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.