This is the tasting that spurred me into setting up my own website, a once in a lifetime event that wasn’t taken up widely by the UK press. Held at the Factory House in Oporto, we tasted a century of Vintage Port from two great houses, Taylor and Croft. These wines are some of the most thrilling I have ever tasted and I am very grateful to Adrian Bridge and David Guimaraens of the Fladgate Partnership for laying on this extraordinary tasting.
The wines are listed in the order they were tasted, starting with the oldest. All wines were bottled in Vila Nova de Gaia unless otherwise stated.
Taylor 1900 **** / ***** (bottled in Ireland)
Surprisingly deep and youthful in colour, brick red centre, amber rim; still very fresh on the nose, fine, delicate, slightly caramelised, floral fruit lifted but without any volatility; fine, fresh, slightly roasted, creamy fruit, soft, gentle, silky initially with fine peppery tannins rising in the mouth, very elegant and in fine condition after 107 years! The best 1900 that I have tasted. 18.5
Taylor 1908 No mark awarded
Pale amber-tawny, looking rather washed out in this line up; lightweight and high-toned on the nose, like an old colheita with a touch of vinagrinho; similarly light and rather fragile on the palate, delicate dry fruit, almost completely dried up on the finish. Impossible to mark given its age.
Taylor 1912 ***
Mid-amber / red, broad amber rim; fragrant, lifted aromas, slightly roasted with a high-toned edge, a touch of resin yet retaining some freshness; light, now quite delicate and dry with a vestige of fruit remaining, soft sweet finish. Not as good as the Taylor 1912 at Roy Hersh’s Seattle tasting in 2003. 15
Taylor 1924 **** / *****
Mid-deep, brick red centre, tawny rim, still looking quite youthful for its age; full, richly scented aromas, muscovado sugar and spice; rich and round on the palate with fine bitter chocolate concentration remaining, plenty of body and sweetness, firm structure, complete with plenty of length and depth. Should survive for another 20 years or more. 18.5
Taylor 1927 *****
Good, deep brick red / garnet centre, tawny rim; very fine, rich aromas, still displaying the ripeness of the vintage; amazingly supple, ripe and fleshy, ripe fruit supported by cast iron tannins, still very powerful with a peacocks tail of a finish. Remarkable. Like so many of the ‘27s this has held up very well and has plenty of life left. If there is such a thing as perfect Vintage Port this is it! 20
Taylor 1935 *****
Good mid-deep centre, amber tawny rim; rather introverted on the nose, restrained yet showing some richness and considerable depth; big, full and dense on the palate with great power and intensity, lovely bitter chocolate fruit concentration and ripe broad tannins lingering onto a lovely sweet finish. Very fine indeed. Should continue to develop well in bottle. 19
Taylor 1945 *****
Mid deep brick red centre, thin tawny rim; rich and dense on the nose, not that expressive yet with underlying power and ripeness; very fine, fresh voluptuous fruit supported by a powerful tannic superstructure, ripe intense, wonderful concentration with dark chocolate intensity, massive foursquare finish. Combines power and elegance. Wow - still a youngster. Outstanding. 20
Taylor 1948 *** / ****
Paler than the 1945, mid-deep centre, broader browning rim; rich, naturally sweet, opulent fruit, almost caramelised on the nose; incredibly sweet and opulent, slightly singed caramelised fruit supported by ripe tannins, followed by a rich intensely sweet finish. Good but slightly unbalanced by so much sweetness. 16.5
Taylor 1955 **** ?
Paler but slightly more youthful in hue, brick red centre with a pinkish tone; all three bottles corked to varying degrees, rather odd sweet and sour character with a distinctly dry musty edge. Fourth bottle open, sweet, surprisingly gentle for a ’55, still very fresh and upright, yet perhaps without the backbone that tends to characterise this vintage. Lovely length, elegant with great purity. 17.5 ?
