The following vintage Ports were shown at the joint launch of the 2016 vintage by the Symingtons, the Fladgate Partnership and Quinta do Noval. The wines were predominantly in their adolescence, the period between their full bloom of youth and adulthood which sometimes distorts results in comparative tastings . Having said that the majority of the wines were showing very well and there may be something in the fact that the better quality spirit used in fortification since the early 2000s lends these wines more expression than used to be the case. There were not many sullen adolescents but there were one or two wines, especially from the relatively cool 2007 vintage, that I found to be surprisingly forward for a classic declaration.
The wines are presented in the order that they were tasted.
Taylor 2007 ****
Deep centre; still opening up on the nose with some lovely cassis and classic floral aromas (violets); very pure cassis fruit with liquorice–like concentration backed by firm, gravelly tannins, balanced, seemingly mid-weight and quite forward for a classic wine at 11 years old. Drink from 2023. 17
Fonseca 2007 ****
Mid-deep in colour; surprisingly open on the nose, classic floral character with a touch of hedgerow and seemingly quite forward. Fine pure berry fruit (which seems of be a defining character in 2007), well defined with dark chocolate depth followed up by firm, sinewy tannins. Not a big wine but beautifully poised for a long life. Drink from 2023 or earlier if you appreciate young Port. 18
Croft 2007 **/***
Tar and jam on the nose, seemingly quite forward and this bottle may have been a bit oxidized; sweet and jammy on the palate, plum jam backed by soft, ripe tannins, milk chocolate richness and rather loose knit on the finish. Ready to drink now – one taster in earshot compared this to an LBV and I found it hard to disagree. 14.5
Graham 2007 ****/*****
Lovely, ripe opulent aromas, open and expressive on the nose; voluptuous and gloriously fleshy in style in typical Graham’s mode with well defined cassis and ripe minty fruit backed by firm, ripe, fine grained tannins. Lovely wine, still needing time to show at its best but like many 2007s this can almost be broached now. 18.5
Dow 2007 *****
More sullen than Graham on the nose with lovely restrained ripe, minty fruit underlying; similarly restrained on the palate yet lithe and seamless from start to finish with firm gripping tannins rising in the mouth. This is serious vintage Port that still needs time to emerge from its adolescent shell but will be very good indeed. Drink from 2025. 19
Warre 2007 *****
Plenty of colour with a deep, dark centre; still surprisingly closed and restrained on the nose, seemingly quite dense; fine, linear, berry fruit, great purity in common with so many 2007s from the start, firm, tight-knit stoney tannins on the finish. Perfect poise. This is another wine for the long haul. Drink from 2025. 19
Quinta do Noval 2007 ****/*****
Mid-deep in colour, still looking youthful; opening up to reveal classic floral vintage Port aromas, lovely pure berry fruit too; naturally sweet berry fruit on the palate backed by a touch of tar and dark chocolate-like concentration, lovely core and very classically structured with a long, linear tannic finish. A lovely wine to behold now but this has all the poise to run and run. Drink from 2023. 18.5
Quinta da Romaneira 2007 ***
Quite light in hue, showing a touch of maturity on the rim; open, attractive liquorice character on the nose but seemingly quite loose-knit; soft and sweet initially with lovely, playful berry fruit backed by firm tannins. Well made, mid-weight wine. Ready to drink now and over the next ten years. 15
Taylor 2003 ****/*****
Mid–deep in colour; open ripe and minty on the nose, classically floral aromas; well defined sweet berry fruit with great purity and definition backed by solid ripe tannins leading to a big finish. Well-structured and multidimensional, just about ready to drink nonetheless. Will mature gracefully for another two or three decades at least! 18.5
Fonseca 2003 ****
Mid-deep in hue; seemingly a bit hollow and jammy on the nose, perhaps just a phase, with ripe fruit underlying; rich and plummy in style on the palate with attractive flesh and richness covering firm tannins, good definition. Finishes with a flourish. Keep for another year or two before drinking. 17.5
Croft 2003 ***/****
Not especially deep in colour; very refined on the nose , open with gentle floral fruit; soft, sweet summer fruit on the palate, strawberries and raspberries backed by firm, peppery tannins. Delightful to drink now and over the next 15 years. 16.5
Graham 2003 **** +?
Still very deep in colour; sullen on the nose with either just a touch of oxidation or a bit of an adolescent crisis (on balance I favour the latter); lovely ripe, fleshy fruit with dark chocolate concentration on the palate and full, ripe tannins rising in the mouth leading to a very impressive finish. This still needs five years more in bottle to open up. Drink from 2023. 18 +?
Dow 2003 *****
Closed on the nose, dense, with underlying dark chocolate intensity; rich is style for Dow, full and surprisingly broad and fleshy (seemingly a characteristic of the best wines from this vintage), supported by firm, ripe solid tannic super-structure, dense with a four square finish. This is a magnificent wine, complete, absolutely all there, but it still needs ten years in bottle I think. Drink from 2028. 19
Warre 2003 ****/*****
Retaining its good, deep colour; opening up to reveal lovely ripe, minty fruit on the nose, slightly herbal too; beautifully balanced, sweet berry fruit, still so fresh and lithe with firm, grainy tannins and great finesse all the way through. Good now, this will be better still in 5 years and will last and last. 18.5
Cockburn 2003 ***
Made by Jim Reader and his team when Cockburn’s was under the ownership of Jim Beam: open, elegant and quite forward in this context, fresh cassis aromas and flavours but quite loose knit with milk chocolate depth and firm peppery tannins. Nicely balanced and ready to drink. 16
Quinta do Noval 2003 ***/**** +?
Mid-deep, quite open on the nose with a touch of tar and roasted coffee bean, perhaps just a phase; mid-weight succulent berry fruit with soft, ripe tannins but seemingly a bit loose knit. In my opinion this still needs a year or two to show at its best. Drink from 2020. 16.5 +?
Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994 ****/*****
Mid-deep garnet, not as deep or dark in colour as you might expect; lovely liquorice and dark chocolate concentration on the nose, open and fine; rich, round and multi-layered, dense at the core with a long, linear tannic finish, not big but supremely elegant. Just about ready to drink but would be better still better with five more years in bottle. This represents Noval Nacional back on form after a couple of decades in the doldrums. It is a wine that will last and last. 18.5
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