Vintage Port Notes

Vintage Port Notes

Vintage Port Notes - Recent

25th October 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

This tasting, held in the splendid dining room at Christie’s King Street, St James’s, is the prelude to an extensive sale of old wines from Ramos Pinto’s own cellars to be held in December 2017.

7th July 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

The first opportunity for a comprehensive tasting of a newly declared Port vintage usually falls in mid-summer. This year, in the week that I assembled samples from the major shippers, the thermometer in the North Derbyshire Peak District (where I live) rose to 30 degrees C.

13th March 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

After 23 years (21 in bottle)  the 1994 vintage should be starting to drink well. For the Port trade this was something of a watershed year, following on from the rather patchy 1985s and an interesting split declaration in 1991-92. By 1994 we were all in need of a serious vintage.

30th January 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

Though challenging, the 2014 harvest in the north of Portugal was not the damp squib that it proved to be in the south.  After a wet winter, spring was mild and budburst was early. But the weather remained unsettled through the early part of the summer, with some vineyards suffering localized hail damage.

30th January 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

This is the fourth in a series of fifty year old Ports from Taylor.  The wine was aged in pipe (cask) until it was bottled in 2016 for release this year. As a result it is an aged tawny in style, bottled as ‘Single Harvest’ and effectively a colheita in Portuguese parlance.

30th January 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

The 2001 vintage of Quinta do Noval Nacional was officially declared in 2003 but the wine was never released.  According to Christian Seely, Managing Director of Noval, the 2001 ‘was very backward and quite closed up, dense and very tannic.

27th January 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

Quinta do Vallado celebrated its tercentenary in 2016. To commemorate this, the family have bottled a wine that has been held in cask since 1888. Three 650 litre pipes, set aside in 1888, have been reduced through years evaporation to just 700 litres.

26th January 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

I spent that back end of 2016 tasting tawny Ports both for an article in Decanter, (entitled 'Understanding Tawny Port' ) as well as an article for The Field o

26th January 2017 | Vintage Port Notes

When policemen start looking younger, it comes as sign that you are getting older. The same feeling comes when you start drinking Vintage Ports that you remember being declared, two decades earlier. So it was just before Christmas (at the end of a long lunch)  when we drank two wines from classic declarations the 1990s.

17th November 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

The Victorian club dining room at the MTRC is the setting for an annual tasting of vintage Ports with wines from the club stock as well as from member’s own cellars. After some outstanding wines at previous dinners, this year’s selection proved to be rather a mixed bag with two promising wines turning out to be rather a disappointment.

11th November 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

Due to the re-construction of my new website followed by a major outage of our internet (thank you so much BT) I am rather behind at following up with some of the wines that I have tasted over the summer. In June 2016, over São João in Oporto and the EU Referendum in the UK, I visited Sogrape, Portugal’s largest wine producers.

11th November 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

I had lunch in London with David Guimaraens this week. David is the winemaker for the Fladgate Partnership which embraces Taylor, Fonseca, Croft and Krohn. The meal (substantial Spanish tapas) was accompanied by Port, all the way through.

11th November 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

Graham's 1983 was served at the Saintsbury Club Dinner in the Vintner's Hall on 18th October 2016. This is one of the best wines of the vintage, a year over-shadowed by 1985 until the latter threw up one or two rather nasty surprises.

19th April 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

This wine was served at the One Hundred and Sixty Eighth Meeting of the Saintsbury Club at the Vintner's Hall to the general approbation of members and their guests: not the deepest of colours but still showing a youthful pink hue; fresh, fragrant and floral, quintessential mature vintage Port aromas; s

10th March 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

There is a growing market for anniversary wines and, with their longevity and staying power, fortified wines have a captive market. 1966 was of course a declared Port vintage and anyone born in that year certainly has a wine for life (search for notes on Fonseca 1966 for example on this website).

29th February 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

This wine was produced in a hot, drought-afflicted year and is a blend of very low yielding vinha velha (75%) and late ripening Touriga Franca (a vineyard planted just four years earlier in 2001). The old vines produced an average of just 0.87kg per vine, which helps to account for the voluptuous concentration in this wine. It was mostly made in robotic lagares with 35% foot trodden in the time-honoured manner.

