Guest Author Alex Bridgeman muses... One of the things that I love to do when I open a bottle of port, is to think about the things that were happening in the world when the grapes I am about to drink were growing. What was the world like when the vines were slumbering through the winter? What events were making the headlines when the buds were breaking? What fashions were popular when the bees were busy pollinating the vine flowers? What did people drive? What did the cities look like? What music were people listening to?
In the first of what I hope will be an occasional series, I throw a challenge down to you. In the rest of this article, I describe some key events that took place in the world in the year that produced this particular port vintage. Can you – without the aid of book or internet research – correctly identify the vintage? No prizes for being successful, but you do earn bragging rights on FTLOP if you are correct.
The cold winter (-40C on Christmas Day!) in the Douro damaged many vines and was followed by a wet spring. Flowering was late and the grapes started to change colour later in the year than any of the previous 16. The summer was generally cool and in the middle of September the grapes were still green and very behind. An inch and a half of rain in September provided the grapes with some moisture and the vintage was saved by late warm weather that continued until mid-October. Picking in the Upper Douro started around 10th October and in the Valleys around 14th October. Although the grapes were almost physiologically ripe, there was widespread rot in the lower Douro and stalks were very green. Sugar levels were high and acidity levels low with many wines being supported with the addition of tartaric acid. Yields, in general, were quite high but from the Upper Douro, were down by as much as 20% on the previous year due to the lack of late rain. The overall view of these ports at the time of fermentation was that the wines would be jammy, with good colour, of good quality and would have plenty of body.
- This is the most recent year in which Easter was celebrated on the same weekend by both the Eastern and Western Christian Churches.
- The grapes for this vintage were growing through the Cold War, at a time when a nuclear winter was a real fear for many. This was the year in which the first nuclear test ban treaty was signed, Polaris nuclear missiles were introduced to Britain and the year in which the "hot line" was established to provide a direct connection between the president's office in the White House and the Soviet premier's office in the Kremlin.
- The Space Race was being fiercely contested, with competition between nations to put a man on the moon.
- Arlington National Cemetery witnessed its most watched, and arguably most famous, televised internment.
- Alabama schools became desegregated.
- Viet Nam became destabilised after a coup in the southern part of the divided country.
- It was the Chinese year of the rabbit – and also of the tiger!
- The authors CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley die on the same day.
- The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Dr. Who.
- The US island prison known as Alcatraz, opened in 1861 to house confederate sympathisers was finally closed after its cells were condemned as inhumane and barbaric. Al Capone was once housed in this prison.
- The average house in the US cost $12,650 and in the UK cost £3,160.
- American Express credit cards are introduced into the UK for the first time.
- Oral polio vaccine taken on a sugar lump given to schoolchildren widely across UK and US.
- Zip codes are first used in the US.
- Ring pull cans first used for fizzy drinks. Diet Coke first introduced to the market.
- Kenya becomes an independent country. South Korea returns to civilian rule.
- The term Beatlemania is first used. The Beatles reached number 1 in the UK with From Me to You, the Righteous Brothers begin performing together and the Beach Boys release their album Surfin' USA.
- The 8th Eurovision Song Contest was held.
- Audio cassettes were launched to consumers as a convenient alternative to vinyl recordings.
- Summer Holiday was a surprise hit film. The Birds was the latest from Alfred Hitchcock.
- Sydney Poitier won the Oscar for best actor.
- Joan Baez and Bob Dylan established a reputation as protest artists by performing free concerts for the marchers in Washington.
- This was a year in which the US had two presidents (one of whom was the first Roman Catholic to hold the office), the UK had two Prime Ministers, the monarch was a Queen and there were two Popes in the Vatican.
- The British Secretary of State for War was forced to resign after a "sex for secrets" scandal.
- British membership of the European Union was vetoed by France.
- Tottenham Hotspur become the first British football team to win a European Trophy when they win the European Cup Winners' Cup; Manchester United won the FA Cup. The New York Titans changed their name and became the New York Jets – but were not yet playing at Shea Stadium.
- Agatha Christie's novel The Clocks, Ian Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service and John le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold are all published.
- Johnny Depp and Michael Jordan were born.
- Some of the adverts in magazines and newspapers looked like this:
Think you know the Vintage? The answer, together with some other "giveaway" events, can be found here.
Roy's Note: Alex Bridgeman, has contributed a wide range of articles for FTLOP's Guest Corner over the years and his sharp wit and passion for Port are well known to our readers. It is therefore fitting that his article be included in this Anniversary Issue of the newsletter. Alex came up with a splendid idea for his article and hopefully others to follow in a similar manner.
Article & Photos © Alex Bridgeman, February 2013