Taylor 1960 ***
Mid-deep centre with a broad, browning rim; open, elegant, fine and gentle with milk chocolate aromas and flavours yet still supported by peppery tannins. Lean compared to some previous years in this tasting yet still fine and fresh with a light, slightly spirity finish. Drink to 2015. 15.5
Taylor 1963 *****
Not especially deep in colour yet still youthful with a pink tinged rim; rich yet restrained and a touch roasted on the nose (second bottle much more open, overt and perfumed – stunning!), fine, tight-knit with quite tough tannins still prevailing over fresh berry fruit. Combines power and finesse in equal measure, leaner in style than some ‘63s but still very impressive. Will develop in bottle of another 40 years at least. 19
Taylor 1966 *****
Mid-deep garnet with a thin pink tinged rim; still restrained yet the underlying power, perfume and vitality is obvious; tight-knit, combining depth and purity, still in its first flush of youth with amazing power and dark chocolate concentration at the core, powerful spicy tannin length leaving an overall impression of freshness and life to be lived. Drink now (just) – will keep for a lifetime. 19
Taylor 1970 ****
Good, deep youthful colour, deep garnet centre with a thin pink rim; rich, warm toasted aromas, not particularly expressive yet displaying underlying ripeness; firm, tight-knit, dense with powerful peppery tannins at the core, a big, bold wine with much to give, massively tannic with a peacocks tail of a finish. 18
Taylor 1975 ** / ***
Pale in its context, brick red centre and a broad browning rim; light attractive yet rather hollow on the nose, fully evolved, open, floral; sweet, fresh, quite light and elegant, lovely soft, creamy flavours and light tannin structure. Balanced, harmonious possibly with some staying power remaining. Drink now to 2015. 14.5
Taylor 1977 ****
Mid-deep, youthful colour with a pink/purple rim; surprisingly sullen yet with underlying depth and richness evident, suggesting that there is more to give; very ripe and sweet initially with firm, spicy tannins rising in the mouth, firm tight-knit with good purity of flavour. Fine, vibrant cherry fruit finish. Now to 2030 + 17
Taylor 1980 ***
Very good, deep co,lour, dark centre, thin purple rim; restrained, slightly roasted, seemingly with more to give; big, spicy peppery tannins and lovely sweet cherry fruit. Fresh and vibrant with plenty of life left in it. Drink now – 2025 + 15.5
Taylor 1983 ***
Not quite as deep in colour as the 1980, mid-deep youthful hue with broad purple-pink rim; open and seemingly quite loose-knit on the nose, similarly on the palate, typically firm austere tannins rather overwhelm morello cherry fruit with a touch of esteva (gum cistus). Still quite austere, verging on lean but the purity of the fruit emerges on the finish. 16
Taylor 1985 ****
Good, deep youthful ruby centre and purple rim; tight and withdrawn on the nose, giving very little away, a hint of violets struggling to emerge; fine ripe, quite opulent fleshy fruit backed by broad ripe tannins. Powerful, intense with much more still to give. Very impressive. Drink now (just) but better in 5 – 10 years. Drink to 2040. 17
Taylor 1992 ****
Very deep opaque colour, thin purple rim; still closed and withdrawn but remarkable underlying opulence and ripeness evident; big, ripe and voluptuous, lovely rich flashy fruit backed by powerful ripe tannins. Still with some way to go although admirable now. Long, rich finish. Drink now (just) but better in 5 years. Drink until 2035 + 18
Taylor 1994 ****
Nearly opaque (although not quite as deep or dark as the 1992), thin purple rim; heady aromas, still in that difficult phase with spirit showing through on the nose; quite opulent in style, big, brooding tannins masking the fruit, hugely powerful with a burning finish. Still raw and needing time. Fascinating evolution ahead. Drink from 2015. 17 + ?
Taylor 1997 *** / ****
Deep, dark, near opaque centre, thin purple rim; opening to reveal lovely pure berry fruit, surprisingly open with underlying depth; fine, firm and well-structured, well defined with bitter-sweet cherry fruit supported by fine, sinewy tannins and a hint of bitter chocolate. Good balance, earlier maturing than the 1994 but with a long, charmed life ahead. 16.5
Taylor 2000 ****
Very deep opaque colour, thin purple / crimson rim; closed, sullen and brooding with underlying depth and intensity (in that withdrawn phase); big, bold, structured, ripe tannins and super-ripe fruit, explosive tannic finish. Complete. Needs another 10/15 years at least. Will be very good indeed. 17.5
Taylor 2003 **** / *****
Very deep, opaque, ‘black’ colour, thin crimson rim; closing in on itself, some ripe, raw fruit still evident; big, rich and painfully tannic, with plenty of super-ripe fleshy fruit, massively tannic finish, explosive in its power and potential. A huge wine with a huge future ahead. Drink from 2025 + 18.5
Vargellas Vinha Velha
Vargellas Vinha Velha comes from the oldest vineyards on Taylor’s flagship estate in the Douro Superior. There are five distinct plots, with some vines over a century old. Yields are naturally low with 300 grams of fruit per vine being typical. Total production usually amounts to less than four pipes. In 1995 wine from these vineyards were set aside from the Vargellas blend and bottled on their own for the first time. These four wines were shown at the end of the Taylor’s vertical (2007 Vinha Velha has subsequently been declared – see notes on 2007 Vintage Port).
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 1995 *** / ****
Deep, almost opaque colur, thin purple rim; opening up to reveal rich, perfumed rather raisiny, jammy fruit aromas; super-ripe, voluptuous with very powerful broad tannins rising in the mouth. Rich, round and complete, ripe tannins lingering on the finish. 16.5
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 1997 ** / *** + ?
Deep, near opaque, thin purple rim; burnt, stewed aromas, not as attractive at this stage as the Taylor’s 1997 vintage, smells hot and heady; similar on the palate, disjointed hot and heady yet undeniably powerful. Needs time to knit together. Reserve judgement for another 5/10 years. Less than two pipes were produced. 14.5 + ?
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 2000 ****
Deep, dark opaque, thin crimson rim; dense, impenetrable, needs time to open up; taut on the palate, firm, sinewy tannins yet already showing considerable elegance and harmony not yet evident in the 1997. Compact, tight knit finish.Very good indeed. Drink from 2017. 17.5
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 2004 ****
Dark, opaque ‘black’ centre, thin crimson rim; still full of the first bloom of youth, lovely ripe berry fruit aromas with underlying intensity and power; massively rich, sweet and opulent, beautifully structured, well-built with great purity of fruit. Perhaps the biggest wine of the four, still needs to close down. Huge potential. 18
Location: The Factory House, Porto
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