11th February 2016 | Vintage Port Notes

It was once the custom for a landed family with a large country house to ship and bottle a pipe of vintage Port, often to mark the birth of a child.  A pipe is a serious quantity of wine amounting to approximately 57 dozen so you need a good, spacious cellar to store the wine for the 21 years or so it needs to reach maturity.

19th November 2015 | Vintage Port Notes

Every year I am invited to lead a Port dinner at Manchester’s oldest sporting club. Some of the wines come form club stock and members also generously bring their own bottles to share. My contribution was a bottle of Croft 1963 which looked good on paper but proved to be a letdown in the glass. We tasted, then drank, some outstanding wines.

2nd September 2015 | Vintage Port Notes

After two exceptionally dry years, the winter of 2012-13 was wet with the heaviest rainfall recorded in March, all of which helped to restore ground water levels prior to the growing season.

10th May 2015 | Vintage Port Notes

The Port house Fonseca celebrated its bicentenary with a dinner at The Wallace Collection in London on Portugal Day, 10th June.

10th March 2015 | Vintage Port Notes

Cockburn, one of the greatest names in Port, are celebrating their bicentennial this year. The company was founded in 1815 by Scottish brothers; Robert and John Cockburn.

22nd December 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

I was sent a sample of this rather special wine which I thought I would share with you before Christmas. Sandeman have long produced some excellent aged tawnies, especially at the twenty and thrity year old levels.

28th November 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

By Sandeman's own admission this is a wine made in the 'modern style', to be drunk now or over the next 15 years. It comes from a ripe year but the heat of the vintage is not evident in this wine which is well-made and, above all, well-balanced. As you will see from the note below I would recommend drinking this in its full bloom of youth.

11th October 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

I am very grateful to the The Vintage Port Club, Odense for inviting me to this comprehensive tasting of 1994 Vintage Ports and to celebrate their 25th anniversary with them. At the club’s behest the wines were scored out of 100 which may mean that I have slightly under-marked some wines or overmarked others.

8th October 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

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6th September 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

Quinta do Noval have recently declared 2012. This was a challenging year and, following on from a universal declaration in 2011, the main shippers have opted for single quinta vintage Ports (SQVPS).   

17th July 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

You wait ages for a very old tawny Port than two come along at once. First Taylor’s launch their 1863 Single Harvest, then just two weeks later Graham’s launch Ne Oublie, a wine that dates back to the arrival of Andrew James Symington in Portugal in 1882. 

11th July 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

Very old tawny Ports are currently á moda to use the Portuguese expression. In fact, having long been the preserve of the so called ‘Portuguese shippers’, they have now migrated to the British shippers. In this case the migration is literal.

27th June 2014 | Vintage Port Notes
18th June 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

I am fortunate to have tasted this wine on a number of recent occasions. Until this month it was a 'secret Nacional', bottled but undeclared. The 2004 vintage came hard on the heals of the widely declared 2003 harvest and was treated as a single quinta vintage by most shippers which nonetheless produced some impressive wines.

14th May 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

This was a tutored tasting of varietal wines from the 1992 vintage at Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita. It is a logical consequence of the replanting of the late 1970s and 1980s when block planting of separate varieties began to take place en masse for the first time.

14th May 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

These wines followed the tutored tasting of classic grape varieties: 

24th April 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

Port shippers C. da Silva are sitting on a treasure trove of white Port. These wines have been quietly and carefully looked after in cool lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and deserve to be better known.  This was Jim Reader’s aim in presenting half a century of white Port alongside two old tawnies.

24th April 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

This is a parallel tasting of wines from two very individual Port shippers, both with a strong family input. The wines were presented by João Nicolau de Almeida and Dirk Niepoort respectively. These two producers obviously resepct each other even though they admit to doing things very differently. This is emphatically not a Ramos Pinto v.

23rd April 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

This is the second extensive Sandeman vintage Port tasting that I have undertaken in the last four years (see entry for 13th May 2011 for a more extensive tasting with the Port Forum).

