Comparative tasting of Taylor and Graham Vintage Ports

It has been eight years since Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of the Fladgate Partnership (including Taylor) and Paul Symington, Managing Director of Symington Family Estates (including Graham) last presented a tasting together. The last one was organised by The Wine Society at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall and I recall wanting to be a fly on the wall at the time. This tasting was organised by Bonhams and I was asked to moderate at the event – not that much moderation was needed! It is only the second time that this has happened and it was a fascinating and illuminating comparative tasting of the wine of two of the greatest Port houses. The wines are presented in the order that I tasted them and the notes are perhaps a bit briefer than normal due to my chairing the event and fielding comments and questions at the same time.

Taylor 1970 ****

Mid-deep brick-red centre, thin browning rim; fragrant, slightly toasted, floral character, open if not all that expressive; firm, rich, classic bitter-sweet character, firm, dry but explosive tannic finish, long and linear. (31,400 cases declared) 18

Graham 1970 *****

A more pinkish hue than the Taylor, if very slightly paler; rich, classic extra-dark chocolate character (80% cocoa solids) on the nose and palate, very sweet in Graham style, full, smooth with broad ripe tannins building towards the finish. Continuing full and broad on the finish. A classic, as good as anything from 1963 or 1966. 19

Graham 1977 ****

Mid-deep, still youthful in colour with a pinkish rim; opulent spicy, floral aromas; rich but firm, solid and quite weighty, rich, dark chocolate finish (I wrote ‘70% cocoa solids’ for this one). 18

Taylor 1977 *** / ****

 Mid-deep, youthful colour; a rather off-putting cheesy nose, (perhaps slightly corked?), tastes fine, much fresher than on the nose, firm linear tannins, not especially broad but focused and tight-knit. Should continue to develop well 16.5

Graham 1985 ****

Very deep, dark youthful colour, still purple on the rim; closed, not all that expressive with a cedar and black pepper character underlying; rich, sweet, dense and peppery, quite dry in style for Graham, with an explosion of pepper on the finish. Lovely now but with plenty of life left in it. 17.5

Taylor 1985 *** / ****

 Mid-deep youthful garnet; again something very slightly musty on the nose, woody perhaps; softer and more yielding than the Graham, yet quite rich and dense with bitter sweet-cherry fruit character and a fresh black cherry finish. 16.5    

Graham 1994 **** / *****

Very deep, youthful colour, purple rim; fine, rich opulent aromas; very full and charming, broad ripe tannins evident beneath the fruit, overall powerful and opulent with solid structure and full grip with the puppy fat still evident on the finish. Lovely now but better in 5 years plus.18.5

Taylor 1994 *****

Nothing to separate the colour from the above apart from very slight browning on the rim; lovely tight-knit cedar wood character, not as expressive as the Graham at this stage; fine, focused bitter-sweet fruit, dark chocolate intensity, tight-knit, very powerful and impressive. Needs another 5 years at least before broaching to drink. 19

Graham 2000 **** +?

Deep, youthful opaque colour; lovely perfume and surprisingly open, very pure fruit; opulent, dense, very powerful, forceful tannins, big, ripe and very fine and rich. Keep at least ten years. The first Graham vintage to be made partially (36% in robotic lagares).18+? 

Taylor 2000 **** / *****

Ditto colour; closed and not nearly as expressive as the Graham on the nose but with underlying power showing through; powerful with solid dry tannins in the mouth, tight-knit mid-palate but exploding on the finish, fine grained tannins. Will be a wonderful wine in 15 years. 10% of the final lote comes from Quinta do Junco bought from Borges in 1998. Just under 15,000 cases declared. 18.5

Graham 2007 **** / *****

Very deep, opaque colour; open, opulent, very rich, pure and aromatic, not at all closed in yet; rich and powerful with strong muscular tannins and a lovely sweet character lingering on the finish. 18.5 

Taylor 2007 **** / *****

Identical colour; still raw and peppery on the nose, spirit showing though, needs time to meld together; firm expression, very pure cassis character, slightly green hedgerow flavours but taut and very fine with a gripping finish. Much better than a year ago, coming together very well indeed. 18.5

Location: Bonham's, Bond Street, 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