The case of the undeclared vintage – a mystery

Dow's Port wax seal?

Last August we bought a parcel wines from a client, this is something we do from time to time, this particular transaction provided us with a useful selection of mature of vintage ports wines from the 1940s 1950s and 1960s.

The oldest wine was Dow’s 1946 vintage port – this raised our curiosity as it this year is unknown for vintage port, this vintage fell between the excellent ‘45 and the very decent ‘47, so there would be little economic reason to declare three port vintages consecutively. We scoured our reference books and found no record of any 1946 ports, all sources agreed it was not declared by any house.

Dow's 1946 vintage port
Dow’s 1946 vintage port

Yet we had 6 bottles of Dow’s port all seemingly correctly sealed, wrapped and labelled as Dow’s 1946. Short of opening a bottle in the hope that the cork might be branded with a vintage we had no other way of confirming this. This made selling the wine with any degree of confidence rather difficult.

More in desperation rather than with any expectations we contacted Dow’s in Oporto, quite soon we received a reply from Cynthia Jenson who works for Dow’s owners the Symington family as a writer on the Graham’s Port blog. What she had to say may explain the mystery of the undeclared vintage:

“James Symington tells us that the IVDP (or more accurately, its predecessors) did not control Vintage declarations as closely back then as they do now, it was a much more informal process. After the war things were pretty slow, so our guess is that one of our distribution partners in England asked for some wine, and we shipped a cask which they then bottled themselves (hence no selo).

James also added that about 30 years ago he found a few bottles of the 1946 at Bomfim which were drunk after that and were very good!

Another point of interest – writing about Graham’s 1945, Paul recently mentioned that following the War there was a strict quota system ruled by the UK’s Ministry of Food and only very limited quantities of Port were shipped, he said his father Michael remembers vividly the dilemma of which wines to ship under our quota.

The one other lead I will try to follow up after harvest is this: we have many ledgers of both wines made (the individual lots made) and wines shipped by Dow’s at our offices in Gaia. I have been itching to get my hands on them to do some research for the Vintage Port Site, I will let you know if I find any records for 1946 that might shed further light.”

At the time of writing we still have a few bottles of this and other mature vintage port wines:

1946 Dow Vintage Port (Damaged label)
1955 Sandeman Vintage Port (Damaged label)
1960 Fonseca Vintage Port (Damaged label)
1960 Sandeman Vintage Port (Damaged label)
1960 Taylors Vintage Port
1963 Warre Vintage Port
1966 Taylors Vintage Port

Please contact us for more information and current pricing


About Coe Vintners Fine Wine

Coe Vintners Fine Wine is part of the Coe Group, one of the leading wine and spirit suppliers in the UK. An independent family business established in 1930, Coe Vintners will celebrate 85 years continuous trading in 2015.
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