Portion Control: Examining the Strict Regulations for Vintage Port

Vintage Port is alluring and when a vintage is declared, there is much excitement. But the standard for declaration is extremely high. I wrote about what it takes to be a Vintage Port in Somm Journal.

Every Year, as harvest begins, so does a new vintage. Farmers and winemakers around the world share the challenges they faced during the growing season and their hopes for the outcome while comparing the vintage to previous ones, and we as wine drinkers can taste the nuanced differences between them.

In the world of Port, it is a different story. Though ongoing improvements in viticultural and winemaking practices are increasing its occurrence, Vintage Port is somewhat rare, made only in years when the quality of the harvest is considered exceptional. Only a tiny percentage of Portugal’s famed fortified wine is declared as Vintage Port; most Ports—including Tawny, White, Rosé, Ruby, and Crusted Port—are blends of multiple vintages, bottled and released as nonvintage wines that showcase the house style. Also not counting as Vintage Port are three categories that nonetheless include a vintage on the label. Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port is a high-quality Ruby Port from a single harvest that’s ready to drink once bottled after aging for four to six years. Single Quinta Vintage Port is sourced from a single vineyard (quinta) during a single year, typically one in which a vintage has not been declared; in those that have, the wine will usually be blended into the Vintage Port. Colheita, or “Harvest,” Ports are single vintage White or Tawny Ports matured in small oak barrels for a minimum of seven years prior to bottling.

The standard for declaration is extremely high and you can read about the standards in the original story in Somm Journal.