A Century of Croft Port

Croft, one of the oldest and most distinguished names in the Port trade, has had a chequered history in recent years. In 1911 the company was taken over by Gilbey Vintners which in turn became part of International Distillers and Vintners (IDV) then Diageo. The company suffered in this corporate merry-go-round, reflected in the quality of Croft vintage Ports, post-1970. The company’s reputation as a producer of some of the finest vintage Ports was largely squandered in the 1980s, especially the 1982 vintage which was not worthy of the name. Since 2001 when Croft was bought by the Fladgate Partnership (owners of Taylor and Fonseca), the company has changed direction again. The winemaking, now overseen by David Guimareans is greatly improved and Croft’s flagship estate, Quinta da Roeda (which used to belong to John Flagate), is well on the way back to producing great wine, hopefully comparable with the glory years 1945, 1955, 1963 and 1966 (see below). This tasting of ‘Classic Vintages’ (some years are noticeably missing) was hosted by Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, at the Factory House in Oporto on the day before a vertical tasting of Taylor’s vintage Port.        

 Croft 1900

 Palest amber in colour; delicate, only slightly high-toned, hint of Sherry-like rancio and a vestige of fruit; ethereal but fragile, the fruit having dried out, remnants of tannin on short dry finish. Akin to an old tawny but without the sweetness but still a wine to admire. This was good once so it would be invidious to award a mark.   

 Croft 1927 ****

 Pale brick red, tawny rim; fine, perfumed floral aromas, subdued and slightly earthy but showing the concentration of a remarkable vintage; still rich, quite powerful with fine bitter chocolate concentration mid-palate, still ripe, intense with a fine bitter-sweet finish. 17.5

 Croft 1931 ** / *** ?

 One of very few wines declared from a late but exceptional harvest: mid-amber/tawny; delicate, verging on hollow on the nose, hint of floral perfume; dry and delicate on the palate, some milk-chocolate richness mid-palate; ripeness still evident but fruit drying up, some lingering raisiny sweetness on the finish. A vestige of its former self so difficult to award a mark. 14.5

 Croft 1935 *** / ****

 Pale-mid amber tinged brick red, amber rim; fine, elegant, naturally sweet fruit, still fruit-driven on the nose; remarkably fresh and vibrant on the palate with lovely weight and poise, fine, firm sweet fruit combining power and intensity with elegance and harmony. Pronounced tannin lingering on the finish – will keep and develop for another ten years plus. 16.5    

 Croft 1942 ****

 Pale amber – brick red centre; fine, fresh, floral aromas, overt, sings from the glass; still tasting remarkably fresh, fine, firm fruit backed by spicy tannins, not big but elegant. Firm, dusty tannins outweigh fruit on the finish – good balance and poise nonetheless. Refined. 17

 Croft 1945 *****

 Remarkably deep and youthful in colour for a wine of this age; deep red centre, thin amber brown rim; power and ripe concentration fully evident on the nose, rich and redolent of dark chocolate; bolt upright, fresh bitter chocolate intensity, big and bold, powerful spicy tannins backing up ripe, sweet berry fruit. Outstanding – will keep and keep. 19.5

 Croft 1947 ****

 Mid-deep amber tinged red, broad brown rim; fine if now slightly fragile (especially coming after the 1945) but richness still evident on the nose; lovely soft, round creamy flavours, good weight, ripeness and depth with firm tannins still prominent on the finish and rich sweet length 17.5

 Croft 1948 ****

 Mid-deep with a fairly youthful hue, amber rim; overtly rich, almost caramelised aromas, Demerara sugar, still opulent after nearly sixty years; intensely sweet, rich and opulent on the palate too, ripe, firm yet fresh and vibrant, broad ripe tannins rising in the mouth and extending onto the finish. Remarkable for its richness rather than its poise and balance. 18

 Croft 1955 *****

 Youthful garnet centre, brick red rim; fine, firm, classic mint and violet aromas; rich, ripe and bolt upright, broad, ripe tannins and with wonderful dark chocolate at the core, great depth and concentration of flavour. Powerful intense and veryimpressive. Beautiful wine with a long life still ahead. A classic. 19.5

