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September 10, 2014

Taylor Fladgate's 151-Year-Old Port

By Sasha Levine | Wine
Taylor Fladgate's 151-Year-Old Port
Courtesy of Taylor Fladgate

There’s no better way to toast the coming autumnal season than with Taylor Fladgate’s brand-new release: the maker’s first-ever 151-year-old Tawny Port.

More than a century and a half since its harvesting, the 1863 Single Harvest Tawny Port arrives on select U.S. shelves this month in a specially crafted crystal decanter, housed in a burled maple veneer box ($3,700). With only 1,600 bottles available worldwide, this extremely rare port owes its singularity to more than just its age, but to its exceptional provenance, as well.

With grapes plucked from the port house’s vines and foot-treaded in the Douro Valley, not only does the vintage mark one of the best harvest seasons since 1834, thanks to a year of intense heat and a resuscitably rainy August, but also one of the very last harvest seasons before the outbreak of phylloxera—a pest that ravaged vine roots in the 19th century and changed the course of grape growing.

The single-harvest fortified wine (colheita in Portuguese)—which, unlike other bottles offered by the port house, is unblended—then fortuitously sat waiting in two wooden casks in Taylor Fladgate’s massive, dark, damp port lodges in Oporto. (All tawny port, unlike vintage ports left to mature in bottles, is aged in wood.) The facility’s conditions, brought on by cool, humid winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean and the Douro River nearby, provided the ideal conditions for the vintage’s maturation.

One hundred and fifty-one years later, this singular fortified wine boasts a subtly spicy (nutmeg, pepper), sticky-sweet nose (molasses, marzipan) and a full-bodied, mellow, lightly acidic flavor that’s entirely unique to the vintage, proving that the adage “patience is a virtue” is never truer than when applied to port. taylor.pt/en/.