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The Mistake of Late Bottled Vintage Port Wine

Before I talk about what a Late Bottled Vintage Port Wine is, let me be honest with you:  I am a terrible baker. I mean I can prepare the best of best cuisines like Thanksgiving, holiday meals, barbecue, you name it. But I do the same thing over and over again whenever I bake: When I prepare the dish and put it in the oven, rather than looking through the lighted glass, I always open up the oven door to retrieve that heavenly aroma and take a peek. By opening the oven, the consistency of the dish changes because the addition of heat leaving the oven changes the composition of the end result. Then it happens every time when I pull the dish out of the oven, the dish comes out not exactly the way I want it. For some people who I bake for after the meal or dessert is finished, they’ll try it and say, “Oh My God! This is delicious!” Meanwhile, I am thinking, “This is bull$%&(. This is not how I wanted this to turn out.”


Here Comes the Example!

This exact scenario will be used when discussing Late Bottle Vintage Port Wine Production. To be transparent, this type of production is a mistake! A winemaker at a vineyard in “Portugal (where Port Wine originates from) will take a look at their aged fortified wine and notice that the wine is not exactly aging the way that it wants to. That winemaker will then say, “OK! I will bottle this up and then sell it like it is!”  (In Portuguese of course) and then bottle the wine up knowing that the overall result will not meet the expectations that it needs to.

We will have plenty of postings about Ports but for right now, we will summarize through the process until get to the decision of the winemaker. Before we discuss what the 2007 Quarles Harris LBV Port tastes like, let’s first begin about how Ports are designed:


The Process of Creating Port Wine

Gather the varietals necessary (these grape type change drastically here so the main focus is how it is processed). Bring the grapes in the winery and begin the process of fermentation (Converting the sugars from the grapes into alcohol after pressing the juice). During fermentation, the winemaker then adds a distilled spirit which causes stop fermentation (Halting the sugars into alcohol during fermentation)


The Winemaker’s Recipe:

  • Ruby: Port aged in the bottle with bright red color and acidic cherries and raspberries flavor. This fortified wine feels acidic, light to medium bodied and feels a little warm in the finish
  • Tawny: This Port would be aged in a barrel, which calms down that acidic fruits notes from the Ruby style wine while vanillin from the oak brings out a nuttiness aroma and flavor. Lots of raisins and blueberry notes as well.
  • Colheita: This is the premium of Ports:  Aged vintage-dated Tawny Ports that give the optimal richness of nuts and fruits and has a good handle of acidity that dances in your mouth. These are usually aged for over ten years.

Once the winemaker makes a decision of how the wine is designed, there’s no going back. This person could just settle for Ruby and Tawny Ports and then ship it out but we want COLHEITAS! We want the best. But what if that Colheita style you want now is not turning out the way you like it?  Did the winemaker look too early?  Any hesitations?  The winemaker could say, “Well, I am not liking this so I’m going Late Bottle Vintage!

  • Late Bottle Vintage: Aged Vintage Port for 4-6 years and lacks the concentration of Colheitas. The wine is full-bodied, big blueberry and blackberry flavor and with richness that is heavier in feel than Colheita.


Here’s a Port Wine Example!

The winemaker has an out by bottling the wine and slap a label on it. The best expression of Late Bottle Vintage Ports tastes like are the 2007 Quarles Harris LBV. I found this at Trader Joes for $18 and thought, “What a steal!”  I mean if you can find a Port from 1994, 2000, 2005 and 2007 (all my favorite port vintages), get it! For the price, for the quality, from a convenient store as accessible as Trader Joes, to this day, the 2007 Quarles Harris LBV is not just my favorite Port, it’s also “my favorite mistake”.


Mario Luna

Certified Sommelier

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