I sometimes just can’t understand why more people don’t get the fantastic quality of aged vintage Port. You hear about this Bordeaux from 1945 or 1982 or that Burgundy from 1959 or 1990 but Port? Nada. Niente. Well, it ain’t right ...
I just finished an extraordinary tasting of vintage Port today in Porto, Portugal. Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman organized 27 vintages of their Port, from 2003 to 1900 and so many incredible bottles were decanted and poured. Yesterday, I tasted a range of Croft Vintage Ports back to 1900. Stay tuned. They now share the same owners.
I did a similar tasting in London in 1992, to celebrate Taylor’s 300th anniversary, but I don’t remember it being so impressive as today. Moreover, I had my computer stolen a few days after the tasting with the notes still not backed up! So it is not going to happen this time around.
Taylor makes incredible vintage Ports. They are so long-lived, with intense richness and concentration but a racy, polished refinement that no other Port can match. I found the earlier Ports a little sweeter than the newer ones, but Taylor continues to make their vintage Ports from the best grapes in their vineyards (primarily Quinta de Vargellas, but also Quintas Terra Feita and Junco in recent years.) So there is a long line of tradition and pedigree in the wines.
I kept on thinking how mind-blowing it is that these vintage Ports can change from black-colored, tannic, sweet monsters into such beautifully balanced, sweet and silky princesses. It really is a question of beauty and the beast. Check out my video showing the 1900, the colors of some of the Ports, the tasting, and an interview with Adrian Bridge, who heads the Port house with his wife, Natasha.
Here is a selection of tasting notes of the top Taylor Vintage Ports, with non-blind scores:
1900: Pretty color of brick red with a garnet hue. Aromas of prunes, flowers and plums follow through to a full body, with lots of fruit and a sweet, sweet finish. This is in fabulous condition with loads of fruit and richness. It’s hard to believe it was made more than a century ago. A stunning wine. 96 points, non-blind.
1908: A little more amber than the 1900. Slightly maderized nose with hints of dried flowers, spices and very ripe fruit. Full and very sweet, very tawny-like with flavors of toffee, caramel and ripe fruit. A gorgeously sweet and silky palate. This is concentrated and delicious. 90 points, non-blind.
1912: This is a great vintage, producing very rich and powerful wines. Wonderful ruby brick red color for this wine. Aromas of very ripe fruit such as prunes and dried currants, with just a hint of dark chocolate and mushrooms. Very sweet and full on the palate, with a racy, silky texture and a long sweet finish. Concentrated and beautiful still. The finish lasts for minutes. 97 points, non-blind.
1924: This was never considered a great vintage, but it was very good. Slightly dusty aromas but turns to dried fruits, with milk chocolate, currants and berries. Hints of caramel and toffee as well. Full body, very sweet and lush on the palate, with a chocolate, berry and cherry aftertaste. This is youthful and generous. 93 points, non-blind.
1927: Good color of ruby/brick red. Aromas of dried dark fruit, sultanas and raisins with just a hint of dried flowers. Full-bodied, very rich and raisiny on the palate, with dark chocolate and a candied, toffee, very sweet finish. Lively and gorgeous. 96 points, non-blind.
1935: This has always been a slightly disjointed wine. Dark colored ruby with a brick red hue. Aromas of prunes, flowers and milk chocolate with hints of currants. Full body, with a chewy mouth feel. The alcohol is starting to show now. There’s still good rich fruit there, but it’s drying out a little now. 89 points, non-blind.
1945: Very dark color amber brick red here. Extremely fruity on the nose, with aromas of blackberries, milk chocolate, honey and light toffee. Full body, very sweet with an extremely concentrated palate of currants, raisins and blackberries with hints of milk and dark chocolate. Long, fresh and sweet, with hints of chewy tannins. This reminds me more of a wine from 1963 or 1966. Very impressive indeed. 98 points, non-blind.
1948: I have had this so many times in my life and it is a joy to taste each time. It has such class and complexity. Aromas of prunes, plums, flowers, cedar, cigar box and honey. Very multi-dimensional. Full-bodied, yet refined and elegant with coffee, cocoa, mocca, toffee, and berry on the palate. Rich, round and caressing. It shows such refinement and beauty. This is an ethereal wine for contemplating life as you drink it. It gets better and better and better. 100 points, non-blind.
