Special release of Hout Bay Vineyards
Black Swan Vintage Port 2010
Vintage port, the finest and rarest wine,
the very pinnacle of port
Vintage port, the finest and rarest wine, the very pinnacle of port. The origin of port really began from a happy accident. When England was at war with France, the aristocracy was criminally short of their supply of French wine. This dire situation would not stand, so another plan was made. As a result, the Portuguese wine industry exploded and the rich Brits stayed happily drunk.
Here is where the happy accident comes in. The sea voyage from Porto to England was quite a long hop, and the wine would often arrive spoiled. To combat this problem, the Porto wine merchants would add brandy (distilled wine) to the barrels. This increased the alcohol and made the wine less susceptible to spoilage – hence the birth of what we know as port wine. They also discovered that the longer it stayed in the barrels, the better the quality became.
Vintage port established itself as the Englishman’s wine early in the 19th century during the Peninsula War when Wellington’s officers enjoyed a run of fine vintages culminating in the Waterloo vintage of 1815.
Only in a year when everything is perfect does one ‘declare’ a vintage. In the case of Hout Bay Vineyards, 2010 was our first year of port production and therefore it is appropriate to declare it as one. It is also the first port commercially produced in Hout Bay. Vintage ports will last for a century or more and are renowned for their massive structure, concentration of flavour and distinctive masculine style. Bottled after one to two years in wood, they continue to mature for decades, slowly attaining the sublime elegance and power that are hallmarks of a vintage port.
It may be centuries before a vintage port has reached its full perfection. For this reason, parents and godparents can confidently set some aside, knowing it will reach maturity about the same time as the fortunate child. The danger is the temptation to open the occasional bottle to see how it is getting on. A single bottle - or many more! - can be stored at home in a cool, dark, vibration-free cupboard. To keep the cork moist, the bottle should rest on its side with the visible splash of white paint uppermost.
Decanting step by step
Vintage ports, having matured in the bottle, should be decanted to remove the natural sediment deposited by the wine.
The tools for the job
There is no mystery to decanting – but some romance!
Stand the bottle upright for several hours to allow all the sediment to sink to the bottom.
Have a perfectly clean decanter, a candle and corkscrew ready. A modern strainer will also make the job easier.
Slowly does it
With the port bottle still vertical, remove the seal and wipe the top of the bottle clean. Gently ease the cork out. Slowly and steadily, pour the port into the decanter. The splash of white paint on the bottle tells you how the bottle was cellared – this mark should always be uppermost, even while decanting. A candle (or table lamp/torch) behind the bottle will help you to see if any sediment is approaching the neck. This is when you should stop pouring.
A good cook will not waste this deposit. It is the residue of old grape skins, a natural substance that is rich in flavour. The last drops in a bottle will enhance soups or stews.
Of course, there is also the more adventurous way of opening a bottle of vintage port. After so many years of ageing, the cork often tends to disintegrate and the simplest disturbance can cause it to crumble into this most delicate of wines. Get yourself a pair of port tongs and heat them in a fire till red hot. Clamp the tongs around the neck of the bottle for a while and then wet the neck with an ice-cold rag. This will create a fissure in the glass and the neck can easily be snapped off. Voilá, your bottle is open without any nasty bits of old cork floating around!
Vintage port should be consumed within 48 hours of opening. Having spent its life in a bottle, allowed little contact with air, it will quickly oxidize.
In 2010 Hout Bay Vineyards produced 750 litres from the 5 traditional port grape varieties which, in equal parts, contribute to this finest of wines:
- Touriga National
- Touriga Francessa
- Tinta Roris
- Tinta Barrocca
|The name Black Swan was coined to represent the equally elegant and stylish bird, a pair of which was given to Peter by his family to mark the occasion of his 50th birthday (a good vintage itself). It was around the same time that this port was racked into 40-year-old French oak barrels.
||Only 150 numbered bottles will be released in wooden gift boxes at the vineyard’s winter open day. The remainder (600 litres) will be released in 4 stages – a late bottle vintage in around 4 years from now, then in 10 years, 15 years, and finally a 20-year-old tawny port.
As has become traditional, the mid-year open day will focus on selling red wine only, and case lots will be available of the following:
- Very limited quantities of the 2007 Petrus and 2007 Bordeaux Blend (we are sure many of you remember the initial release of this very popular wine. This is the remainder that was held beck to mature further in our cellar)
- 2008 Merlot
- 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2008 Petrus, in 750ml and a limited quantity of magnums.
All are welcome to join us in our cellar at the top end of Grotto Way from noon onwards on Saturday, 28 May 2011.