Birthday Wines Part II

I celebrated a significant birthday this year and with the help of some enthusiastic members of the Port Forum (click on ‘links’ for more information) we uncorked some splendid wines including the oldest Vintage Port that I have ever tasted:

 Noval 1961 Crusted Port ** / ***

I have drunk this on a previous occasion and it was great to see it again. Just to clarify any doubt, written on the that we uncorked are the words: ‘Noval 1961 Crusted Port. This unblended wine, produced at the famous Quinta do Noval and bottled in 1964, should be carefully decanted before serving.’ Now brick-red to tawny in colour; fruit fading with cough mixture aromas; firm, still focused with some lovely cherry fruit mid-palate, still sweet but medicinal in style, not big but quite well balanced.   14.5

Fonseca Guimaraens 1961 ‘Reserve’ ***

A wine from my vintage that I have never tasted before: slightly more mature and tawny in appearance but fresher on the nose, similar sort of Benilyn aromas and sweet cherry flavours, still retaining some dark chocolate concentration and depth with grip and length. 16

Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 1961  No stars

This is the last bottle from a case that I bought at Christies 12, years ago I suppose as I have been opening one a year ever since. All the bottles have been high-toned, nay volatile. This was quite badly ullaged: the palest of the three 61s, cloudy; VA, nail varnish nose, no fruit, dry and fading fast, just a vestige of bitter-sweet grip on the finish. 8

Dalva Golden White 1952 ****

Dalva are making a name for their white Ports, helped by Export Director Jim Reader who used to head Cockburn’s: mid-amber with a distinct green tinge to the rim; pungent rancio character on the nose seemingly quite dry with a woody –tawny character; much sweeter on the palate, marmalade and spice with a lovely, long, tawny marmalade finish. 17

Graham 1977  mark withheld

Good youthful ruby colour if quite pale; rather ugly on the nose, still quite tight with spirit showing, more to give; lovely soft fleshy fruit on the palate, not big but firm and let down by a rather woody finish. A poor bottle, possibly slightly corked?

Warre 1970 ****

Good mid-deep, youthful hue, thin browning rim; touch of coffee, torrefaction on the nose; firm, tight-knit and focused, fine and linear, bitter-sweet mid-palate, quite dry in style, almost austere, without much flesh on the bones, but in this case the bones are very elegant. Despite the lack of fruit this will make old bones! 17.5

Niepoort 1970 **** / *****

There are two bottlings of this wine, one in a short dumpy bottle, the other in a tall bottle. This is the latter. Still very youthful in colour, mid-ruby with a pink rim; surprisingly light on the nose, very fresh, fragrant and floral but doesn’t give much impression of power or depth; firm, seemingly quite lean to start with but beautifully focused, tight knit with linear rapier like tannins that go on and on and on. Gentle berry fruit. Near perfect poise. This was voted the wine of the evening.18.5

1851 Vintage Port, shipper unknown *****

This is the oldest Port I have ever tasted, produced from pre-phylloxera grapes. According to Michael Broadbent  this was a vintage tainted with mildew although oidium only made its presence felt a year later: still deep and amazingly youthful in the centre of the glass, browning on the rim; subdued, a touch high-toned and slightly soily but still fine and focused; dusty cherry fruit still evident, a touch of coffee, firm and focused, bitter-sweet cherries with some sweetness coming through again on the finish. Still retaining its youthful grip, amazingly fresh if quite dry in style. Astonishing wine, almost impossible to mark without putting it into context but it deserves top marks just for surviving the way it has. 19    


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