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Nov 26, 2000 05:40 PM

Port recommendations?

  • e

I would like to get a very good bottle of port for a
very good friend for Xmas. Price isn't too much of
an object - I would like to stay under $100. any ideas?

thanks in advance.

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  1. Well, I suspect that "very good" is kind of dependent upon personal tastes. Conventional wisdom would say to try looking for, say, a good 1994 or 1997 vintage port from one of the good houses such as Fonseca--basically, look for the more expensive stuff :-)

    I also quite like the Porto Rocha 150th Anniversary tawny port; it's about $65.

    Are you looking *specifically* for port? Interesting alternatives to port would be a good icewine or tokaji aszu.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Karl

      Neither 94 nor 97 vintage port can/should be drunk until years and years from now. For half the price of 94 Taylor (the MOST "expensive stuff"), you can buy something that drinks beautifully right now.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Well, true...the "conventional wisdom" remark was meant to be somewhat sarcastic. Wine frenzy--sheesh.

        On a related note, something the original poster might want to do is track down a wine bar or someplace that has a decent selection of port available for tasting, to get some idea of what different ports are like. Depending on what the purpose of the gift is, the poster might want to consider springing for a port-tasting spree as a gift rather than just giving a single bottle.

        1. re: Karl

          "Well, true...the "conventional wisdom" remark was meant to be somewhat sarcastic."

          oh, I get it now. Yeah, the subtlety escaped me...this is literally true: looking for an expensive 94/97 is indeed what "most people" would do.

          as for the try-before-you-buy idea, it'd be awfully tough to find glasses of 77's and 83's in bars, no? And maybe $20-30/glass.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            Re: "as for the try-before-you-buy idea, it'd be awfully tough to find glasses of 77's and 83's in bars, no? And maybe $20-30/glass."

            Not a clue--I don't really have enough experience with wine bars etc. to be able to say. However, some wine merchants (or supermarkets, oenophile (sp?) clubs, etc.) will occasionally have tasting sessions where you can try a variety of stuff. Or there may be a "port night" at a restaurant. It's a question of whether one wants to drop a bunch of money on a single bottle, or on a set of tastings to educate one's palate. If it turns out that I don't like a particular type of port (or whatever), I'd rather have lost $20 on a glass of it than $80 on a bottle. OTOH, if I know what I want, I'll just get a bottle.

            I'm not advocating one or the other; they're just different options.

            1. re: Karl

              For a minute--about 2-3 years ago--it looked like port was gonna be a minit-trend. I think I even predicted it in print somewhere. But it never happened. The lingering effect is that you can find third rate products in most bars, and the occasional somewhat-arbitrary-and-real-real-expensive vintage port by the glass in certain chichi places....but there's still nowhere serious port people can go. It's like beer was twenty years ago.

              Maybe we should all launch

    2. ee--

      our message board rules prohibit the posting of messages to more than one board, so we've nuked the copy on "What's My Craving".

      Port is pretty much my favorite drink (though Belgian beer comes close...and, in fact, there are similarities between the two).

      first, a remark that I'll get flamed for, but so be it. Only consider vintage port. Late Bottled Vintage ("LBV") is almost always ghastly, and ruby/white/etc are beneath contempt. A tawny can be fine if you know what you're buying, but it's a relatively minor pleasure. For the full experience, vintage port is really the way to go.

      I'm assuming you want something good for drinking right now. First, consider whether you can get away with a split (half-bottle), which will save you some money...or allow you to pick up a couple of bottles for comparison sake.

      The 83's are a great compromise...they're not really "ready", yet most are drinking perfectly fine right now, and if your friend's willing to put the bottle(s) away for a few years, he/she will one day have a major revelation. Graham's is the best of the vintage (as usual), but Gould Campbell and Dow had very good bottlings that year. Taylor 83 is weird, went through some funny stages where it was getting worse and worse. Haven't tasted it in about three or four years, but I'd avoid it.

      With your budget, I THINK you can work back to the 70's. You may be able to get a nice 77 Dow for under $100 (though I haven't checked prices recently). 77 Grahams is probably over your price limit. Melanie knows more about prices, and she's tried more of these recent ports than I have.

      Do NOT get anything more recent than 83 for drinking in the forseeable future. The buying frenzy of the 94 Taylor (it's probably close to $100/bottle now) is's a vintage of the century (and Taylor's clearly the star), but won't be truly in its prime for 50 years. The interest loss alone on a case of the stuff could buy all sorts of good port for immediate tasting over the next half century. Port makers face a very Zen reality: they will never, in their lifetimes, taste the results of their best work (to anticipate the confusion: the 77 and 83 vintages weren't as stellar, so they can be drunk earlier...for an idea of how crazy this can get, the amazing '31 Nacional is apparently still too young to be fully enjoyed right now).

      Just some random notes, hope you found it helpful


      1 Reply
      1. re: Jim Leff
        Jason "Porto" Perlow

        Definitely agree with you on the 77 Dow. Great stuff. I was able to pick up 3 bottles about 6 months back for 95 bucks apeice from a local wine store in NJ.

        also the Warre 77 vintage is also quite nice.

      2. When we were in Portugal last winter, we did a lot of port shopping at a liquor store in Lisbon called Napole-o at Rua dos Fanqueiros 70, Baixa, 1100 (887 2042/fax 886 1109). The staff is multilingual and extremely knowledgeable. Prices were MUCH MUCH more favorable than here, and the store was very helpful about shipping things back as a "gift" (wink wink). They told me they were setting up a website - I haven't looked for it, but they also said they would take orders by phone or fax. For any serious port buying, this is an option I would consider.

        1. Where vintage port is concerned, it really pays to shop around. Prices vary dramatically from store to store.

          83 Graham's is an excellent choice for current drinking. You might be able to find 70 or 77 Dow or Warres for under $100 if you hunt.

          I also think the 94s are enjoyable today- they have so much fruit to mask the tannins. Just depends on your friend's tastes. Some of the 94 LBVs are especially good values. In the great years like 94 and from a great producer, LBVs can be very good drinking for not much money. Our house port was the 83 Grahams LBV for a very long time. It was under $10 at the time. I used it for cooking and sipping - it was much better than other producers vintage port.

          I'll post my tasting notes from a recent 1994 port tasting. The 1994 Grahams at about $90 is seriously underpriced compared to current prices for Taylor and Fonseca.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            woops, sorry, I responded to the drinkability question in response to your 94 notes before I saw this.

            I'm kinda surprised to hear you advocate drinking '94's now. But while I had the whole vintage in barrel samples and then again in about 98 (then a glass of taylor in 99), I haven't tried 'em since. Have they matured a LOT since then (when younger, they stained my teeth purple and killed my sense of taste for an entire afternoon) or are we just in disagreement?

            I'm loathe to disagree with you on matters of wine, but (as you know) my disapproval of drinking 90's ports anytime in the next decade or so (and, for that matter, my dim view of LBV's) echoes the feelings of a major port collector/expert whom we both respect, so I'm a bit more confident in my opinion. Not that it makes you wrong, of course (I respect your opinion too, naturally!).