2007 Vintage Port

The 2007 Port Vintage is not comparable to any other that I have tasted in my career (I go back to the 1983 vintage, not that far but still far enough). The wines have a wonderful purity. The vibrant fruit that is so expressive of the Douro shines through clearly on the nose and palate. The 2007s have a freshness and vivacity that I have not seen at this stage before. 'Elegance' and 'poise' are words that crop up frequently in my tasting notes, particularly among the best wines which are supported by fine, tight-knit tannins. This is not a blockbuster, blackstrap vintage and there are no few stewed, cooked raisiny or pruney flavours (cp. the hot vintage of 2003). Some wines have a green edge, a sort of hedgerow character on the nose and there are some wines that are clearly under-ripe.

I have tasted most of these wines four times (once blind) before writing these notes and my scores are a synthesis all the tastings. The colours are uniformly good (as they have been in most recent vintages) and I only mention the appearance in my notes if it is especially noteworthy. The big question I keep asking myself whilst is when to drink the wines. Some (e.g. Croft, Silval) can be drunk now and I think this is a vintage that we will be able to dip into with pleasure over a long period of time (40 years plus in the case of the best wines), given the undeniable balance, acidity and purity of many of the wines.

It is always tempting to try and compare a new Port vintage with an earlier year but as I said at the outset this is not like any vintage that I have seen before. For what it's worth, Peter Symington who has 45 vintages under his belt and retires this year compares it with 1970. If that is the case the 1970s went through a long period of sullen adolescence and the best wines took 30 years to emerge. Only time will tell.

The Port shippers have not been greedy with their pricing with most wines up around 10% on the last declaration, 2003. Given the fall in the value of sterling, the shippers have effectively cut their prices by 20%. Some wines, notably Gould Campbell, Quarles Harris and Smith Woodhouse should be slighly cheaper than they were in 2003 and, given their quality, these are likely to be the bargains of the vintage.

I have included single estate wines alongside full declarations. While some single estates stand alone (e.g. Quinta do Vesúvio) I am surprised at those houses that have declared both a single estate wine and a house wine. At a time when many people are confused by the different categories of Port, this merely serves to muddy the waters further.

 Dow *****

Very good deep, black colour; dense, closed and unyielding on the nose, not giving much away; fine, focused, very tight-knit in style, quite dry (typically Dow) and not as immediately appealing as some (e.g. Graham), big, bold, combining power and elegance. Not an easy wine to appreciate at this stage. A keeper. Drink from 2027. 19

Graham *****

Very deep black-purple; rich, ripe and gloriously opulent, still open with wonderful morello cherry aromas; voluptuous in its richness and sweetness (Graham is always made in a sweeter style), very impressive, seemingly quite up front but with structure and substance too, broad ripe tannins leading to a peacocks tail of a finish. Fabulous. Drink from 2024. 19.5

Taylor, Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha *****

A tiny quantity from old vines on Taylor’s flagship estate: very fine, dense cherry stone aromas and somehow minerally as well; lovely sweet, seductive flavours, plum and cherry, great purity and definition, ripe vibrant tannins fill the mouth on the finish. Not as big as some but very fine and racy. From 2020. 19

Quinta do Vesúvio Capela *****

Just 5 pipes (2,750 litres) produced from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Sousão grapes: very deep opaque black-crimson; slightly floral but closed, sullen on the nose, with underlying power and depth; rich, still quite raw needing time to come together, very intense with a solid tannic core, dark chocolate, finishes with a flourish. From 2024. 19

Niepoort ****/*****

Deep, opaque; closed, tight-knit, not showing as much as some on the nose; fine focused, bitter chocolate intensity, lovely purity of fruit combined with powerful tannic structure. Solid core and characteristically Niepoort in this respect. Finishes with a flourish. The finest Niepoort for many a year. Drink from 2024 18.5

Quinta do Vesúvio ****/*****

Very deep, opaque colour; fine, pure quite opulent fragrant fruit; rich, spicy tannins with bitter chocolate concentration, very fine and focused. Impressive for its ripeness and opulence. From 2020 18.5

