1994 Vintage Ports - in Denmark

I am very grateful to the The Vintage Port Club, Odense for inviting me to this comprehensive tasting of 1994 Vintage Ports and to celebrate their 25th anniversary with them. At the club’s behest the wines were scored out of 100 which may mean that I have slightly under-marked some wines or overmarked others. I have also converted my points back to the 20 point scale / star scale that I use on my website and I think this is a pretty fair reflection of the calibre of the wines.  The wines were all tasted blind, split into three flights in the order set out below. The results of the tasting are surprising with my marks on the day ranging from 0 for Niepoort which was utterly undrinkable to 97 for Noval Nacional, a wine which will be sublime.    

For a more comprehensive introduction to this landmark vintage see my entry on 4th March 2014 or my book, Port and the Douro. To my previous comments I will add that although some very fine wines were made in 1994 it is clearly a very variable vintage, rather more so than I would have expected. One or two big names clearly failed to live up to their reputations whereas others have exceeded themselves (Romaneira, Romariz, Crasto). The only house not to be included in this tasting was Martinez (which no longer exists). Martinez produced some good wines in 1994 (much better than Cockburn which was in the same stable at the time) and notes on them can be found in my entry on 1994 Vintage Ports dated 4th March 2014.       

Flight 1

1. Churchill  */**

Mid-pale maturing colour; rather hollow on the nose, some simple fruit underlying. Singed around the edges; soft, sweet simple peppery-spicy fruit, drying out on the finish. Drink now and over the next decade.   75 / 12.5

2. Ferreira ****

Good, deep dark colour, still purple on the rim; very attractive ripe cassis and plum fruit, fine and restrained; firm, rich with some depth here, soft and voluptuous mid-palate with dusty-spicy tannins rising towards the finish. Firm gravelly grip. Needs another 5 years to show at its best. 2020 – 2050. 94 / 18         

3.Barros ****

Good deep colour; open and minty on the nose, attractive if perhaps a little loose knit; soft, sweet and silky to start with, spicy tannic grip rising in the mouth with a sinewy finish. Now – 2040 89 / 17

4. Burmester **

Pale-mid maturing colour; light, verging on thin, perhaps just  touch high toned, simple and one dimensional; simple peppery fruit, no flaws but similarly one dimensional on the palate. Now – 2025. 78 /13.5 

5. Dalva 

Pale-mid maturing garnet; Bovril nose, hot and stewed; rather hot  rubbery fruit, some dusty tannin but overall  not very attractive. Short. Now or never. 64 / 9

6. Dow ***

Very deep and youthful, opaque at the centre; big, rich and bold on the nose with more to give but a musty undertone emerging; rich, ripe firm fruit backed by tight-knit tannins with a big finish. Still a bit sullen (and that musty edge? Possibly a bad bottle) Needs time to open up 2019 – 50.   85 / 15.5

7. Graham ***/****

Deep, opaque centre, touch of brown on the rim; ripe but slightly hot on the nose with a hint of Bovril, lacking definition, but perhaps just a phase; again rich and dense on the palate with a ripe tannic backbone and a long structured finish. 2019 – 50. I marked this highly initially (94) then marked it down to 88. / 16.5

8. Fonseca **/***

Mid-deep in colour with a thin browning rim; hollow (or sullen?) on the nose or perhaps a bit of both, slightly rubbery; mid-weight, peppery-spicy fruit, firm tannins leading to a rather lean finish. Lacks flesh. Possibly a bad bottle. Now – 2030. 82 / 14.5

9. Ramos Pinto ****

Good youthful colour, deep and opaque; opulent, open and minty, very attractive now; sweet, opulent fruit on the palate, ripe dusty tannins building in the mouth, rich and firm on the finish. Now – 2040. 90 / 17

10. Romariz ****

Deep centre, thin browning rim; stoney fruit, still a bit withdrawn; soft, ripe cherry and plum fruit, with good firm tannins building in the mouth, mid-to-heavy weight wine, cherry stone finish. Now – 2040 + 92 / 17.5

11.Cockburn 

Mid-deep youthful colour; wild and varnish on the nose, too much VA;  firm, mid-weight, sweet and simple with a volatile edge. Never. 60 / 8

12. Smith Woodhouse  ****

Very deep, opaque and youthful; still closed in on itself, underlying brooding intensity, a touch baked, needs time to open up; big, rich mouth filling wine, big ripe tannic backbone and bitter chocolate intensity. Lovely fresh, well defined berry fruit on a bi, broad finish.  90 / 17

13. Quinta de la Rosa ***/****

Deep centre, just starting to brown on the rim. Very attractive open cassis and berry character on the nose, not big but charming; sweet cassis and blackberry fruit with firm tannins and attractive length. 88/ 16.5

14. Quinta da Romaniera *****

Very deep, nearly opaque; odd nose initially, a bit wild but closed in, perhaps just a phase; lovely ripe dense, blackcurrant fruit, full ripe tannins leading to a peacock’s tail of a finish. Still needs a bit more time and will be outstanding. 96 / 19

15. Delaforce  ***

Deep youthful ruby; still closed on the nose but with good intensity underlying; fresh, mid-weight peppery-spicy fruit, nicely balanced but not really a long-distance wine. Now – 2030. 85 / 15.5 

Flight 2

1. Rozes  ***

Mid-deep and still quite youthful; open, soft, ripe fruit, not big but elegant; gentle berry fruit, fresh and fruit drivenwith firm tannins rising in the mouth. Sinewy (verging on boney) finish. Now – 2030.   86 /16

2. Duff Gordon *

Mid-pale matauring colour; rather hot and rubbery on the nose, simple and hollow; better on the palate but still one dimensional with a rather lean finish, lacks flesh. Now – 2020. 74 / 12

