Top Tawnies (and Colheitas)

I spent that back end of 2016 tasting tawny Ports both for an article in Decanter, (entitled 'Understanding Tawny Port' ) http://www.decanter.com/wine/wine-regions/port/understanding-tawny-port-... as well as an article for The Field on my favorite Ports of all time (yet to be published).  Here is a list of the tawnies that made it into the Decanter article (as well as a few that didn’t): 

Ferreira 10 Year Old White ****

This is not strictly a tawny but well it is on the way: golden-amber in colour;  fresh, not over-sweet with a lovely orangey tang to the nose and on the palate. Full of character, good length and considerable finesse. Proof that not all great Port has to be red! 17

Sandeman 10 Year Old  ****/*****

Sandeman have a great record for tawny Port: brick-red at the centre with a distinct amber-tawny rim; gentle and fresh on the nose with soft, sweet, suave fruit and just a touch of nutty complexity of cask age on the finish. Near perfect balance for a wine of this age.  18

Burmester Ten Year Old Tawny ****/*****

Sogevinus who own Kopke, Cálem, Barros and Burmester have a fabulous stock of old wine in cask and this is reflected in the quality of their blended tawnies:   mature orange-tinged colour, seductive aromas of fruit cake, honey and a touch of spice, mellifluous, smooth and suave yet beautifully fresh with a dusting of tannic spice on the finish.  18.5 

Ferreira Duque de Bragança 20 Year Old Tawny *****

Ferreira introduced me to the concept of aged tawny back in the 1980s and this wine has long been one of my favorites. I was delighted to see it gain a trophy in the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards: very refined, quince marmalade on the nose and palate, soft and seamless with the merest dusting of tannin on the finish.  As close as you can get to perfection. 19.5

Cálem 20 Year Old  **** / *****

Another successful wine from Sogevinus: fragrant and fresh with a touch of vanilla and spice, soft, creamy texture combining the depth of age with the freshness and verve of youth leading to a fine, seemingly dry, focused finish.  18.5

Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 20 Year Old Tawny *****

Ramos Pinto produce top class tawnies in a refined style.  This is a single estate tawny from an A grade quinta in the Torto Valley: mid-deep in hue; supremely elegant and gentle in style, slightly lifted on the nose with dried fruit and nut character, soft and lithe with the merest vestige of spicy tannin. Stimulating finish. Perfect poise.  19.5 

Sandeman 40 Year Old Tawny *****

It is hard to choose between the 30 and 40 year old tawny from Sandeman but this is remarkable due to its age:   bright, pale amber-tawny, this sings from the glass with mixed glacée fruit and Elvas plums, very fresh and elegant with a touch of savoury complexity which dries the wine off on the finish. Beautifully poised for a wine of this age and stature.   19  

Kopke White Colheita 2003 ***/****

The term ‘colheita’ meaning harvest is not just for Port produced from red grapes. Pale amber with an orange glint; candied peel aromas but a bit flat on the nose in this context; very sweet, lagrima in style with orange marmalade richness offset by a touch of grapefruit-like acidity on the finish.  16.5 

Kopke 1996 Colheita ****/***** 

With the benefit of twenty years in wood this super-suave colheita has a pale to mid amber-tawny hue, subdued but classic Christmas cake character on the nose and a silky texture, a dusting of peppery spice followed by a sweet, mellifluous yet lithe finish.  18.5  

Dalva Colheita 1995 ****

C. da Silva who own the Dalva brand are another well-kept secret with a remarkable stock of well kept cask-aged Ports.  Slightly deeper in colour than the Kopke with a touch of torrefaction lending a full, savoury character to the nose and palate, still very fresh and rich mid-palate with a hint of its past tannic grip and youthful vibrancy on the finish. Bottled in 2015 at a wonderful phase in its evolution. 18

Barros 1978 Colheita  ****/*****

Pale, mature amber colour; lifted and quite complex on the nose with a savoury toasted almond character, rich and creamy in texture, peach-like freshess with  dried apricot richness. Finishes with a flourish:  a touch of peppery spice.  A lovely wine, beautifully kept. 18.5   

Graham’s 1972 Single Harvest ****

The British-owned Port houses came rather late to Colheita but are making up for lost time. Deep amber-mahogany in colour; lifted and slightly balsamic on the nose, gorgeous textural depth and concentration with Demerara sweetness dominating on the palate and the finish. 18   

Kopke Colheita 1966  *****

This wine comes from a year that happened to be good for colheita and was also declared as a classic vintage: brick red to mid-amber tawny in hue; delicate, lifted candied fruit aromas; super-suave after half a century in wood, a touch of cherry fruit mid-palate followed by a long, suave seductive finish that goes on and on. Wonderful balance and a remarkable wine at fifty years of age.  19

 

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