Catavino keeps you current not only with the remarkable wine developments in Spain and Portugal, two of the most dynamic wine producers on the planet, but you'll learn about food trends, new dishes and restaurants and the ancient and modern cultures on the Iberian Peninsula. And you may not notice it, but Catavino also happens to be one of smoothest designed websites you'll have the pleasure of visiting.
Doug Frost MS/MW http://dougfrost.com

Birth Year Wines

Birthdays for me are a bit arbitrary. One year I feel younger, the next older. No matter the date, tomorrow means I’m one day older than I was the day before, another notch on the bedpost. So I wonder why wine geeks get so wound up about birth year wines. The idea is simple, I was born in 1975 and therefore, all vintage wines of that year are deemed to be extra special due to the fact that it was that year I decided to join everyone else on this small blue rock rotating around a ball of fiery plasma within an infinite universe. For me, 1975 was not the best year to be born a wine geek. Many regions had so-so vintages, and correct me if I’m wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be a wine region who had a phenomenal vintage in ’75.

Last week, I had my 2nd birth year wine of my life time. The first was a uninspiring Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Spatelese, that a good friend, and at the time, co-worker of mine, offered to uncork before I moved to Spain. I remember the ceremony of pulling the wine-soaked cork, and the anticipation as we prayed for a clean wine, free of cork taint and oxidation. Carefully pouring the Spatelese into the appropriate glasses, we dipped our noses deep into the bowl to find, not cork odors, but rather, enough oxidation to have left the wine with little to no character. Simple flavors of apples and light honey notes gave us a wine that, while not stellar, was drinkable enough for us to finish the bottle while reflecting on my coming journey. The fact that it was a wine from 1975 probably made it more palatable, but it was its faded color which helped me to feel satisfied that at least I had aged more gracefully. Knowing the weakness of the 1975 vintage, I didn’t expect that I would again taste another birth year wine, and so I savored every last drop – enjoying it for what it was.

Last week, while in Norway, I had the chance to try yet another birth year wine. My uncle and aunt found one another approximately 20 years ago, potentially encouraged to continue their courtship when they discovered they each carried with them a bottle of the Quinta do Noval 1975 Vintage Port. One was a gift to my aunt from friends, the other was a duty free shop purchase by my uncle as he ran to catch a plane. Last week when my uncle shared with us this story, he held the bottle in hand and said, “I think we should open this wine. What do you think?” A few years back, they had opened the first bottle with my other uncle, fondly remembering how much they enjoyed it. Hence, my uncle felt that it might be time to open the last one.

Who was I to argue?

So one night, after another large meal, we pulled this treasure out and set to work opening it. The top was slightly crusted with leaked sugars, but the seal seemed tight and the bottle in good condition. My uncle, much to my delight, offered me the chance to open it: a gift in and of itself. Cutting back the now delicate top seal, I was greeted with a dark and dirty cork. After a bit of cleaning, while ensuring the cork was still stiff enough to pull out, I began the process of inserting the corkscrew. The entry was easy, which made me apprehensive that we might have an overly oxidized wine with a cork too soft to still marshal its task of sealing the wine on the inside from the air without. Happily, I felt a pleasant resistance as I began to withdraw it from the neck. The result, as I heard the last pop, was three quarters of a cork, broken and throughly saturated with wine. Looking down, I saw the last bit of the bottom of the cork sitting in the neck as if determined to continue in its original duty of sealing the wine. Corkscrew in hand, I attempted to uncork the fragile remnants at the bottom of the neck; but once contact was made, the cork quickly escaped into the wine below.

The decanting turned out to be easier than I originally imagined. Looking carefully at the stream as it poured into the decanter below, we were met with very little sediment, and unlike other bottles of Port I have opened, only a scant tablespoon of juice was left behind in the now empty bottle. So what did it look like? Well time had not been as kind to this wine as I hope it has been to me. Very light but not incredibly saturated, the wine was transparent with a pretty ruby red color. Pouring it into our glass, I was rewarded with what I considered a gentle and elegant perfume. Cherries and anise were followed by light toffee notes and orange zest, dried like potpourri. On the downside, the alcohol was more pronounced on the nose than I had hoped for and this never did blow off as I have experienced other wines do in the past. Taking a sip, I was happy to note that the wine, while in my opinion, was past its prime, it still held merit and was at the very least, enjoyable. Toffee, caramel, and cherries danced on the palate, while the softness and delicate nature left me with a pleasant lingering finish. Was this perfection? No. Was it enjoyable? Very much so, most likely due to the fact that this birth year wine was a much better experience than my first one.

I’ll continue to seek out wines from 1975. I’ve heard Bordeaux was not bad that year, and I hope that I have the chance to taste many more. Though I do believe that my drinking window for these wines is slowly closing. That said, all wines are birth year wines for someone, and I hope that in the future I can play the role of those that joined us that night and open wines that are special to my friends, family and others who I find myself drinking with. The experience is one I highly recommend. Have any of you had a wine from your birth year, multiples, none? Tell us your story and what it was like, sharing makes the experience only richer.

