DO YOU buy port to drink or as an investment, or, come to think of it, do you buy it at all? I'm asking because wine merchants are currently trying to persuade us to part with serious money for the 2000 vintage ports which they're offering en primeur, in other words before they're bottled and released. If it's anything like the in- demand 2000 Bordeaux vintage, it should sell out within no time. The big difference is that port is an after-dinner drink with a bit of an image problem.
The sales pitch is convincing though. Unlike bordeaux, the wine only becomes vintage port when the port houses "declare" a vintage, the last being 1997. On average this happens only once every three years and is made in minuscule quantities compared to Bordeaux. Because it's a fortified wine, it takes a good decade for the fiery spirit to blend and soften. After that, it can happily stay on top form for longer than most of us reading this. And the wines in 2000 are undoubtedly good.
The growing season was hot and dry, just the sort of conditions the hardy vines, grown in Portugal's Douro Valley, thrive on. The yields, which determine the concentration in the wine, were as low as three-quarters of a kilo of grapes to each vine. After a late September harvest in good weather, the quality looked good enough to the port producers to justify this year's declaration of 2000 as a vintage year.
Tasting young vintage port is like taking three parts cassis and one part firewater. From the young barrel samples, it's clear that the best have an impressive, brooding depth of ink-stainingly opaque colour, the kind of intense aromas which bode well for the future. Plus there's the allure of a rich, sweet blackberry and plum fruitiness locked in place by the building blocks of …