Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Portly Pretensions

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Portly Pretensions

Article excerpt

VICTORIA MOORE investigates when to lay down your best vintage

It seemed like the simplest (and most obvious) thing in the world: buying the appropriate bottle of vintage port for a ruby (40th) wedding anniversary. But then I started to worry. 1960 was a good port year -- many of the houses declared the vintage, which means that they considered it to be of exceptional quality, worth bottling after only two or three years in wood. I was pretty certain I would be able to find some somewhere. The question was: would it be up to anything after all these years in the bottle (and would we be able to tell)?

Most people seem to be champagne socialists these days (defining themselves as wanting to bring champagne to everyone), and as champagne remains the accepted cultural way of toasting triumph, it inevitably comes the way of all but those with the most gloomy lives at some point or another. But few of us are fortunate enough to have tasted vintage port. We just don't ever get round to it. You might just buy some for a goddaughter's christening (if you're quite posh and not into Bibles and stuff). Let me tell you what will happen to that bottle of port, carefully laid down by responsible parents, when their beloved offspring is too young to grapple with a corkscrew. Because it's too special a thing ever to open, the cork is eventually pulled at the close of a drunken family dinner. By the next day, no one can remember drinking it -- let alone what it might have tasted like.

But down to business. First I put in a call to the wine merchants, Roberson, near my house. They didn't have any 1960 vintage port. The last they'd had was in 1997, when it had sold for about [pounds]40 (a good price, because they'd bought directly from the producer). They expected a bottle of the same would cost me about [pounds]80 by now. …

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