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

  • Dave

    I'm a 1975 kid as well, and I've a had a lot of average stuff from that year so far. 75 Ports are quite good at the moment if they've had good storage. If you want something Spanish (and can find it), 75 Unico is magic. Here is my note from last year: Level still in the neck, a bit of label damage but nothing too bad. A good punt I thought at the time. Turns out I was right. The cork came out in one piece, in really good nick actually. I'd left the bottle standing up for a day and opened it a couple of hours before drinking. A deep purple core with light red and orange around the edges. The nose is a monster with all the aromas you would expect, ripe plums, light cherry, earth, leather and an anise/licorice combo. And then some that you wouldn't some ripe apple and wild flowers. For a 32 year old wine its still very intense, but open and ready for business. From the start the tannins have lovely texture that is pure velvet and the structure of the wine is amazing, layers of flavour framed by great tannins and perfect balance. As soon as it hit my mouth, I wanted to drink it very slowly and savour it. Plums, black currents, ripe cherry, a bit of dark chocolate are just a few of the flavours on the palate. Mind blowing wine, drink it by itself. I don't think anything could make it better. Only the 70 is better for my tastes. Time to drink up? Pffftt not going on this bottle. It will do another 10 years standing on its head (or side). 99 Pts.

  • http://www.tintoyblanco.com.au Dave

    I’m a 1975 kid as well, and I’ve a had a lot of average stuff from that year so far. 75 Ports are quite good at the moment if they’ve had good storage. If you want something Spanish (and can find it), 75 Unico is magic. Here is my note from last year:

    Level still in the neck, a bit of label damage but nothing too bad. A good punt I thought at the time. Turns out I was right. The cork came out in one piece, in really good nick actually. I’d left the bottle standing up for a day and opened it a couple of hours before drinking.

    A deep purple core with light red and orange around the edges. The nose is a monster with all the aromas you would expect, ripe plums, light cherry, earth, leather and an anise/licorice combo. And then some that you wouldn’t some ripe apple and wild flowers. For a 32 year old wine its still very intense, but open and ready for business. From the start the tannins have lovely texture that is pure velvet and the structure of the wine is amazing, layers of flavour framed by great tannins and perfect balance. As soon as it hit my mouth, I wanted to drink it very slowly and savour it. Plums, black currents, ripe cherry, a bit of dark chocolate are just a few of the flavours on the palate. Mind blowing wine, drink it by itself. I don’t think anything could make it better. Only the 70 is better for my tastes. Time to drink up? Pffftt not going on this bottle. It will do another 10 years standing on its head (or side). 99 Pts.

  • Marco

    Good topic. I wonder what is out there from 1973. To be honest I have never even looked into what the 73 vintage was like around the globe. Last month I paid the most I have ever spent on a single bottle of wine. A 2003 Cab.Sauvignon from Chateau Montelena that I bought right at the winery after a tasting. I think that the most I had ever spent on a bottle of wine was just below $30, so at $105 this was for sure out of character for me. I bought it with the thought of saving it for my first daughter who was born in 2003. If she behaves she'll get the bottle sometime around 2023. I'll keep it as a surprise in case I change my mind and decide to open it during a moment of weakness… ;-) Marco

  • Marco

    Good topic. I wonder what is out there from 1973. To be honest I have never even looked into what the 73 vintage was like around the globe. Last month I paid the most I have ever spent on a single bottle of wine. A 2003 Cab.Sauvignon from Chateau Montelena that I bought right at the winery after a tasting. I think that the most I had ever spent on a bottle of wine was just below $30, so at $105 this was for sure out of character for me. I bought it with the thought of saving it for my first daughter who was born in 2003. If she behaves she’ll get the bottle sometime around 2023. I’ll keep it as a surprise in case I change my mind and decide to open it during a moment of weakness… ;-)

    Marco

  • Ryan

    Dave – Sounds amazing! I'll keep my eye's open for a bottle of that! Marco – Knowing how the younger generations are more savy about the internet than us, your post here might give your secret away one day! ;) Either way make sure your there to share the bottle with herr Duarte – I have a 1970 back in the states waiting to be opened, What house is yours from?

  • Duarte

    I look forward to opening a 1970 bottle of Port in three years for my 40th birthday. Not a bad year….vintage wise.

  • Ryan

    No I don't though I do hear it's a good year for Port. Might look around <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com “>http://www.fortheloveofport.com to see if they have any other suggestions!

  • Ryan

    No I don't though I do hear it's a good year for Port. Might look around <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com “>http://www.fortheloveofport.com to see if they have any other suggestions!

  • Ryan

    No I don't though I do hear it's a good year for Port. Might look around <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com “>http://www.fortheloveofport.com to see if they have any other suggestions!

  • Ryan

    No I don't though I do hear it's a good year for Port. Might look around <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com “>http://www.fortheloveofport.com to see if they have any other suggestions!

