Vintage Port at the Manchester Tennis and Racquets Club

The Victorian club dining room at the MTRC is the setting for an annual tasting of vintage Ports with wines from the club stock as well as from member’s own cellars. After some outstanding wines at previous dinners, this year’s selection proved to be rather a mixed bag with two promising wines turning out to be rather a disappointment. However there were two wines that I had never tasted before which out-performed their more illustrious peers. The following wines are presented in the order that they were tasted:   

Fonseca 1977 ****/*****

A bottle from a case bought on the recommendation of Michael Broadbent and given to me in 1982 for my 21st birthday by my Godfather, John H. Brooks, who died earlier this year: mid-deep in colour with a youthful pink hue to the rim; open, fragrant summer berry fruit retaining focus and fine milk-chocolate intensity; soft cherry fruit initially with firm tannins building on the palate, overall very elegant in style with good linear grip and a long finish, peppered by tannin.  Developing beautifully. Perhaps the best of the 1977s: not the wine for a lifetime but drink now – 2035. For most of those present, this was the wine of the night.  18.5 

Fonseca Guimaraens 1976 ****  

This is a bruiser of a wine, still dark, opaque and showing little sign of age; surprisingly closed on the nose initially, dense with underlying dark chocolate intensity; firm, tight gripping tannins, bitter-sweet fruit, very powerful and rich mid-palate with big, bold tannins all the way though to the finish. Undeniably impressive, but a bit coarse and lacking in finesse when set against Fonseca 1977.  This will last a lifetime. Now – 2050 +  17

Warre 1970  

This wine from club stock should have been outstanding (see note from 2009), having been well-cellared with its red wax seal still in tact. Lovely colour, still pink on the rim but badly volatile on the nose and acetic on the palate. Rather a sad relic. No mark. 

Croft Quinta da Roeda 1967 ***

From a year declared by some shippers in preference to 1966, this a first taste for me: mid-deep in colour with distinct browning towards the rim; gently high toned on the nose with soft fruit underlying; soft and gentle on the palate, creamy milk chocolate intensity with a vestige of dusty tannin rising in the mouthy leading to a firm, rather dry linear finish. Just starting to wane. Drink  soon.  15 

Graham 1963 

This should have been another outstanding wine and, indeed, another bottle from the same case proved to be extremely good at the MTRC dinner in 2011: pale and browning; thin medicinal fruit with a hint of mothballs on the nose, sweet but thin and medicinal on the palate, lean and sinewy. A poor bottle. No mark.

Quinta do Noval 1958  ***

Only a handful of shippers declared 1958 after a good summer followed by rain during vintage: pale garnet with a tawny rim; soft, fully mature on the nose, hollowing out with rather delicate fruit; still sweet and upright with a vestige of tannin rising in the mouth leading to a bitter-sweet caramelised finish. The first time I have tasted this wine and a rather pleasant surprise. 16         

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