Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wine Wednesday: Not Just Any Old Port

Posted By on Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 8:27 AM

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While I do buy a lot of wine, it's very rare that I buy the most expensive stuff. I can count on one hand the number of bottles that I have purchased in a wine shop that cost more than $100. That doesn't keep me from being fascinated by the really pricey stuff.

You can rely on vintage ports to be some of the most outrageously expensive wines you'll ever see on a menu or on the wine shelves at your favorite liquor store. True Port wines must come from the Douro Valley in Portugal, so by definition they are produced in extremely limited quantities. Add in the factor that Ports are usually made by a complicated blending of multiple lots of various vineyards and vintages, and the process can get pretty pricey. Also, since Ports take much longer to mature than other traditional varietals, vintages from more than a century ago are still eminently drinkable. And expensive as heck.

Hoyt Hill's email newsletter recently brought me news of an extreme example of the preciousness of this tawny treasure. In the second half of the 19th century, phylloxera virtually wiped out most of the vineyards of Europe. Just about every rootstock producing the great grapes of the EU is from a post-phylloxera version created through hybridization.

This means that the history of wine pretty much got wiped out like the burning of the Library of Alexandria. So examples of wine from before this period are viewed as unbelievably valuable. A lot of 155-year old Port was recently made available to the market after being passed on from generation to generation of a Portuguese winemaking family. David Guimaraens, the winemaker for Taylor Fladgate, discovered that this wine had not lost its essence over the years, but instead had gained an elegance that was unsurpassed.

Robert Parker, who can often be fairly stingy in his praise, basically had a winegasm while describing this special Port:

A clear dark brown color that looks like a mature Tokaji, with thick tears in the glass. It has a very intense, almost honeyed bouquet with allspice, singed leather, pressed rose petals, molasses, mint and a touch of dried fig. The oxidation is minimal, which is quite remarkable for its age, a sense of ebullience and joie-de-vivre bursting forth. The palate is full-bodied with intense honeyed fruits, touches of fig, date and licorice vying for attention, biting acidity that cuts through the intense fruit. This is unbelievably fresh and vibrant with an almost Sauternes-like quality on the honey-glazed, hazelnut-tinged finish. It has unbelievably length. Simply stunning.

Parker gave it a perfect 100 score, which is also a rare occurrence.

So if you'd like to know what it's like to try some of this nectar of the gods, your chance is coming soon. It is being released under the name of "SCION." Here's the description of the offering.

The wine is contained in a specially made crystal decanter produced exclusively for SCION. Each decanter is individually hand blown and finished. It is presented in a solid wooden box based on a nineteenth century instrument case. Its period feel is enhanced by fine detailing, including traditional dovetail joinery and brass fittings.

Set into the box is a limited edition book which tells the story of SCION and its remarkable journey through history. Illustrated with ink drawings by the acclaimed illustrator and typographer Sarah Coleman, this book itelf is a collector's item. Gold blocked into the cover is the word SCION set in a histroic Portuguese typeface dating from 1874. Other period details include marbled endpapers, gilt edging and a traditional ribbon marker.

Hoyt has a single bottle coming early next year and it can be yours for only $3780. Let me know in the comments if you're interested, and I'll give you first dibs.

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