  • Duarte

    Thanks for the link. Looks like I should add a 1970 Fonseca: <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=…“><a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.ph…” target=”_blank”>http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=

  • Duarte

    Thanks for the link. Looks like I should add a 1970 Fonseca: <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=…“><a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.ph…” target=”_blank”>http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=

  • Duarte

    Thanks for the link. Looks like I should add a 1970 Fonseca: <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=…“><a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.ph…” target=”_blank”>http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=

  • Duarte

    Thanks for the link. Looks like I should add a 1970 Fonseca: <a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=…“><a href="http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.ph…” target=”_blank”>http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    Dave – Sounds amazing! I’ll keep my eye’s open for a bottle of that!

    Marco – Knowing how the younger generations are more savy about the internet than us, your post here might give your secret away one day! ;) Either way make sure your there to share the bottle with herr

    Duarte – I have a 1970 back in the states waiting to be opened, What house is yours from?

  • Duarte

    Taylor Fladgate. Although I am looking to add others. Any suggestions? I could always just add a 40 yr old port at that time.

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    No I don’t though I do hear it’s a good year for Port. Might look around http://www.fortheloveofport.com to see if they have any other suggestions!

  • Duarte

    Thanks for the link. Looks like I should add a 1970 Fonseca: http://www.fortheloveofport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=102&Itemid=1

  • Dave

    Ryan – if I make it over to Spain later in the year I'll bring my other bottle and we can see if its any good…

  • http://www.tintoyblanco.com.au Dave

    Ryan – if I make it over to Spain later in the year I’ll bring my other bottle and we can see if its any good…

  • Bill

    Ryan, the 1975 vintage in Germany was spectacular. Ross and I hosted an annual German wine tasting for 11 years, up through 1992. The '75's and '76's were always the stars of the night. Besides Port, an Auslese or Berenauslese from the Rheingau may be your best bet. I'm not surprised the spatlese didn't pass muster, especially a Mosel-Sahr-Ruwer wine. All you need to know about my birth year is that when I googled Rating 1954 Vintage, the first reference to wine was on page 4. The vintage was poor. When I googled Rating 1975 Vintage, the first reference on page 1 was wine. Bill

  • Bill

    Ryan, the 1975 vintage in Germany was spectacular. Ross and I hosted an annual German wine tasting for 11 years, up through 1992. The ’75′s and ’76′s were always the stars of the night. Besides Port, an Auslese or Berenauslese from the Rheingau may be your best bet. I’m not surprised the spatlese didn’t pass muster, especially a Mosel-Sahr-Ruwer wine.

    All you need to know about my birth year is that when I googled Rating 1954 Vintage, the first reference to wine was on page 4. The vintage was poor. When I googled Rating 1975 Vintage, the first reference on page 1 was wine.

    Bill

  • Andrew

    Not really that bothered myself but I did have the fortune to sample two Bowmore vintage whiskys from my brith year. The fact they retail for £1000 a bottle means I wont be rushing out to buy any.

  • http://www.spittoon.biz Andrew

    Not really that bothered myself but I did have the fortune to sample two Bowmore vintage whiskys from my brith year. The fact they retail for £1000 a bottle means I wont be rushing out to buy any.

  • Troy

    1968 wasn't a vintage year for port, so my wife gave me a Calem colheita from that year. She said she had thought about just giving me a 40 year old tawny, but realized that would be cheating since those aren't really 40 years old. No tasting notes yet, but I hope to open it soon. I had a Burmester '73 a few weeks ago that was a friend's birthyear wine. Much plum and tobacco, but, like Ryan's description of the '75 Noval, had a lot of alcohol on the nose and palate that did not dissipate. I wonder if this is typical, or at least typical of wines that might not have been handled properly over the decades? I suppose I'll have to try more older vintages in order to have a larger statistical sample (not that one needs an excuse to drink more vintage port).

  • Troy

    1968 wasn’t a vintage year for port, so my wife gave me a Calem colheita from that year. She said she had thought about just giving me a 40 year old tawny, but realized that would be cheating since those aren’t really 40 years old. No tasting notes yet, but I hope to open it soon. I had a Burmester ’73 a few weeks ago that was a friend’s birthyear wine. Much plum and tobacco, but, like Ryan’s description of the ’75 Noval, had a lot of alcohol on the nose and palate that did not dissipate. I wonder if this is typical, or at least typical of wines that might not have been handled properly over the decades? I suppose I’ll have to try more older vintages in order to have a larger statistical sample (not that one needs an excuse to drink more vintage port).

  • Joe M

    Ryan – I hear that 1975 Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc is very tasty Bdx. I had their '78 and it still was amazingly fresh and vibrant. Surprisingly youthful and high-toned fruit. Cheers, Joe

  • http://www.oldworldoldschool.blogspot.com Joe M

    Ryan – I hear that 1975 Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc is very tasty Bdx. I had their ’78 and it still was amazingly fresh and vibrant. Surprisingly youthful and high-toned fruit.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  • Pingback: House Cleaning

  • Pingback: Krohn Port Wines