Fine Living | Need To Now

Time-limited luxuries

A port that was made at the time of the Crimean war – and still tastes perfect

Time-limited luxuries

December 02 2010
John Stimpfig

Taylor’s, the historic port shipper founded in 1692, is releasing one of the rarest and oldest ports in the world, dating back to the 1850s. “Two years ago, we became aware of the existence of a very rare pre-phylloxera port, which was the heirloom of a distinguished Douro Valley family,” says Taylor’s MD, Adrian Bridge.

Just two pipes (or casks) remained, which Taylor’s acquired from the heirs of the last direct family descendant. One other pipe was believed to have been bought by Winston Churchill. “When we tasted samples, much to our surprise, we found that the wine was in perfect condition, in fact of extraordinary quality. This alone makes it quite remarkable,” adds Bridge.

The wine clearly represents a rare piece of port history, which is another reason why Taylor’s decided to bottle and sell it. It was made at the time of the Crimean War, when the Douro’s vineyards comprised completely ungrafted vines. Indeed, Bridge believes this may be may be one of the only wines in the world to survive in faultless condition since the vine disease phylloxera ravaged its vineyards in the 1860s.

Named Scion, the wine will be sold in a hand-blown crystal decanter. This will also be set in a wooden box, based on the design of a 19th-century instrument case with traditional joinery and brass fittings. Inside the lid is a limited-edition book, which tells the story of the wine and also explains the significance of its pre-phylloxera origin. It also comes equipped with a rare guarantee seal from the Douro Wines Institute (IVP).

All of which explains the price tag of £2,500 a bottle. Just 1,400 are available in the UK from specialist wine merchants from December.