Classic Port Grape Varieties, with David Guimaraens

This was a tutored tasting of varietal wines from the 1992 vintage at Taylor’s Quinta de Terra Feita. It is a logical consequence of the replanting of the late 1970s and 1980s when block planting of separate varieties began to take place en masse for the first time. The so called World Bank Scheme or PDRITM (reflecting Portugal’s love of acronymns) permitted the planting of five grape varieties, the Top Cinco: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa (now renamed Touriga Franca), Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.  To this classic line up David Guimaraens added Tinta Amarela (aka Trincadeira in the south of Portugal) which is a grape that exists in substantial quantities in old mixed vineyards all over the Douro.  Tinta Roriz (aka Aragonez / Tempranillo) the second most widely planted grape variety in the Douro, has become very unfashionable in recent years. However Guimareans defended Tinta Roriz for its finesse explaining that thirty years ago much of it was badly planted at vine densities that were much too low (a problem inherent in the patamares). As a rconsequence, too much Tinta Roriz is high yielding producing stretched, attenuated wine.  

Although the 1992 varietal experiment was a necessary and valid one, Guimaraens explained the renewed importance of co-fermantation of more than one variety on physical, chemical and sensory levels. The varieties found in the traditional vineyard mix often complement each other in the fermentation vat and so they have effectively returned to making field blends, albeit with much more knowledge and control than in the past. It should come as no surprise that the best years (for which read declared years) are those when all the grape vareities perform well. 

I have not awarded marks to any of these wines as this was largely an academic exercise in showing off the characteristics of the Douro’s principle grape varieties. The tasting concluded with a blend of each of the six varieties in equal proportions.

This tasting was followed by a comprehensive appraisal of Taylor, Fonseca and Croft vintage Ports from 1992 – 2009. This is being written up and a separate entry.       

Touriga Nacional 1992 

Deep centre, thin browning rim; rich, open chocolate aromas showing good depth and richness; full and sweet, almost to the point mellifluousness, soft, ripe tannic grip and a sweet dark – milk chocolate finish. Rich, impressive and not overpowering as Touriga Nacional can be but far from being a complete wine. 

Touriga Francesa 1992

Deeper in colour than the Touriga Nacional, thin purple rim on the turn; very profound on the nose, more so than the TN with huge depth; full and round with soft ripe, structured tannins building in the mouth leading to a big peppery-spicy finish. More foursquare in style and more impressive than the TN. 

Tinta Roriz 1992 

Mid-deep colour, browning rim; lovely suave aromas, redolent of summer fruit (strawberries and plums); relatively soft, light and gentle on the palate with delicate grip, this certainly has finesse but just tends towards a rather lean, one dimensional finish.

Tinta Barroca 1992

Mid-deep (though paler than the Tinta Roriz); slightly earthy, rustic aromas which I have found before with this grape, rather subdued fruit; raisiny, soft and rich, figgy sweetness, quite silky mid palate with spicy tannins building on the finish. Sweet and fleshy overall. 

Tinto Cão 1992

The palest in colour but fresh in appearance; not at all expressive on the nose (hollow?); fresh and quite delicate on the palate with fine-grained tannins lingering onto the finish. There is finesse here. Long and sinewy.   

Tinta Amarela 1992

Mid-deep colour, purple rim on the turn; rich, almost savoury aromas, a touch of chocolate and some dense berry fruit, some complexity; rich and full on the palate, the most complete and mouthfilling of the six grapes, big and spicy mid-palate, leading to a broad peacock’s tail of a finish. 

Blend of all the above (blended in equal proportions) 1992

Attractive, full, open fragrant aromas, ripe strawberry and plum; sweet and plummy initially, not big but firm in style with fine-grained dusty tannins leading to a rather one-dimensional finish. Correct rather than exciting and not really greater than the sum of its parts.  It justifies David Guimaraen's assertion that the co-fermentation of  Douro varieties produces a more profound, integrated wine than a post-vinification blend of varietal lotes.         





Location: Church House, Westminster, London SW1


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