Hardly. Where once people couldn’t afford to be picky about the quality of their Port, things have improved drastically in the last twenty years or so. Until 1987, existing Port producers effectively kept the industry locked up, and any new producers were locked out.
Since that time, producers such as Dirk Niepoort have nudging (if not shoving) the industry forward. Where once very little table wine of quality was made in Portugal’s Douro Valley (where real Port is made), today over half of the wine in the Douro is table wine. Again, led by Niepoort, most of it is great value stuff, and some of it is fantastic.
When Niepoort’s Redoma was first released back in 1991, it pretty much set the standard. With subsequent wines, such as Batuta and Charme, Dirk has only added to his bad boy image, with wines that are as idiosyncratic as they are delicious.
Even before Dirk took over from his father some years ago, the Niepoort name was associated with high quality Port. The vintage Ports were ripe and tasty, and the LBV’s and tawnies were viewed by many as benchmarks. They still are today.
While Port is supposed to have been invented centuries ago, it’s only been in the last half century that it has been of the quality we see today. The great old vintages, in this writer’s opinion, are no better than the best of the new vintages, such as 2000 and 2003. The tawnies being offered today are far better than those of twenty years ago.
With Niepoort as one of the young leaders, Port’s best days are ahead.