1955: This wine has always been a little underwhelming for me. It shows ripe plummy, fruit bowl sort of aromas and flavors. But it’s always been a little disjointed. And the alcohol is showing now. Medium body, medium sweet with a berry and cherry flavors. 88 points, non-blind.
1963: This has always been a top 1963. Rich aromas of blackberries, violets, chocolate and mocha. Full body, very sweet with a fabulous concentration of fruit from chocolate covered berries to plum jam. This is very, very fresh, with amazing concentration. A wine with a long, long life ahead of it, but who can wait? 97 points, non-blind.
1970: I have always been a huge fan of the 1970 Taylor. It seems like a younger version of the 1948. Aromas of violets, berries, licorice and currants follow through to full body, with layers of polished, caressing tannins and a long finish of blackberries, cedar, dried flowers and sweet tobacco. This is a thoroughly beautiful vintage Port and just coming into its own now but will improve for decades. 98 points, non-blind.
1977: This is only now getting in to kindergarten after years in diapers! Fresh and youthful. Aromas of blackberries, violets and spices follow through to a full body, with loads of fruit and a long, long caressing finish. This is layered and gorgeous. A new 1912 in the making. Fabulous wine. You can enjoy now or later and later. 97 points, non-blind.
1980: I have never been a great fan of this wine. It’s always been a little angular and one dimensional. Nonetheless, it shows a full body, with fresh fruit and a berry, cherry character on both the palate and nose. Drying tannins. Slightly hot on the finish and angular. Drink this. 89 points, non-blind.
1983: Good ruby color here. Aromas of blackberries, cherries and minerals. Full-bodied, but very chewy and a bit one dimensional. Very sweet and a little hot. It still seems slightly disjointed. I am not sure this is ever going to turn out to be an exceptional Taylor. 88 points, non-blind.
1985: Wonderful dark ruby color. Aromas of milk chocolate, berry, currants and licorice. Full-bodied, with layers of polished and velvety tannins. Lots of ripe berry fruit and sweetness on the finish. This is a balanced, rich and youthful vintage Port. Just starting to come into its own. Long life ahead of it, but you can enjoy it now. 93 points, non-blind.
1992: Dark, dark ruby color. Intense aromas of wet earth, violets, grapes and dark chocolate. Full-bodied, medium sweet and very chewy. This is just a baby. Tannic and powerful. Now giving you much of anything on the finish. Give this time. It’s still in diapers! A tribute to Taylor’s 300th anniversary. Best after 2012. 96 points, non-blind.
1994: This is so concentrated and layered, with chocolate, cocoa bean, coffee, blackberry and currant aromas and flavors. Such purity of fruit here. There is a slightly stemmy undertone, which means serious young vintage Port. Full-bodied, medium sweet with masses of fruit and tannins. It goes on and on and on. Will it turn out to be the great 1948 again, or even the 1970? I think it could be even better. Best after 2015. 100 points, non-blind.
1997: Dark color with a cool, fresh, mineral and blackberry character that turns to violets. Full body, medium sweet with fine, elegant and racy tannins. Super polished and caressing. Like silky. Clean and focused. This is still tight and reserved. Best after 2011. 94 points, non-blind.
2000: Fabulous aromas of violets, honeysuckle, roses and crushed berries follow through to a full body, with round and soft tannins and loads of berries and citrus fruit on the palate. Love the texture. Not quite as impressive as when I first tasted it, but an outstanding young VP. This began vintage Ports with Junco vineyards in it. Less structured than in the past. Best after 2015. 93 points, non-blind.
2003: Black color. Intense aromas of tar, licorice, blackberries and crushed violets. Full body, medium sweet and super-tannic. This is a big and rich wine, with hints of stems and a long finish. Just a newborn. Best after 2018, 94 points, non-blind.
Anyway, it was an amazing tasting. And I seemed even more generous giving high points to some of the older wines than I when I rated them in my book almost two decades ago. I wonder if I am more generous as I get older or are the wines getting better? Maybe a little of both!
Merlin — Zurich, Switzerland — December 1, 2007 7:44am ET
James Suckling — — December 1, 2007 10:18am ET
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — December 1, 2007 11:55am ET
James Suckling — — December 1, 2007 12:40pm ET
Jeffrey Ghi — New York — December 1, 2007 11:30pm ET
James Suckling — — December 2, 2007 3:36am ET
Lee Goodner — Massachusetts — December 8, 2007 3:28pm ET
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