2009 Vintage Ports broke the mold and will be considered an anomaly from a historical perspective. During the past century and a half (if not longer) there's never been a general or "split declaration" by a variety of shippers releasing Vintage Port in a year ending in "9". It is one of those oddities that simply cannot be explained.
Other scarcities from the 19th-21st century are vintages ending in number "6" and to a lesser degree "8" but do the research and you'll understand how extraordinarily rare are VP's ending in the digit nine. Beyond the curiosity factor of nine, we've not seen a split declaration in quite some time.
A split-declaration is generally considered by consumers to be when Port houses owned by the Symington Family Estates (Graham, Dow, Warre, Quinta do Vesuvio, Gould Campbell, Smith Woodhouse, Cockburn and more) and those of The Fladgate Partnership (Taylor, Fonseca, Croft) agree to disagree on whether or not a specific harvest's Port is worthy of a declaration. Each company winds up choosing the opposite bookend year.
A prime and recent example of this dynamic played out in 1991 and 1992. The Symingtons firmly believed that 1991 produced the superior juice and decided to declare, along with many other Port houses. Then known as Taylor Fladgate, Alistair Robertson along with Bruce Guimaraens felt that their 1992 Taylor and Fonseca Vintage Ports were considerably better than what they were able to achieve with the grapes from the prior vintage. Ergo the "split."
It is very unlikely that there will be a 2009 vs. 2010 split declaration, as 2010 was not a great year for Port and the early take on 2011 is that it's shaping up to offer greater quality than the previous year. Nonetheless, the fact that The Fladgate Partnership chose to declare 2009 with their classic Vintage Ports including the Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha; while the Symington's decided only to release Single Quinta Vintage Ports, is certainly notable and rare. Decisions of this nature are difficult to judge early on and in my opinion, only time will tell. The proof, will be in the tasting.
Speaking of which, I have spent the past three days/nights with each of seven Vintage Ports from 2009; four from TFP and three SQVP's from the Symingtons. As I have a fourth day of evaluation planned for these Ports tomorrow evening, you'll have to read the tasting notes and report in the upcoming newsletter. That being said, it is abundantly apparent that -- the quality is in the bottle -- with ALL of the 2009's I've had so far.
Although a bottle of Niepoort had been shipped, unfortunately it has not showed up as of yet and I am still hoping to include it in my report. (Edit: the day after this was published, of course the bottle arrived! : ) Whether or not other 2009 Vintage Ports will be included, remains to be seen. But given the importance of these two major traditional British shippers, even a less extensive lineup will still make for a fascinating comparison and provide significant insight into the vintage.