Was it November of 2013 after a tasting of Sandeman Ports deep in the Douro hills of Portugal we sipped Sandeman Splashes (tonic and White Port) on a terrace overlooking the Douro River below in the thin early afternoon sunshine munching on Portuguese roasted almonds? My goodness what a memory and what a wonderful lunch afterwards.
In the glow of this unforgettable moment we try a 1999 Sandeman Vintage Port. You won’t get a Vintage Port every year only in the most exceptional years. It is expensive and represents about 3% of total Port production. It can last just about forever. The oldest one I have had was from 1867 and it had years left in it! The wines used are only from that vintage year. I will not go into the bureaucratic process involved in declaring a vintage year. But I will say as an illustrative example I have 3 bottles of Quinta Dona Matilde 2011 Vintage Port in my cellar with instructions they will pass to my children after I go to the big vineyard in the sky and even then they may hit their prime long after that. That is a classic Vintage Port my friend.
So we try the 1999 Sandeman for the third time and opened for a virtual tasting a couple of weeks ago. I have some guilt for trying this Vintage Port that should be sleeping far after my Big Sleep. But as duty calls let’s try this one out.
It has a garnet black cherried colour so far from the transparent brownish orange Tawny Ports. You might mistake the aroma for a rich red table wine but an incredibly rich aroma of nuts, orange, vanilla and Douro Porto crepe sauce is nothing you’ll get in a red table wine. On the palate you’ll know it is Port by, pardon me, the muted 40-year Tawny Port aroma. But a Tawny this isn’t. It is full of candied orange, pralines, coconut and dates. A long finish but this wine is strangely prematurely matured and should be consumed promptly. There is lurking under all these aromas a whiff of raisins. There is a maturity to this Port that suggests it is nearing the end of its life cycle which is strange considering it is a Vintage Port. But I have heard from a person who knows a good deal about Port that this was designed more for the American market which is a bit impatient and that is not the temperament that tolerates a classic Vintage Port. It’s low price for a 1999 Vintage Port caught my eye and perhaps served as a tip this grand old Port is heading to the big lagar in the sky?
Not that wine causes reflections on your mortality but a classic Vintage Port just may cause you to realize how short life is and how unfair a bottle of Vintage Port will outlive you! The cruelty of Vintage Port?
As for Canada it seems unavailable at the time of writing but the SAQ says it is coming soon to Quebec.
(Sandeman Vau Vintage 1999 Vintage Porto, Sandeman, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, $26.20, SAQ, 20%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 89/100).