“So life was never better than in nineteen sixty-three…” | Quinta do Noval 1963 and Tissington Hall

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Philip Larkin’s poem “Annus Mirabilis” begins:

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(which was rather late for me) –

Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban

And the Beatles’ first LP.

(I quoted another line from the poem in this post’s title.  We wouldn’t want anybody getting the wrong idea if they received an email from Arden with “sexual intercourse” as the subject…)

Vintage Port didn’t begin in 1963 – but it sort of restarted…

In 1963, a cold winter was followed by a wet spring, which delayed flowering and produced the latest véraison since 1946.

Apart from two periods of hot weather in July and August, the summer was cool and the crop ripened very slowly.

The harvest started on 7th October with perfect weather – hot days and cool nights.

Most shippers declared 1963; some of them sold more wine than they had since the 1896 vintage.

1963 was a watershed vintage of high quality and high volume (like 1927) that marked the turnaround of Port’s fortunes after post-war struggles.

This lovely example of 1963 Quinta do Noval was bottled in translucent green glass rather than the impenetrable dark glass of some old Vintage Ports (like this 1922 Fonseca that was sold by Arden earlier this year).

The label states, “This wine has been produced on the 150th anniversary of the Shipper ANTÓNIO JOSÉ DA SILVA VINHOS S.A.R.L.”, who became the owner of Quinta do Noval in 1894. It remained under the ownership of the da Silva family (and by marriage the van Zeller family) until 1993.

The label also notes that 1965 was “250 years after the first known records of the Quinta do Noval – 1715”.

On 1st January 2020, I achieved Full Membership of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). It took me 17 years, start to finish. Nowadays the waiting list is 27 years. In MCC terms, I’m a juvenile delinquent.

By May 2021, not having been out of London since August 2020, I needed a rest and a change of scene.

Where to go? Ah, what about Tissington in the Peak District… I knew it so well in my early days in the wine trade because the Hall and estate were owned by my then colleague Sir Richard FitzHerbert, ninth Baronet.

He was my proposer for MCC membership all those years ago and I owed him a bottle of something nice. His vintage is 1963, so it had to be Port.

The bottle of Quinta do Noval was duly carried up to Derbyshire for presentation to a slightly pleased Baronet.

The cellars at Tissington Hall are not as well-stocked as they once were but the cellar book is full of stories about who came to Tissington and what they drank.

A bottle of 1963 Quinta do Noval will be noted in the cellar book in due course.

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