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Edward Peters

Personal Dessert Wines

Port VII: Kindly 1977

We lucked into a bottle of porto’s great 1977 vintage. But sometimes luck is facilitated by good practices.

Vintage porto is too complex a wine, and too expensive a bottle, to stroll in and pull one off the shelf as if one were picking up a German white to go with home-made chicken noodle soup. The majority of port drinkers are not privileged to live in a port-enclave, surrounded by aficionados who can advise on vintages and shippers, and most of us have to read our way into satisfying purchases. Read, that is, and strike up some mutually beneficial friendships. Here, I speak of local wine-merchants.

            Having gotten a sense of various wine establishments, I eventually settled on two, maybe three, and, without being slavish to the rule, make most of my purchases through them. I greet the staff by name, and if I get them wrong, as I frequently do, at least I am recognized as the guy who gets names wrong, each time he buys wine here. More importantly, I am open to their advice, and I ask questions straightforwardly. (Truth to tell, I pose most of my questions on red wines to one seller, suggesting, I hope, that I know enough about whites, and direct most of my questions on white wines to the other, implying that I am well-acquainted with the world of reds. Perhaps I am only fooling myself.)

            There things stood when I placed a telephone order with one shop for several bottles of wine, including a just-released 1997 porto. Unbeknownst to us, though, the last bottle from that shipper had already been sold, but as my order was already paid-for, (and perhaps because the staff remembered my name better than I remembered theirs) the shop made use of its right to substitute a product of equal or greater value, here, a vintage 1977 from the same worthy house. Thus I got a 22 year old bottle of port ready to drink, worth more than double what I had paid for its toddler brother. And the wine shop, I might add, got a customer for life. +++

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