Warre ****/*****

Very deep, opaque; fine, fragrant, great purity on the nose yet quite restrained; quite rich, full in style, even fleshy, not as big as some but very fine and expressive. Lovely grip on the finish with poise and elegance. From 2024. 18.5

Quinta do Noval ****

Very deep, inky colour – one of the darkest; still sullen, intense black fruit and a touch of hedgerow underlying with some spice; big, solid and luscious in style, plenty of flesh on the strong tannic bones, quite plump yet powerful. Very pure with great poise. From 2024. 17.5

Taylor ****

Very dark opaque colour (slightly deeper than Vargellas Vinha Velha): open, fragrant, floral, hedgerow aromas, underlying power evident; fine, pure peppery fruit, fine-grained tannins lingering onto the finish, elegant, not big but very beautiful. From 2020. 17

Gould Campbell ****

Very deep, almost inky black-crimson; closed, underlying ripeness, heady with much more to give; solid, well structured, good, ripe powerful tannins rising in the mouth leading to a broad, ripe finish. Very well balanced. Came top in our blind tasting! Likely to be the bargain of the vintage. Drink from 2022. 17

Smith Woodhouse ****

Very good black-crimson colour; quite opulent and spicy (cinnamon) with a touch of tar; big, rich, impressive, broad tannic structure and legnth, Focused, fine. As always, very good value. From 2024. 17.5

Cockburn ***/****

Very good, deep colour; quite dense, rich and ripe on the nose, suave; fine, rich fleshy, up front fruit initially, liquorice-like concentration, soft, ripe tannins, quite plump in style, complete. Drink from 2020. 16.5+

Fonseca ***+?

Fragrant, hedgerow aromas, powerful but rather angular; fine focused berry fruit, pepper and spice, not big, quite soft initailly with some rather green tannins rising in the mouth and a hard dry finish. Usually one of my favourites so I reserve judgement. 15.5+?

Niepoort, Pisca ***

A single estate wine in all but name: very fragrant, floral, hedgerow aromas; lovely pure, elegant berry fruit with firm, fine-grained tannins. Lovely poise. A very good middle-distance wine From 2017. 15.

Cockburn, Quinta dos Canais ***

Very deep colour; closed, quite dense, underlying ripeness; soft and supple initially, suave plenty of flesh, smooth ripe tannins, lovely mid-weight, middle distance wine. From 2017. 15.5

Delaforce ***

Owned by Real Companhia Velha since 2008 but this wine was made by the Fladgate Partnership: not giving away much on the nose; lovely purity of fruit on the palate, not a heavyweight, perhaps a little lean but focused. From 2020. 15

Ferreira ***

Open, ripe, plumy aromas; lovely rich, mouth filling fruit, not big but well structured, ripe, gravely tannins with good spicy-peppery length. Well balanced. From 2020. 16

Poças ***

Deep crimson colour; closed and quite powerful showing some opulence with lovely spicy-berry fruit, firm, tight-knit if slightly dusty tannins on the finish. Good purity of flavour and balance. Another impressive Port from a shipper that has been on form in recent years. From 2020 15

Quarles Harris ***

Open, opulent, plum and berry aromas; sweet plummy fruit with purity and poise, good, mid-weight, complete with firm, ripe length. Lovely wine for the mid-term From 2020. 15.5

Sandeman***

Very deep, inky colour; dense, dusty nose, liquorice too; rich, round initially with powerful, spicy tannins rising in the mouth, the tannins come to overwhelm the fruit leading to a rather tough extractive finish. This wine may have its fans but I am not one of them - out of step with the vintage but may be a long term keeper. From 2022? 15

Churchill, Quinta da Gricha **/***

Fresh, aromatic with leafy, hedgerow character on the nose; firm, fine, mid-weight, tannins are quite lithe, well-made but with a slightly lean finish. From 2017 14.5

Quinta do Noval, Silval  **/***

Very good colour; open floral, hedgerow aromas; quite sweet, elegant, verging on simple. Lovely purity of flavour, plum and cherry fruit without a great deal of structure or depth. Well made short to middle distance wine. Enjoy early, now (?!) to 2020. 14.5

