The noble art of Port at the end of a meal is best appreciated during the festive season, indeed, Port to finish lunch or dinner is a must. We have already started thinking about our plans and wanted to share our choices for this year with you. This year we are pleased to offer two superb Vintage Ports. The first derives from a remarkable vintage, one that straddles the old and new, the epic 1994. This marked the new era of Port and will be remembered as one of the finest ever, a monumental vintage. The Port is Croft 1994, which was awarded 96 Points from James Suckling, suggesting it is “Perhaps equal to the legendary 1945.” This speaks of both the wine and the vintage. Our price today is remarkable, £230 per case of six. This gives it a Price over Points ratio (POP) of 28, which would be extremely impressive on release. However, with 24 years of age it is very special, we ought to start weighting POP by age. It is hard to think of a wine with this age and quality anywhere near this price point!

Croft today is now owned by the powerhouse Taylor-Fladgate Fonseca group who acquired it in 2001, yet it is the oldest Port wine producer, with records dating back to 1588. History buffs will know this is the year of the Spanish Armada and it was the year of first recorded shipment of Port wine, registered to Bristol. It was formally founded in 1670 and by the time of the French Revolution, John Croft published a treatise on Port wine, making it the vanguard of Port during an era that the British could not import French wine. When one thinks of Croft Port and in particular vintage Port, one is pulled to the Estate’s terminus, the great Quinta da Roeda, universally recognised as one of the great Port vineyards, which they purchased at the beginning of the 18th Century. This vineyard in many ways defines the brilliant Vintage Port style, which is one of plump, rich, beautiful fruit purity, packed with baked black fruit and lovely spice, this explains why it requires years to hit its straps, which the 1994 certainly has.

The second wine heralds from the finest vintage of the 1980s, the superb Fonesca 1985. This was the second highest scoring wine from the Wine Advocate in 1985, with 93 points, a score it also received from the Wine Spectator. It was awarded 96 points by Richard Mayson from Decanter who calls it ‘A real ‘wow’ of a wine that promises to last a lifetime.’ It also received five stars from Michael Broadbent who says ‘My style of wine. Magnificent. Drink 1998-2030. Potentially outstanding.’ Today the wine has 33 years age and is priced at £315 per case of six. To re-iterate the point, this is immense value for a truly great wine of this age, great aged Port is extremely undervalued currently, we posit more than any other wine. Foneseca 1985 is a brilliant wine with incredible depth.

Foneseca Guimaraens, known more simply as Fonseca, was founded in 1822 by Manoel Pedro Guimaraens, who purchased the Estate but retained the original Fonseca name. He was then forced to leave Portugal in an empty port cask, due to civil war. During this period Foneseca grew quickly in importance, its reputation led it to be the second largest Port shipper. In 1948, Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman purchased the house, yet allowing to reman its own separate entity.

Today it is one of the largest and most important Port houses, run by David Guimaraens, the great-great-great grandson of Manoel Pedro. He has been the head winemaker since 1994 and also oversees winemaking and blending of all four Taylor Fladgate Houses; Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca Guimaraens, Croft and Delaforce. Fonseca own three main Quinta vineyards, the most famous is Quinta do Panascal, which they purchased in 1978. Fonseca is known for its brilliant quality and is among the front runners in terms of critic scores in all the declared Port vintages. The wine is known for its incredible concentration, brilliant notes of kirsch, cassis, jam, liquorice and Christmas cake.

Port is only made in vintages when conditions are exceptional for the hardy, dark grapes used in the Douro Valley to reach optimum ripeness. The vines are scattered across steep granite hills, dynamite-blasted into terraces: unique conditions, from which this unique wine derives much of its splendour. Vintage Ports can only be made from the very best grapes of a single vintage and are therefore one of the best value aged bottles in the world of wine, yet always with a limited supply. Due to the limitations of this system and the fragmentation of vineyard ownership, the vast majority of Vintage Port is made by large shipping houses. This centralisation allows for a concentration of skill in both choosing when to declare a vintage and in the production of the wine, and a rigid selection in only using the highest quality fruit. Vintage Port is the perfect festive tipple and these two offer utterly staggering quality at a brilliant price point. They are ready for delivery in December in time for festivities.

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