Luis Carneiro, Marketing and Sales Manager of the Fladgate Partnership, coordinated this week’s In Vino Veritas tasting, which landed on a Tuesday. Miki-sa and I attended. We tasted our way through 12 different ports, all belonging to the Fladgate Partnership, which is comprised of the three world-class port shippers Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman; Croft; and Fonseca.
Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, more commonly referred to as Taylor’s, was originally established in 1692. Between 1816 and 1844, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Fladgate and Mr. Yeatman arrived, renaming the port shipper accordingly. Quinta da Vargellas, purchased in 1893, is Taylor’s most recognized property, considered to have the highest percentage of old vines of any quinta in the Douro, 60% being over 75 years old. The shipper also owns the quintas Terra Feita and Junco. Taylor’s is the only port shipper to remain completely independent and is still family run even today.
Croft was originally established as Phayre and Bradley in 1678 and it wasn’t until 1736 that the first Croft stepped on board. The shipper’s main property, producing the backbone of their vintage blends, is the Quinta da Roêda (109 hectares) near Pinhão. After a few corporate shifts, in 2001 Croft finally ended up in the hands of the Fladgate Partnership. This also marked the end of Croft’s sherry production, which had also been very strong.
Fonseca was founded by Manoel Pedro Guimaraens in 1822. The Guimaraens have kept up the winemaking tradition now for 6 generations and although Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman purchased Fonseca in 1948, Fonseca has maintained its own unique style and identity. The shipper owns three properties or quintas, Panascal, Cruzeiro and Santo Antonio.
So before I jump into the tasting, let me present a lightning quick run down on port wine, which by definition can only be produced in the Duoro Valley of Portugal. Port vinification begins like most red wines with the crushing and fermenting of red grapes, Touriga Nacional being the most celebrated varietal. However, instead of letting the yeast finish converting all the residual sugar into alcohol, the fermentation is haulted abruptly by the addition of brandy (distilled grape juice). The result is a very sweet “fortified wine” with an alcohol by volume of around 20%. The major types of ports are listed below.
Tawny, a blend of several vintages aged in small wooden barrels, with the average years aged “in wood” stated on the label (i.e. 10, 20, 30, or 40)
Ruby, the cheapest and most extensively produced type of port. After fermentation it is stored in tanks made of concrete, stainless steel or wood, it does not generally improve with age
Reserve or “Vintage Character”, a premium Ruby port that may be aged in wood for several years and must be approved by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto’s tasting panel
Vintage, the flagship port bottling, made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year, aged in barrels for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), left in the barrel for longer than a vintage port, filtered and bottled between four and six years after the vintage.
Quinta, vintage port produced from a single vineyard
(Reference: The Oxford Companion to Wine and Wikipedia.org)
12 ports in 2 hours…
Taylor’s “First Estate Vintage Character”
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Strong fresh raspberry and pomegranate aromas. Flavors of milk chocolate, coffee, and blackberry with a thick and heavy texture in the palate.
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Aromas of piquant, raspberry, cherry and plum. More bitter yet at the same time very smooth in the mouth with flavors of dark chocolate, grapefruit peel and black cherry.
Price: $15 USD
Fonseca “Bin 27 Finest Reserve”
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Mild aromas of earth, musk and leather accompanied by under ripe red fruits, cranberry and strawberry. A nice acidity with flavors of milk chocolate and black berries.
Price: $15 USD
Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage 2001
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Subtle aromas of flowers, black fruits, and strawberry. A silky, syrupy texture with nice tannins and flavors of raspberry and molasses.
Price: $18 USD
Croft Late Bottled Vintage 2003
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Raspberry, cream and light almonds on the nose. A nice acidity with flavors of milk chocolate and blackberry.
Price: $14 USD
Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage 2003
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Acidic nose with aromas of strawberry cream, mild leather and citric orange. A good balance in the mouth with flavors of blackberries and hot mocha.
Price: $18 USD
Taylor’s Tawny 20 Year
Tasting Notes: Clear light reddish brown in the glass. Almonds on the nose. More almonds and a soft textured palate with accompanying flavors of peanuts, caramel and very subtle clove.
Rating: 14/20 (WS86)
Price: $50 USD
Croft Tawny 20 Year
Tasting Notes: Cloudy light brownish orange in the glass. A Bit-O-Honey was shoved up my nose, which was actually quite pleasant and nostalgic, bringing out aromas of crushed peanuts, honey and caramel. Still more Bits-O-Honey in the mouth, a little spice and a good balance.
Price: $20 USD
Fonseca Tawny 20 Year
Tasting Notes: Clear light reddish brown in the glass. Almonds and raspberries on the nose. A nice acidity in the mouth with notes of almonds, citrus, raspberry and maraschino cherry.
Rating: 15/20 (WS85)
Taylor’s Quinta do Vargellas Vintage 2005
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Almonds and a very subtle fruitiness in the nose, accompanied by a very distant and light sweaty sock nuance (however not unpleasant). Raspberry and Nyquil cherry cough syrup flavors. I liked it; it’s really not as bad as I’m making it sound but for some reason the bouquet and the flavors just didn’t marry as well for me.
Price: $20 USD
Croft Quinta da Roeda Vintage 2005
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. A fruit forward nose with beautiful black and red fruit aromas, including cherries, raspberries and blackberries. Still more fruit in the mouth with flavors of raspberries, blackberry preserves and a light dark chocolate finish.
Price: $44 USD
Fonseca Quinta da Panascal Vintage 2005
Tasting Notes: Dark purple in the glass. Slightly sour black cherry on the nose as well as black fruits and a very mild aroma of hard, sharp cheese. Good tannins and a creamy textured palate with flavors of milk chocolate, coffee, plums and raisins.
Price: $50 USD