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1922 Fonseca Vintage Port | “april Is The Cruellest Month…”

by Stuart George

Famously (for Honours graduates of English Literature like me, anyway), 1922 is the year zero of 20th century literature – the year that saw the publication of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and James Joyce’s "Ulysses".

It was also a fine Port vintage that was declared by most shippers. The 1922 Port wines were soigné, similar to those produced in 1917.

This impenetrably dark (and impossibly rare) bottle of 1922 Fonseca Vintage Port was mouth-blown and hand-made (rather than machine-made).

The neck (which had been wrapped to protect it in transit) has “stretch marks” – twists caused by the irregularity of mouth-blown glass. The bottle’s surface is gnarled rather than smooth.

The punt (indented base) of the bottle has a conspicuous pontil “scar”, where the pontil rod was broken from the newly-blown glass.

How did I know that – with no label and the cork not visible – it’s 1922? Because there was a slip label – placed there by a previous owner – inside the punt ????.

It also worth noting that 1922 is referred to (on page 104) as a Declared Vintage by Fonseca in Wyndham Fletcher’s 1978 book "Port: An Introduction to its History and Delights".

This near-centenarian came to me via one of my longstanding trade suppliers, who had purchased the bottle some time ago from another trade supplier, who had acquired it from a former employee of Percy Fox.

It was made at a time when there was great demand for Port. Indeed, the release of Fonseca’s 1920 Vintage in 1922 was oversubscribed and many customers were unable to secure allocations. Demand was eased only slightly by the enactment of Prohibition in the United States in January 1920.

That it had survived unopened for so many years is remarkable.

When opened it will “mix memory and desire” (to slightly misquote T.S. Eliot) and should be drunk from a “glass / Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines”.

Please stay safe and well as we enjoy Spring and the approach of Summer in the “Unreal City / Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…”

(T.S. Eliot again.)

About the Author

Stuart George - Mayfair-based Arden Fine Wines was founded by Stuart George in 2019. Stuart began his wine career 25 years ago working alongside the distinguished Master of Wine and Burgundy expert Anthony Hanson. A holder of the prestigious Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma in Wine and Spirits since 2000, Stuart has tasted vintages back to 1780. He was UK Young Wine Writer of the Year in 2003. He was winner of the 2019 Scuderia Ferrari Wine Award for “outstanding professional achievements".

Visit Stuart George's Website