PORT DINNER IN MEMORY OF ARNOLD SMITH

This is the second time I have been invited to the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club to lead a Vintage Port tasting. The first dinner three years ago was organised by  the Chairman of the Wine Committee, Arnold Smith, who provided wines from some of the best vintages of the twentieth century, going back to 1927 (see entry for 13thMay 2008). Given the supremely high standard all the wines, it was one of the finest Port dinners that I have attended. Arnold asked me to come back this year to lead a tasting of (mainly) 1970s from the club cellar but very sadly he died suddenly this summer.  The dinner took place in his memory. 

Croft 1970 ****

Turning quite pale in colour; open milk chocolate aromas, still attractive and floral (violety); now very soft and sweet, quite with a vestige of tannic grip, smooth totally ready to drink with good balance and finesse. Drink now and over the next five years. 17

Dow 1970 *****

Much deeper in colour, restrained, demure on the nose with underlying intensity; lovely firm tight knit fruit with a drier edge in the Dow style, bitter-sweet, dark chocolate character, very Dow and very good. Still with amazing vitality for a wine in its 42rd year. Drink and enjoy now by all means but this will open up with age and will last a lifetime. 19.5

Graham 1970 **** / *****

Retaining a lovely deep colour; typically rich, sweet and opulent in style, smooth dark chocolate concentration with fresh, sweet cherry fruit (I got in to trouble for describing it as medicinal but I like Benylin!), long and fine, delicious. This was just pipped to the winning post by Dow for the majority of members attending the dinner, myself included. 18.5

Taylor 1970 *****

This was bottled by Thomas Baty, once a well-known Liverpool Wine Merchant on North John Street whose former premises are now occupied by the Hard Day’s Night Hotel. I make mention of it because it was a particularly good bottling of this wine, the best Taylor 1970 that I have tasted: not quite as dark as the Graham; lovely bitter-sweet character, very concentrated and intense dark chocolate character retaining wonderful freshness and life. A very fine example, long and fresh on the finish, just beating Graham on this occasion. 19     

Graham 1963 (no label, embossed on the seal) **** / *****

The last two bottles in the club’s cellar which we drank at the end of dinner: good mid-deep youthful colour, open, fragrant, floral but still showing its power and depth on the nose; rich and opulent in style retaining a lovely dark chocolate core. Fine and fresh with good gripping tannins and lovely gentle length -, just as a top 1963 should be. 18.5

Scoring

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