pursuits

Vintage Ports From 2016 Will Be in Tight Supply, Driving Prices

  • Wet spring was followed by summer heatwaves, September rain
  • Other recent vintage port years include 2011, 2007, 2003

A wet spring in Portugal’s Douro Valley contributed to low yields for 2016 vintage ports which, combined with sterling’s weakness, may help drive prices higher in the key U.K. market compared with the last widely declared 2011 vintage, according to some of the region’s leading producers.

“We’re looking at increasing prices by 20 to 30 percent in pounds relative to the ’11s,” depending on brand, John Symington of Symington Family Estates, which owns labels including Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s, said at a presentation in London May 17. That would put retail prices per bottle “in the region of 80 pounds” ($108).

Presentation of 2016 vintage port in London, May 17.

Photographer: Guy Collins/Bloomberg

“It was a year to be extremely patient,” Symington said, with “nerves of steel” required in deciding when to pick the grapes following summer heatwaves and September rain. The wet spring caused a late start to the maturation cycle, and while the rain later in the season delayed some picking, those estates that waited enjoyed good harvest weather.

Vintage years for port are only declared by the region’s major producers in the best years, typically one in every three to four, while in other years individual producers or single estates may choose to produce a vintage if their wine has been particularly successful. Recent top vintage years have been declared in 2011, 2007 and 2003.

The quantity of vintage port produced in 2016 will be lower than 2007 and 2011, meaning supplies will be tight, according to the producers. Adrian Bridge of The Fladgate Partnership, which owns Croft, Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca, said the depreciation of sterling since 2015 highs will also be a factor. “That’s why the price has appreciated more in the U.K.”

Sterling, which traded around 1.18 euros in May 2013 as the 2011 vintage was being presented to the market, rose as high as 1.44 euros in July 2015 before sliding back to the current 1.14 in a reflection of concerns over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The focus in Thursday’s presentation was more on the style of the vintage than the vagaries of foreign exchange markets. “There’s a tannic structure which is quite extraordinary,”said Christian Seely of Quinta do Noval. “We have another really great vintage on our hands.”

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