Vintage Ports from 1996 - 1863

I was very grateful to be invited to an improptu meeting of the Port Forum held near my home in North Derbyshire. Everyone brought two wines and presented them blind with cryptic clues.

The first pai of wines were served blind in black glasses so as not to reveal the colour of the wine - a fascinating experiment:

Ferreira 1963 ***

Perfumed but rather confected aromas, touch of barley sugar; very sweet retaining some structure and length, has some backbone but the finish is sweet, confected and slightly hollow.  (The wine revealed itself as pale pink in colour). 15

Ferreira 1863 ****

Liquorice on the nose, quite spirity with a touch of rancio emerging from the glass; tastes very sweet, herbal, anis, mint and a touch of liquorice, not much tannin evident (is this an old white lagrima Port I asked myself), soft, sweet and very long. (The wine revealed itself as pale amber - orange in colour, as if it could have been a White Port)  A fascinating wine, very difficult to give a mark.  17 

Quinta de Vargellas 1996 ***

Deep, youthful colour; ripe but baked on the nose, a touch of marmite, reeks of a hot vintage (even though 1996 was not a hot year); rich strapping wine, lovely bright berry fruit with big gripping tannins, tastes fresher than it smells, quite plump on the finish. I guessed it as a 1995 single quinta and I was very surprised to find I was one year out!  15.5 

Graham 1963 (bottled by Grants of St James) No Stars

Very pale tawny colour; dried out on the nose, gentle, high-toned and fruitless; very dry on the palate, faded, quite ghostly, dried out, a vestige of gentle, milk-chocolate sweetness on the finish. Sad! This is either a bad bottling or the wine has been badly stored.  No mark

Martinez 1985 ***

Good, mid-deep youthful colour, pink rim; not much on the nose initially, a slight smell of cheese, camenbert but opening up to reveal blackcurrent fruit; lovely, gentle, elegant, firm with good balance, firm, tight sinewy tannins, this wine still has a core, with a gentle, dry finish. Drinking well now and with another ten or fifteen years to go.  A very good wine in the context of the oh so variable 1985 vintage. 16

Taylor 1955 (UK bottling) ****

Mid-deep garnet-pink colour, browning rim; very perfumed, floral, rose petals and violets, orange peel too; quite overt, open refined and rarefied on the palate, dry and spicy, not much fruit remaining, candied peel, delicate and still quite fresh, not nearly as powerful as I would have expected from a 1955 of this ilk but a very enjoyable wine nonetheless. Drink soon. 17  

Fonseca Guimareans 1976 ****/ *****

Very deep and still 'black' in colour; first bottle sadly corked, second bottle stupendously powerful, evocative minty aromas, eucalyptus and esteva (gum cistus), it still brings back my tasting note from Wine magazine fifteen or so years ago 'no need to fake your orgasm this Christmas'; very rich, firm, powerful bold fruit, cast-iron tannins, big and bold, bitter-sweet, dark chocolate concentration. Makes up in power for what it lacks in elegance but still an extraordinary wine. Top notch. A Vintage Port that will go on and on and on.  This wine would get five stars for its chutzpah alone!   18.5

Fonseca 1977 ****

Mid-deep in colour with a pink rim; quite dense on the nose, elegant, a touch floral with milk chocolate depth; soft, rich yet  firm and tight-knit round the core, lovely sweet berry fruit, succulent, elegant, absolutely ready now but with plenty of life left. A lovely wine but not as impressive as the 1976 Fonseca-Guimareans with which it was paired. Drink now and over the next 15 - 20 years. 17.5  

Location: Rowley's, Baslow, Derbyshire


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