Bottle #61: Taylor Fladgate 1982 LBV Port

Ah Port! There’s nothing so elegant as relaxing by the fire after dinner with some chocolate – or a cigar, if that’s your thing – and a glass of deep ruby red liquid. While there are tawny Ports and even white Ports, the deep red color is so synonymous with Port wine that we use “port” as a color word.

Which is why Bottle #61 – Taylor Fladgate 1982 Late Bottle Vintage Port – is one of the most amazing things I’ve discovered in Grandma’s collection. And not because of who made it, or how old it is, but because it is nothing like what I’d expect a Late Bottled Vintage Port to be. Instead, it is perfectly clear and nearly colorless.

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As I talked about in Reveal 12, all the color from this bottle has sedimented out or faded. Now, some styles of Port are known for having a lot of sediment, but — as I’ll talk about in a minute — when Taylor Fladgate introduced this style of Port in 1970, avoiding sediment was one of their goals. Now, red wines do generally change color as they age, typically turning orange or brownish over time. Tiny Bottle #8 is a bottle of red wine from California in the 60s or 70s, and it too is nearly colorless now.

I blame age and storage conditions. I’m pretty sure this collection spent some of its life in non-climate-controlled areas in Canada., The bottles have probably seen at least one freeze-thaw cycle, and I’ve got to think that would impact color.

Now that I’ve talked about the colorless elephant in the room, it’s time to talk about Port. Port comes from the Douro Valley in Portugal and starts with a mixture of different local red wine grapes. When making Port, the maker will stop the fermentation of the grapes about halfway through by adding unaged brandy. Because the yeast hasn’t turned all the sugar into alcohol yet the resulting Port retains quite a lot of sweetness, and the added alcohol yields a high proof fortified wine of around 20%.

There are a number of different Port styles. Vintage Ports are the cream of the crop, with less than 1% of Ports getting that designation, and only in years that are deemed good enough to declare a vintage. They are designed for long bottle aging before drinking and are typically very expensive.

If a Port is not selected to be a vintage Port, then it can go in a few different directions. Tawny Ports are aged in small barrels usually for a long time, and experience some oxidation in addition to picking up some brown color and vanilla and caramel flavors from the wood. Ruby Ports are aged in big barrels for a short period of time. They still have the fruity character and tannins you’d expect from a red wine. Both tawny and ruby Ports will have wines from multiple years blended together.

My tiny bottle is a Late Bottled Vintage Port, abbreviated to LBV. This style is intended to give you something closer to the experience of drinking a vintage Port, but at a much cheaper price tag and without having to wait years for it to age and mellow in the bottle. In a vintage Port, the wine is aged for less than two years before bottling. For an LBV Port, high quality wine from a single year is aged for four to six years before being bottled. Because it has already done its mellowing in the barrel, it can be drunk right away.

The maker of my bottle is Taylor Fladgate, and they claim to have originated the LBV style in 1970, when they released a 1965 LBV. As part of the process of making them drinkable right away, Taylor Fladgate filters and fines their LBV wines, so they shouldn’t give off a lot of sediment like a vintage Port would. But, well… here we are with a clear bottle of LBV Port.

The wine in this particular bottle was made in 1982 and bottled in 1987, so this is another one where dating the bottle is the easy part. The hard part is imagining what it’s going to taste like. From the little I could find out about this from Googling, I don’t think there’s any point in trying to shake the color back in – that would just result in bits of floaty stuff in the wine. So I’ll be carefully pouring it off the top.

I did find one review written in 1999. The reviewer said that it had been a superb vintage when they’d tasted it in 1989, but didn’t even give it a rating now, because it was “proof that you should not store an LBV too long.” Back then, they said it was still enjoyable, but here we are, 25 years after that review, and 42 years after this wine was made so… it’s certainly going to be interesting!

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Bottle #61: Taylor Fladgate 1982 LBV Port

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Ah Port! There’s nothing so elegant as relaxing by the fire after dinner with some chocolate – or a cigar, if that’s your thing – and a glass of deep ruby red liquid. While there are tawny Ports and even white Ports, the deep red color is so synonymous with Port wine that we use “port” as a color word.

Which is why Bottle #61 – Taylor Fladgate 1982 Late Bottle Vintage Port – is one of the most amazing things I’ve discovered in Grandma’s collection. And not because of who made it, or how old it is, but because it is nothing like what I’d expect a Late Bottled Vintage Port to be. Instead, it is perfectly clear and nearly colorless.

As I talked about in Reveal 12, all the color from this bottle has sedimented out or faded. Now, some styles of Port are known for having a lot of sediment, but — as I’ll talk about in a minute — when Taylor Fladgate introduced this style of Port in 1970, avoiding sediment was one of their goals. Now, red wines do generally change color as they age, typically turning orange or brownish over time. Tiny Bottle #8 is a bottle of red wine from California in the 60s or 70s, and it too is nearly colorless now.

I blame age and storage conditions. I’m pretty sure this collection spent some of its life in non-climate-controlled areas in Canada. The bottles have probably seen at least one freeze-thaw cycle, and I’ve got to think that would impact color.

Now that I’ve talked about the colorless elephant in the room, it’s time to talk about Port. Port comes from the Douro Valley in Portugal and starts with a mixture of different local red wine grapes. When making Port, the maker will stop the fermentation of the grapes about halfway through by adding unaged brandy. Because the yeast hasn’t turned all the sugar into alcohol yet the resulting Port retains quite a lot of sweetness, and the added alcohol yields a high proof fortified wine of around 20%.

There are a number of different Port styles. Vintage Ports are the cream of the crop, with less than 1% of Ports getting that designation, and only in years that are deemed good enough to declare a vintage. They are designed for long bottle aging before drinking and are typically very expensive.

If a Port is not selected to be a vintage Port, then it can go in a few different directions. Tawny Ports are aged in small barrels usually for a long time, and experience some oxidation in addition to picking up some brown color and vanilla and caramel flavors from the wood. Ruby Ports are aged in big barrels for a short period of time. They still have the fruity character and tannins you’d expect from a red wine. Both tawny and ruby Ports will have wines from multiple years blended together.

My tiny bottle is a Late Bottled Vintage Port, abbreviated to LBV. This style is intended to give you something closer to the experience of drinking a vintage Port, but at a much cheaper price tag and without having to wait years for it to age and mellow in the bottle. In a vintage Port, the wine is aged for less than two years before bottling. For an LBV Port, high quality wine from a single year is aged for four to six years before being bottled. Because it has already done its mellowing in the barrel, it can be drunk right away.

The maker of my bottle is Taylor Fladgate, and they claim to have originated the LBV style in 1970, when they released a 1965 LBV. As part of the process of making them drinkable right away, Taylor Fladgate filters and fines their LBV wines, so they shouldn’t give off a lot of sediment like a vintage Port would. But, well… here we are with a clear bottle of LBV Port.

The wine in this particular bottle was made in 1982 and bottled in 1987, so this is another one where dating the bottle is the easy part. The hard part is imagining what it’s going to taste like. From the little I could find out about this from Googling, I don’t think there’s any point in trying to shake the color back in – that would just result in bits of floaty stuff in the wine. So I’ll be carefully pouring it off the top.

I did find one review written in 1999. The reviewer said that it had been a superb vintage when they’d tasted it in 1989, but didn’t even give it a rating now, because it was “proof that you should not store an LBV too long.” Back then, they said it was still enjoyable, but here we are, 25 years after that review, and 42 years after this wine was made so… it’s certainly going to be interesting!

 

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