155-Year-Old Wine? That's a Good Scion

Tasting Taylor Fladgate's "Scion," a $3,200 155-year-old tawny Port.


As a wine writer, people often ask me how long a wine will keep in their cellar. How about 155 years?

That's the age of Taylor Fladgate's "Scion," a tawny Port I tasted at a February 9th luncheon honoring its launch at New York's Eleven Madison Park. And it tasted amazingly fine and very balanced — lots of candied fruits and nuts after 15 decades of being concentrated through evaporation, yet with surprisingly great acidity. But at $3,200 a bottle, I wasn't tempted to go back for a second helping.

Traditionally, grape farmers in Portugal's Douro Valley would harvest their red grapes, make a basic wine to sell to the major Port blenders and, in good years, keep a barrel or two — called "pipes" — in their cellars as sort of a liquid bank account for a dowry, retirement or a rainy day.

A couple of years ago, Taylor Fladgate was offered two such barrels documented back to 1855, unusually rare even by Port standards, from a time konwn in wine circles as "the pre-phylloxera era." For the uninitiated, phylloxera is a root pest that killed most of the vines in Europe in the 1800s, the only salvation being to graft the remaining European vines on resistant, native-American rootstocks. "Normally, very old wines are cloyingly sweet due to evaporation," says Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, "and we blend them into our aged tawnies. But this one had very good acidity, so we were able to bottle it unblended."

The wine is available in the United States through Kobrand, the sole importers for Taylor Fladgate. Only 100 bottles have been allocated in the U.S.


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5 Comments

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There must clearly be horrible loopholes in the American tax system if olks have $3200.00 to buy a bottle of anything you will pee out in 2 hours...

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Several years ago the Symington's trotted out the 1870 Rio Tinto (Smith Woodhouse) which was absolutely divine. I have no doubt this 1855 was extraordinary. What a treat, in a time where really old wines have all but disappeared from the scene.
jim s.

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Another stupid waste of money, like Lous XIII cognac, "pre-embargo" Cuban cigars, etc. Really credulous (gullible) rich people will buy anything. I can fabricate 155 year old docs to say anything. I used to work for a liquor distributor that sold to all the high-end steakhouses, and I can tell you we didn't have air conditioned storage, weren't too picky about suppliers either. Labels are easy to make, and it's also easy to rebottle village plonk into a first growth "pre-WW II" bordeaux bottle.

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Because it's possible, it must be the case? Maybe, but maybe not. Automatic cynicism is as bad as automatic faith.

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Good story. How about another one on what evidence a vintner needs to produce to authenticate the age of a wine?

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