Superb math skills from Michael Markarian, inderpal singh and Darla Hoffmann last week! A++
This week: LBV vs Vintage Port
What are the differentiating factors?
The main differences between Vintage Port and Late-Bottled-Vintage (LBV) Port lie within the aging, ageability, and stylistic coherence within each category. With Vintage Port, most houses will decide whether or not they will declare a vintage within a couple years of aging, and the wines must be bottled no later than July 30th of the third year following harvest. The wines are meant to cellar and, with time, to show the true beauty and character of a vintage. They tend to be amongst the most expensive offerings a port house has, as they tend to only declare a vintage a few times per decade (though climate change, as in many other regions, is changing this practice), with the most sought-after offerings coming from universally declared vintages.
LBV Port was a category that was created within the last fifty-or-so years, offering the consumer a vintage-dated Port that has spent more time maturing in cask before bottling. Wines destined for LBV Port, much like Vintage Port, all come from grapes harvested in the same year, and spend from four to six years maturing in cask before being bottled, and may carry the designation of "Envelhicido em garaffa" if matured in bottle for an additional three years bottle prior to release. In turn, these wines are meant to be consumed upon release and theoretically do not benefit from additional cellaring. Given the looseness of regulations, style and character from any particular vintage can become muddied and of varying quality.
One other difference is that most Vintage Port requires decanting because of the deposit that develops during bottle aging, while most LBV is filtered prior to bottling so does not require decanting. The additional time spent in cask before bottling gives LBV some of the mellowed flavors of a Tawny Port combined with the fruitiness of a Ruby Port.
1/The fact that most LBVs are filtered and often cold-stablilized as well is sometimes used by its critics that their flavors can be compromized/lessened even if it eliminates the need of decanting.
2/because most LBVs are bottled only after 4 to 6 years after vintage , they are oak-aged easily twice as long as Vintage Ports. this makes them more approchable at an earlier age on the market.
LBV came into existence somewhat by accident during the lean years of the Port wine trade between 1930-1950 when vintage Ports languished too long in wood waiting to be sold. Thus, many houses claim to have invented the style. At that time, according to existing laws, these wines were technically 'late bottled'.
Noval first applied the name to a bottle, their 1954 vintage released in 1961: it was described as "a new style of vintage port. No decanting necessary, buy it from your off-license, throw it in the back of your car and drink it that night".
However, Taylor's popularized the style beginning in 1955 under the designation 'vintage reserve', a title to which they owned the rights. The IVP sanctioned the Late Bottle Vintage designation in the mid 1960's to give all the houses a shared term, and Taylor's 1965 LBV launched in 1970 with an accompanying letter to the wine trade. The letter was signed by Alistair Robertson.
A former Managing Director of the Fladgate Partnership, Alistair Robertson is today largely credited for truly solidifying and marketing the idea at Taylor's. When still a rather fresh arrival to Portugal, brought over as a member of the Yeatman family, he saw an opportunity to move more Port at a time when the company was having trouble producing a profit from their high-tier vintage Port. He believed that a more affordable bottling that carried the term 'vintage' on the label, but lacked the required decanting of vintage Port, would perform well in Port's large English-speaking markets. He was correct.