Vintage Ports from the Fladgate Partnership

Adrian Bridge, the Managing Director of the Fladgate Partnership which includes Taylor, Fonseca and Croft, came to the annual portfolio tasting of their distributors, Mentzendorff to present a selection of Vintage Ports. Taylor’s have always been rather circumspect about the size of their declarations but on this occasion Adrian Bridge was quite open about this and, where relevant, I have noted the quantity of wine declared by the shipper.   

The following wines are presented in the order they were tasted apart from Taylor 1985 which was included in the general portfolio tasting.

Fonseca 1985 ****

 Very good youthful colour, still deep with a red rim; youthful on the nose too, gently perfumed floral character with the spirit just showing through; sweet, fleshy with gentle, fresh berry fruit backed by peppery tannic grip, dry finish. Drinking well now but with plenty of life left. This is probably the best wine from a very patchy vintage. A huge declaration: 20,000 cases. The only year in history to produce more wine was 1927, a remarkable vintage and a much better year overall than 1985. 17.5

Taylor 1992 ****

Still deep and opaque, thin ruby rim; open, ripe, opulent, floral – rose petals and those characteristic violets; rich, quite hefty, full and fleshy with ripe tannic grip, good length, with a touch of dark chocolate concentration on the finish. Ready to drink and will evolve well for another 20 years or more. Just 6,200 cases declared after a long gap between declarations. 1991 / 1992 were what is termed a split vintage i.e. some shippers declared the latter (notably Taylor and Fonseca), others the former. With the benefit of 16 years in bottle, 1992 was undoubtedly the better year. 17

Taylor 1994 **** +?

Deep, opaque centre, thin ruby rim; very ripe, still quite hot and jammy but rich, dense and impressive with further to evolve on the nose; similarly dense on the palate, still with characteristic flesh and broad, ripe tannins, dark chocolate concentration but still slightly raw around the edges. Needs another five years to soften. 18.5

Taylor 1997 *** / ****

Mid-deep colour with a broad ruby rim, by no means as deep in colour as some of the wines in this tasting; fine, open, floral character but a touch smoky with more to give on the nose; rich, sweet, quite opulent in style, firm, dry tannins, some dark chocolate leading to a foursquare finish. Needs time to round off, approach in another three years. 10,500 cases declared. 16.5

Croft 2000 ***

Croft belonged to Diageo in 2000 only came into the Fladgate fold in 2001 (on the day before 9/11). This wine is partly made from the residual wines from the Taylor and Fonseca blend as well as some wine from Croft’s own Quinta da Roeda: Very deep, opaque colour, thin ruby rim; open, fragrant aromas, rich and fruit driven with more to give; intense, dense, quite rich and fruit driven, big, sweet plumy style, backed by firm gripping tannins. Drink fairly early but still needs five years to show at its best. 7,000 cases declared.  16

Fonseca 2000 *****

Very deep, youthful crimson colour, closed; dark, dense, underlying richness, very impressive indeed; big, powerful and withdrawn, wonderful depth, multi-layered, massive superstructure. Very powerful with a long way to go. Drink from around 2020, this wine will probably last a lifetime. 19

Croft 2003 ****

This is the first Croft vintage to be foot trodden in lagar since 1963 and it shows: deep, opaque colour, thin crimson rim; very rich, fleshy, broad and fruit driven, plum and berry fruit, lovely suave depth and length with firm grip. Very well balanced but needs another ten years before drinking. 17

Taylor 2003 ****

Very deep, opaque colour, thin crimson rim; closed, some heat underlying; big, powerful with massive tannins, still somewhat disjointed and needing time to come together, powerful spicy finish with great length and persistence. Needs another 15 years in bottle. 18

Croft 2007 ***

Deep, youthful crimson colour; still open, fragrant if raw and perhaps slightly green; soft initially, mid-weight, well balanced, firm and rather sinewy but with lovely freshness and vibrancy. 16 

Taylor 2007 ****

Very deep, opaque; dense, giving very little away on the nose, underlying intensity evident; fine, seemingly quite light at this stage with good definition and purity of fruit, vibrant, still very young and raw but settling down well. 17

Taylor 1985 ** 

Quite pale in colour, brick red to pink; hollow and comparatively washed out on the nose with spirit showing through, something slightly musky underlying; fresher on the palate, firm grip though the fruit seems to be fading. Quite lean and skinny on the finish – drink up! Stands in the shadow of Fonseca 1985 (above). 14


Location: Somerset House, London


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