Quinta da Romaneira ** /***

The first vintage Port for many years from this estate which is now a luxury hotel: open, quite  hot, heady and pruney; similarly sweet, plump pruney flavours, satisfying but lacks grip and focus, leathery tannins. From 2017.  14.5

Quinta de Roriz  **/***

Strange stewed, over-ripe aromas (some samples oxidsied); much better on the palate, quite rich and intense with good tannic grip. Mid-weight, middle distance wine with some flesh. From 2017. 14.5 

Quinta do Vale Meão  **/***

From a privately owned estate in the Douro Superior with a historic link to Ferreira: open, opulent, voluptuous in style without any Douro Superior heat or excess ripeness; sweet, fleshy and voluptuous, broad ripe tannins, super-ripe cherries and chocolate depth on the finish. From 2017. 14.5

Broadbent **

Good deep colour; open, green leaf character; mid-weight with firm peppery tannic structure mid palate but tails off on the finish. From 2015. 14

Croft **

Open, fragrant, floral with a strangely, grassy, leafy character; soft, supple and very attractive on the palate, approachable now and lacking the grip and structure to run the distance. Reminds me of an LBV! Well made mid-weight, short-to-middle distance wine. From 2012? 14

Ramos Pinto **

Very deep colour; rich, a touch of liquorice but green and loose knit; similarly rather sweet and raw on the palate with peppery tannins, mid-weight but rather hollow. From 2012. 13

Quinta Vale Dona Maria **

Open, very fragrant, flowers and hedgerow, leafy, green; soft, round and seductive but with a green tannic backdrop. Austere finish. Quite well made, but more like a Douro red than a vintage Port. From 2012. 14

Quinta do Infantado **

Open, loose-knit, perhaps a touch hollow; sweet, plummy fruit with dusty tannins and a dry finish. Rather lean and one dimensional. Drink early, from 2015. 13.

Martinez **

Closed, not giving a great deal away on the nose; fresh but slightly too simple, dry tannins, some elegance but all bones and no flesh on the finish Drink from 2017. 14

Offley Boa Vista **

Ripe but rather jammy aromas, loose-knit; quite sweet and spicy, firm tannins leading to a rather lean, dry finish. Drink from 2015. 14.

Royal Oporto **

The better of the two wines from this house (see Real Companhia Velha below): quite dense, liquorice on the nose; soft, sweet but rather simple and one dimensional, light peppery tannic length. 13.5

Rozès **

Open, scented, floral aromas; soft, sweet and loose-knit, quite elegant, mid-weight but one dimensional. 13

Skeffington **

Second string wine from the Fladgate Partnership, used widely for own label: fragrant, green leaf and hedgerow aromas; soft, rather light berry fruit, quite vivacious, firm tannins with a green pepper edge, early maturing. Drink from 2015. 13.5

Churchill */**

Open, ripe but a touch jammy on the nose, perhaps a touch high toned although samples seem to vary; quite plump, supple but light to medium weight compared to many, firm tannic finish. 12.5

Quinta do Passadouro */**

Pronounced green pepper aromas, still raw; light to mid-weight, quite sweet, with firm peppery fruit and a rather lean finish. Under ripe 12.5

Pintas */**

Open, fragrant, verging on jammy with rather simple cherry jam flavours, quite sweet and up-front but lacking in depth complexity. Drink young. 12.5

Poças, Quinta de Santa Barbara */**

Kirsch on the nose; very sweet and rather loose knit, mid-weight, simple fresh cherry flavours and overall rather one dimensional. Drink early. 12.5

Quinta do Portal *

Raw, unfinished nose and did I detect a touch of Bovril? Better on the palate, sweet fruit but slightly green, firm peppery finish but tannins appear green and under-ripe. 10

Ramos Pinto, Quinta de Ervamoira *

Open,green mint aromas, almost like Australian Shiraz; very sweet, loose knit, up-front wine, green tannins. Very unusual, almost in New World mode and not my style at all. 11

Real Companhia Velha *

Unusual medicinal cherry aromas; green and rather one dimensional. Stalky, stringy length. 11

Quinta do Ventozello

Spanish owned at the time of the vintage, subsequently purchased by Real Companhia Velha: soupy - jammy fruit on the nose, soft, loose-knit and falls away. 9

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