It came as quite a surprise to hear that the Fladgate Partnership had declared 2009 across the board. Although 2009 was a very good year in the vineyard, it comes very soon after 2007 and it is the fourth fully declared vintage for Taylor, Fonseca and Croft this decade. The Symington family have decided not to declare 2009 (apart from a very small quantity of Warre) and the only other declaree that I am aware of so far is Niepoort. Not for the first time, Dirk Niepoort has stated that his 2009 ‘is the best vintage I have ever made’.
The 2009 growing season began early with budburst in Pinhão in the first week of March. Yields were low from the start and the early part of the summer was cool and dry. A hot August accelerated ripening and picking began as early as 9th September at Croft’s Quinta da Roêda. With no rain from July onwards, the grapes were small producing dense, concentrated musts, rich in colour, tannins and sugar. The declaration is smaller than 2007 (see quantities below). Taylor’s 2009 is based on a blend of Ports from Quinta de Vargellas and Quinta de Terra Feita. Quinta do Junco (ex-Borges) has made a small contribution since 2000 and does so again in 2009. Fonseca 2009 is drawn from Quinta do Panascal and Quinta do Cruzeiro with a small proportion of wine from Quinta do Santo António, recently converted to organic viticulture. Croft 2009 is drawn entirely from Quinta da Roêda.
The following wines were put on show by Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of the Fladgate Partnership, in London on 6th May closely following their traditional declaration date, St George’s Day.
Taylor 2009 ****
Deep, dark opaque; lovely opulent aromas, refined, scented and very pretty (not often I say this about a wine), in its first bloom of youth; broad, sweet and rich with fine peppery tannins, quite powerful yet gentle at the same time with a lovely sinewy, firm finish. Complete. (9,000 cases declared) 18
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 2009 **** +
Deep in colour, but not especially dark and not as Taylor (above); still raw, touch of tobacco and hedgerow, not nearly as showy as Taylor; lovely ripe fleshy fruit backed by firm, fine-grained, tight knit tannins, rising in the mouth, long firm, powerful finish, quite big and structured but elegant too. 18.5
Fonseca 2009 **** +?
Very good colour, deep and opaque; closed on the nose, much more restrained than Taylor, underlying tight-knit cassis-like fruit underlying, just a touch roasted perhaps; again very elegant, gentle initially, firm with peppery tannins rising in the mouth, quite dry in style, lovely suave cassis fruit showing through on the finish. More my style than Taylor. Very promising. (7,000 cases) 18.5
Croft 2009 ****
Again, very good colour; lovely plummy aromas, minty, quite showy for a young VP; very sweet, still a bit raw with some firm tannic grip rising onto the finish, soft and flattering, very much in the new Croft style. A lovely wine for the medium term. (5,000 cases) 17
Skeffington 2009 ***
Another very deep coloured wine; closed and not that expressive on the nose, perhaps a touch hollow in the assembled company; soft and fleshy, quite up front with firm, grippy tannins, but leaner than the previous wines in this line-up. Fresh finish, good integrity. A wine for drinking in 10 – 15 years. 16
The tasting provided an opportunity to look at Fladgate wines from the three earlier declarations in the noughties. Brief notes (without scores) follow:
Deep colour; hedgerow and tobacco, entered into that ugly phase; lovely fleshy fruit, firm, ripe tannins but still very disjointed.
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 2007
Not quite as deep as Taylor; very pure, lovely cassis fruit, dense tannins leading to an explosive finish. Very profound.
Close, dense, sullen; lovely pure fruit on the palate, quite broad and fleshy, tight-knit, big and dense on the finish.
Graceful plumy aromas, not yet closed in; very soft, fleshy and attractive, sweet and flattering with a broad spicy finish
Closed; soft and gentle initially, firm tannins, spicy-peppery length. Balanced but a bit lean.
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 2004
Again, not that deep in colour, opulent and open, minty; lovely sweet, pure succulent fruit, seemingly quite simple at this stage but with lovely spicy tannins to back it up. Very refined and pure.
Upfront, opulent, scented, open; fleshy, ripe, super-ripe, soft with big ripe hot country tannins.
Opulent, open, talks from the glass; strawberry fruit, rich big and fleshy, big, ripe tannins, very unusual wine at this stage in it development
Scented, open, plums and cherries; very soft, sweet and rich, a touch roasted and lacking definition. Some dark chocolate. Nearly ready to drink.
Restrianed, a touch jammy, soft initially with firm tannins on the finish. Drink now – 2020.
Deep, youthful colour; bit sullen but with underlying mint, esteva (gum cistus) and eucalypt; lovely focused sweet spicy fruit, tight knit and peppery, evolving very well indeed. Needs another 5-10 years.
Taylor’s Vargellas Vinha Velha 2000
Not quite so deep in colour, still youthful; stewed and/or oxidised on the nose, not showing well; better on the palate but flat, firm ripe tannins with a bitter-sweet finish, going through an odd phase
Good youthful colour, still closed but showing underlying cassis-like purity; full, rich and dense, dark chocolate concentration, just as it should be at this stage. Georgeous wine. Needs another 10 years.
Hollow or closed? Probably the latter. Full, mid-weight with lovely firm black cherry fruit, much more traditional in style than more recent vintages. Start to drink in five years.
Location: Quo Vadis, London W1
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