I have been busy drinking over the past few days so am behind on my public commentary. It hasn’t been a “lost weekend” type of drinking adventure but rather a snotty wine connoisseur experience. One of the local theatre companies decided decades ago to organize a wine festival as a fundraiser. It has become possibly the best wine festival in the world for regular folk.
I started drinking wine at a relatively young age so have been attending for a few decades now. The fact that I own a number of vintages of port attests to the fact that I am a pretty serious wine collector. I was drinking a few wonderful ports at the festival and had some memorable conversations about port.
Lots of people will die never even knowing that vintage port exists. It is definitely not the beverage of white trash. In my twenties I vaguely heard that people bought vintage port when their children were born to drink on their 21st birthdays.
But the first time vintage port became real for me was in 1993 when my ‘born in 1963’ boyfriend started explaining to me what a great vintage 1963 was. I still knew nothing but I really loved him so I went to Marquis Wine Cellars and spent an insane amount on a bottle of wine that might be corked. It was 30 years old at the time and there was no guarantee on it. We broke up before I even got to try it. Buying great wine for men that I never get to drink a bit of a theme in my life 🙂
It did mean though that vintage port remained merely a concept for me. I had never actually tasted any! In more or less the same time frame one of my friends started dating this older Frenchman who was a wine expert. So when she told me Francis said we should buy some 1994 vintage port I just did it!
It ended up being one of the best-uninformed decisions of my life. I knew Francis knew wine. It wasn’t very expensive. I knew it wouldn’t be ready to drink for decades. So I just stuck it under my bed waiting to figure out what I had done.
In 1998 I moved to Germany and acquired a European family, with a basement in which I could store my wine! The new in-laws were very impressed with my vintage port but concerned it wouldn’t be ready to drink for 30 years!
I realized I better start buying more while I was young 🙂 So I started paying attention, which led me to salivate outside a wine shop in Lisbon in 2001 where I could see a Niepoort vintage port Wine Spectator had rated almost 100 points – but they were doing inventory and it was Europe so no one was willing to just sell it to me and reduce the inventory. It was my last day in Lisbon so I just had to stare at it fondly.
A short time later I was at a wine dinner showcasing the young Turks of the Douro producing red table wine in addition to port. Dirk van der Niepoort was at our table. My friend said I should tell him my port story. So I did… he told me the new vintage was even better! And then he produced two glasses with a flourish and set them in front of us – “1863 – don’t tell anyone!”
I also made friends with the Portuguese trade ambassador by talking about my trip to Lisbon and my love of port… so he gave me his ticket and I got to attend a sold-out vintage port event that included a taste of the most expensive vintage port in the world. It was delicious.
So it is only good karma that I did something nice of my own with a bottle of vintage port. I saw this guy on Friday night in the Gold Pass tasting lounge – and wondered why he looked so familiar. Luckily he remembered why he knew me. His brother lives in northern BC so when he is in town he makes the most of it. That was the year I was learning about Burgundy so I took them to meet some of the winemakers I had befriended in the afternoon. We kept going after the festival ended and when the final bar closed I invited them to my house to drink a bottle of vintage port. It’s so much more fun to share. And you can end up with a story you can also share – and use to inspire others…