4th March 2014 | Vintage Port Notes

The 1994 vintage represents a generational change for Port. It wasn’t so much the people in charge that changed as the wines themselves.  For a number of leading shippers the 1960s represented the end of an era when founding families were replaced by multinational owners.

19th December 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

 Following their purchase of Wise and Krohn, Taylor's have a huge range of old, cask aged Ports.  Now comes the release of a series of Single Harvest Ports (Colheitas in all but name) of which the 1964 is the first to be offered, just in time for next year's 50th birthdays. 

11th December 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

With the 2011 Vintage Port tasting season coming to an end, I have received four bottled wines (as opposed to cask samples) from Sogevinus, the Spanish group that own Barros, Calem, Kopke and Burmester.

11th December 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

Kopke, the oldest Port shipper in continuous trading, celebrates its 375th anniversary this year. At a time when colheitas are in fashion (even among the British houses who used to quietly eschew the style), Kopke has no need to scour the Douro in search of old wine.

13th October 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

Quinta do Noval is celebrating a significant anniversary in 2013. Twenty years ago, in the wake of the truly dreadful 1993 harvest, Christian Seely was appointed to manage the Portuguese estate following its high profile acquisition by AXA Millésimes earlier that year.

17th September 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

I attended the most fabulous dinner tonight at the The Banqueting House in Whitehall to celebrate 60 Years of the Institute of Master's of Wine. We began by drinking Bollinger from magnums in the undercroft (the drinking den of James I) then climbed the stairs to dine below a ceiling painted by Rubens.

16th September 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

It is not very often that any of us get to taste, let alone drink, Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage Port. The wine comes from 2ha of ungrafted vines at the heart of the quinta and is so named because the vines are Portuguese, without foreign rootstock, growing in Portuguese soil and therefore ‘attached to the soil of the nation’.  

13th September 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

These are two wines to which I didn't give very fair coverage when I first tasted them earlier in the year so I received new samples and have now had the chance to re-taste them at leisure (and in cooler weather).

6th June 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

There has been a rush to evaluate the recently declared 2011 Ports, caused partly by the excitement of a new and undoubtedly fine vintage but also by the use of the internet both for selling and evaluating the wines. Most UK merchants have already sold their allocations although a few are holding back their offers until later in the year. 

24th April 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

This was a challenging year for growers and a dream for wine makers. The major shippers, all with substantial vineyard holdings of their own, experienced a few nightmares during the growing season followed by  euphoria at vintage.

14th February 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

I tasted this pair of old colheitas at the end of last year for the launch of the House of Tantalus Port Library. Since then the producer, Wise & Krohn, has been sold to the Fladgate Partnership who own Taylor, Fonseca and Croft, so it is likely that we will be seeing more of these beautifully kept old wines in future.

24th January 2013 | Vintage Port Notes

There is currently a fashion for dated tawnies with Taylor, Warre and now Quinta do Vallado all releasing old colheitas over the past year. This wine from Vallado has a better pedigree than most. It has been bottled to commemorate Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira´s 200th Anniversary which fell last year.

11th October 2012 | Vintage Port Notes

There is a saying in the Port trade that whereas ‘vintage Port is made in the vineyard, tawny is made in the tasting room’. This tasting led by Paul and Johnny Symington marks a subtle change in direction for Graham’s as a producer of tawny Port. The change is in the tasting room where Charles Symington is now in charge.

13th September 2012 | Vintage Port Notes

Cockburn, one of the great names in Port, has long held a rather idiosyncratic approach to declaring vintages. They missed out on some classic years in the last century: 1945, 1966 (preferring 1967) and 1977 (preferring 1978).

1st June 2012 | Vintage Port Notes

In the course of updating my book, Port and the Douro, I asked a number of leading shippers to submit single quinta vintage Ports from the decade 2000 – 2010 for tasting.  The first part of the tasting includes a very impressive set of Ports from the 2004 vintage.  



19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)

17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)

15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)

13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)

10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)

8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)

Below 8 Faulty