3. Offley Boa Vista ***/****

Very deep opaque colour; super ripe and intense, dark chocolate and a touch of hedgerow; foursquare and tannic, a bit extractive in style with a bitter sweet finish. Needs time. 88 / 16.5   

4. Sandeman *

Deep centre, maturing on the rim; hot, verging on stewed on the nose, I fear that this is not just a phase; stewed and soupy on the palate, good structure but lacking freshness and definition. 72 / 11.5 

5. Quinta do Crasto ****

Deep youthful colour; attractive cassis and berry fruit on the nose, opening up nicely in the glass; lovely pure berry fruit flavours with firm tannic backbone to hold it up. Not big but well balanced with a lovely fresh finish. 90 / 17

6. Warre ****/*****

Very deep opaque and still youthful in hue; sullen, underlying ripe fruit but still not giving its all; big ripe and complete, full, ripe tannic backbone. Finishes with a flourish.  Needs time to soften but will be very impressive.  2019 – 2050 95/ 18.5

7. Quarles Harris ***/*****

Still deep and youthful in appearance; just opening up to reveal ripe cassis and berry fruit, a very attractive bouquet; lovely bitter-sweet cherry fruit, firm, lithe spicy tannins, quite rich and very nicely balanced. Good mid-to-heavy weight wine showing some finesse. 95/ 18.5 Now – 2040 +  

8. Quinta do Vesúvio ****

Deep, dark ruby centre; opening up and on the cusp of being ready to drink with underlying  bitter chocolate intensity and more to give on the nose; lovely firm, fresh bitter-sweet fruit with dark chocolate intensity and a solid tannic core extending onto a long, fine finish. 92 / 17.5

9. Croft ***

Deep centre, browning on the rim; lacks freshness on the nose, an oxidation problem? A touch of marmite; big rich but lacking vibrancy, full, ripe but rather extractive in style, lacking in finesse. Some may like this style though. 85/15  

10. Taylor ***/****

Deep centre, maturing on the rim; open with rather medicinal cherry fruit on the nose; quite rich and full in style, solid, ripe tannins needing time to soften up. Lovely finish.  2019 – 45  88 / 16.5 

11. Gould Campbell ****

Very deep opaque colour; lovely dense, ripe opulent fruit on the nose with more still to give; rich, sweet berry fruit with firm ripe tannins to back it up. Dense, still needs a bit more time in bottle but quite impressive. 92/ 17.5  

12. Ramos Pinto, Quinta da Ervamoira ****

Deep centre with a purple rim; still withdrawn on the nose but just opening up to reveal aromas of ripe cassis; intensely sweet and succulent initally with lovely rich blackcurrant fruit, vibrant with firm spicy tannins and a focused finish. Not especially big but well balanced. 94/18   

13. Niepoort

Mid deep and maturing; totally volatile on the nose and impossible to taste. Badly flawed. No marks. 

 14. Cálem, Quinta do Sagrado ****

Deep youthful colour; still closed with some underlying ripe berry fruit; rich with a touch of all spice, fine, firm tannins leading to a fresh vibrant finish. 90 / 17 

15 Quinta do Estanho *

Mid-deep in colour; lifted and rather jammy on the nose, rather thin ans a touch baked too; some richess but baked and soupy instyle, gets better towards the finish with some ripe plummy fruit. 74 / 12  

Flight 3

1. Hooper **

Rather pale and evolved in appearance; forward and fully mature on the nose, gentle, scented floral fruit; quite sweet and light to mid-weight in style with peppery tannins lingering on the finish, rather lean and one dimensional but correct. 80  / 14  

2.  Real Companhia Velha

Pale and evolved with a tawny rim; dirty aromas (dog biscuits), hollow and attenuated; thin and washed out with without substance or finesse.  10  

3. Borges ***/****

Good deep centre with a thin browning rim; gently lifted strawberry fruit aromas, a bit simple but attaractive; freshy berry fruit character, vibrant but without much depth or structure. Firm tannins. Quite a good drink now but reading my note I possibly over-marked this. Now – 2020 88 / 16.5   

4. Quinta da Vista Alegre

Mid-pale ruby/pink with a browning rim, also slightly cloudy; burnt rubber on the nose, not attractive; better on the palate with some fresh berry fruit and rather angular tannins. The rubbery character returns on the finish. 68/ 10.5 

5. Poças ***

Pale-mid with a pinkish rim; simple, slightly honeyed-floral fruit (rose petals); soft and gentle, some attractive fruit and good finesse with spicy tannins on the finish. Drinking  very well now, if a bit one dimensional. Now – 2025. 87 / 16 

6. Quinta do Noval

Good deep colour, just starting to brown on the rim; dense but rather hot and rubbery on the nose, perhaps just a phase; sadly this is similar on the palate with a rather sour rubbery character. Showing no finesse or class. 69 / 11

7. Quinta do Noval Nacional *****

Still deep and youthful in colour with a thin purple rim; very fine, pure tight knit fruit on the nose, a lovely vinous character, clearly with more to give; fine, rich pure berry fruit backed by fine-grained tannins, building in the mouth. Tight knit and complete with firm length. Not the biggest wine here but extremely elegant. Now (just) - 2050 97.  97 / 19

8. Gilberts **

Mid-pale with a pinkish rim; hollow on the nose – nothing there! Light weight, simple but not unattractive fruit on the palate, drying out on the finish. Simple overall. 80/ 14  

9 Kopke  ***

Mid-deep in colour; rather soily overtone on the nose with some ripe fruit underlying; bitter-sweet fruit on the palate with a hint of dark chocolate concentration mid-palate and a rather sweet jammy finish.  Perhaps I slightly over marked this one.  88 / 15   

 

Location: First Grand Hotel, Odense

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