 Croft 1960 ****

 Very deep, youthful ruby-red hue, thin browning rim; open, ripe with someweight and depth on the nose and good richness and depth on the palate, very much alive with ripe tannic backbone and length. Excellent - undoubtedly one of the best 1960s I have come across. Will keep and evolve for ten years plus. 17.5

 Croft 1963 **** / *****

 Youthful ruby-tinged red, thin pink tinged rim; fine, tight-knit, youthful aromas with more to give; rich, wonderfully opulent, fleshy fruit initially with broad ripe tannins rising in the mouth, dark chocolate core, big and bold but not without elegance and finesse. Very fine (although the second bottle was not nearly so good). 18.5

  Croft 1966 **** / *****

Again very good youthful ruby / garnet centre, thin browning rim; quite exuberant on the nose (more so than the 1963), ripe and tight-knit; firm, powerfully concentrated, pronounced tannic backbone and wonderful bitter chocolate concentration, not as opulent or as fleshy as the 1963 but very impressive nonetheless. A very, very close second to the ‘63. 18.5

 Croft 1970 ****

 Good mid-deep youthful garnet-ruby; open, ripe with a suggestion of milk chocolate on the nose, attractive violet aromas (but a little more loose-knit than the ‘66 or ’63); lovely firm, ripe berry fruit, powerful dry tannic backbone, quite imposing, tannins rather outweigh the fruit, fine, rich pure finish (but second bottle slightly less fresh). 18

 Croft 1975 ** / ***

 Pale but still youthful-looking colour, pinkish rim; open, attractive if slightly hollow fruit on the nose; still fresh if loose-knit, soft milky fruit, standing up well and supported by firm tannins. Sweet length. A good 1975 (characterised as ‘a breakfast vintage’) standing much better than many wines. Drink now - 2017

 Croft 1977 **

 Mid-deep youthful colour, pink rim; loose knit, slightly cheesy aromas, showing its age; soft sweet but slightly hollow in this contact, some tannic structure, still fresh and alive but quite light. Mid –weight. Drink now – 2015. 14

 Croft 1985 ***

 Mid-deep garnet, purple-pink rim; open, attractive fruity aromas with some depth evident; tasting fresh, clean, fruit-driven but rather skinny and boney, lacking fresh and depth. Firm, rather lean lingering tannins. Correct but not exciting. Drink now – 2017. 15

  Croft 1991 *** / ****

 Very deep, nearly opaque youthful purple colour; open, fine, ripe opulent plummy aromas, good purity of fruit; attractive ripe, round fleshy fruit, well defined and well- supported by fine, firm peppery tannins, still youthful but just about ready to drink. Now – 2025 +   16.5

 Croft 1994 ****

 Very deep youthful opaque colour, thin purple rim; powerful ripe berry fruit, now open and showing its all; rich ripe fleshy fruit with plenty of depth and concentration, supported by bold cast-iron tannins (tannin now showing fully through the fruit). Still needs more time, better in 5 years. Drink to 2030. 17

 Croft 2000 *** +?

 Very deep, opaque black colour, thin crimson-purple rim; overtly hot, ripe stewed plummy fruit, needs time to evolve; very rich, ripe and fleshy in style at this stage, puppy fat still masking the tannins which arrive in spade fulls on the finish. Still rather disjointed and not going through a very attractive phase at the moment but will be very good indeed. 2015 – 2035 +

 Croft 2003 ****

 The first Croft vintage to be vinified by the Fladgate Partnership (also the first Croft vintage to be foot-trodden since 1963): very deep opaque ‘black’ centre, thin crimson rim; still restrained, underlying richness and ripeness with the heat of the vintage evident; big, bold ripe fruit matched by broad ripe tannins, well balanced, finishes well with a peacock’s tail of tannin and super ripe fruit. 17.

Scoring

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