The Buyer
Tasting the three 100-year-old wines that form Kopke’s Library Collection

Tasting the three 100-year-old wines that form Kopke’s Library Collection

Aged side by side in 400 litre barriques in Kopke’s Vila Nova de Gaia cellars since the beginning of the 20th century, Kopke’s Library Collection is an unique and exclusive trio of bottles of 100 year-old wines – a Very Very Old Tawny, a Vermouth and a Quinine. We sent Heather Dougherty along to taste the wines and report back on whether the world’s oldest port house had indeed found a winner.

Heather Dougherty
24th March 2024by Heather Dougherty
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

I’m not much of a trophy hunter when it comes to wine. Ten days ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what the oldest wine I’ve ever tasted was. Now, however, I can, thanks to the Port house of Kopke, itself founded back in 1638.

Kopke’s cellar master and winemaker was in London to present The Library Collection, an unique collection of three 100-year-old wines: a Very Very Old Tawny, a Vermouth and a Quinine.

Often, when presented with a very old wine, the experience is more "hmm interesting " than "wow delicious". But tasting these three was a testament to the preservative qualities of alcohol and sugar when combined with long, careful cellaring. All three were bottled just a couple of weeks prior to the tasting, having spent the vast majority of their decades-long lives in barrel.

The Very Very Old Tawny is as usual a blend of wines from different vintages. Its youngest element is from 1937 and its oldest from 1890. As you would expect, it is full-flavoured and many-layered, but its depth, vibrancy and intensity were more of a surprise. There’s absolutely no sense of tiredness or of drying out, it is still sweet and viscous with dates and figs, nuts and a hint of panforte. There’s a pleasant, subtle tang that lifts the immensely long finish.

We also got to taste (drink in my case, no spitting!) an equally venerable Vermouth and a Quinine, which is known in Portugal as Quinado, essentially a Vermouth flavoured with quinine.

Occasionally you might stumble across an old forgotten bottle of Vermouth from the depths of the drinks cupboard which could be decades old, and it will be very much a lottery in terms of how drinkable it is. Releasing such a long-aged wine does beg the question of whether those decades in oak happened by accident or design, but there is no quibbling with the outcome. Both the Vermouth and the Quinine were delicious and full of vitality. The Quinine had a typical, medicinal herbal bitterness, allied to vanilla and bitter orange to balance its sweetness. The Vermouth was an intensely concentrated mouthful of chestnut, vanilla and orange peel, leaving an impression of orange crème brûlée.

All three had such vital freshness that it was hard to believe how old they really were. There are just 385 sets of these wines, containing a bottle of each of the three. And while Kopke probably has stocks in barrel of Tawny Port which could form the basis of future long-aged releases, the Vermouth and Quinine are one-offs, as the tradition of making them has fallen away and there are no further stocks of them in their cellars.

While I may not be a wine trophy hunter, these little pieces of Douro history will stay with me for a long time.