In Portugal, a Vintage Port year is “declared” when:
A. Ninety percent of Port producers agree that the grapes in a given year were exceptional
B. The Port Wine Institute conducts blind tastings and based on its findings, instructs producers to declare (or not declare) a year as a vintage year
C. Individual producers decide independently that their grapes warrant being made into Vintage Port
D. The grapes taken from sample vineyards throughout the region achieve a perfect ratio of sugar to acidity as measured in grams per liter
The process of declaring a vintage year and making a vintage Port begins with a judgment. How good are the grapes from that year? Each producer of Port makes this decision independently. If the grapes are excellent, if they possess just the right balance of richness, power, freshness, and finesse, then the producer will “declare” the vintage. Even though the decision to declare is independent, the truly stunning years for vintage Port are usually those declared by 50 percent or more of all producers. Once a producer declares a vintage, a formal procedure ensues. Before the wine can be bottled, the shipper must submit its intention and samples of the wine to the Port Wine Institute for tasting and approval. The great vintage Port years from the second half of the twentieth century through the first decade of the twenty-first have been: 1955, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2016, and 2017.