assessment of the wines on the average score from all 16 of the participants in the Great Tasting. They rated 2 of the ports as Excellent (17 points / 20), 4 as Very fine (16 points), 17 as Very good (score 15), 4 as Good (score 14), 1 as Average (score 13), and 3 as Below average. The two best ports were from Quarles Harris and Gould Campbell, while the three worst were from Real Vinicola, Dow's and Kopke.

You can check out the full results on their site. Overall, this is quite an impressive source of information for port aficionados.

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