A Very Tawny New Year

It has been a tawny Christmas and New Year for me, with samples lined up from earlier in 2018 for the new edition of my book, Port and the Douro. Tawny port is now gloriously fashionable in its own quiet way, with global sales up by €21.3 billion over the past seven years. As you will see below (and in my previous post) there are some wonderful wines with many of the so-called ‘British’ houses now embracing colheita as well as aged tawny. 

However the demand for has put intense pressure on some shippers (those who aren’t able to carry sufficient stock) and there have been some underwhelming wines on the market over the past few years. We pick these up every year, particularly at the ten year old level, at the Decanter World Wine Awards where I am the Regional Chair for Port and Madeira. 

The following wines were tasted in the quiet of my tasting room before Christmas and the best were shared with guests over Christmas and the New Year. The younger wines went especially well, served cool rather than chilled, with Christmas fare like mince pies and pudding. The line up includes to magnificent old wines from Cruz and Barros, both of which have looked after their stocks of old wine and have made up some magnificent blends, always greater than the sum of their parts.  A compilation of my recent tasting notes follows: 

Martha’s 2006 Colheita ****

From a family owned estate dating back to the eighteenth century with vineyards in the Baixo Corgo: lovely garnet tinged tawny hue; soft creamy-vanilla aromas, already smooth and silky, crystalised fruit with a touch of spice towards the finish. Lovely balance. At 13 years of age, a text book colheita. 18    

Quinta do Vallado Ten Year Old Tawny Port ****

This is a wine that, for some reason, did not show very well at a tawny tasting organized by the World of Fine Wine in 2017 so I am grateful to the owners of this beautiful quinta in the Corgo valley just upstream from Régua for sending me another bottle: quite deep garnet – tawny; reserved but mellifluous on the nose, still fruit-driven, smooth initially with a touch of spicy cinnamon-like tannin mid-palate and a long suave finish. Seriously good ten year old tawny. 18    
Boeira Ten Year Old Tawny Port **

Despite its rural sounding name, Quinta da Boeira is located in the heart of the city of Vila Nova de Gaia and buys in wines from growers around São de Pesqueira and Vale de Teja in the Cima Corgo: mid-deep, reddish tawny hue; rather a confected nose (boiled sweets) with spirit showing through, sweet and rather jammy, unctuous in style with the spirit once again showing though on the finish. Simple and unbalanced. 13

Boeira Twenty Year Old Tawny Port ***/****

Lovely amber-tawny colour; crystalised figgy fruit with a touch of toffee apple on the nose; soft, sweet toffeed fruit, not especially rich in style though seamless through to a light, fresh finish where the spirit shows through. 16.5 

Ramos Pinto, Quinta do Bom Retiro Twenty Year Old Tawny ****/*****

Mid-deep reddish tawny with a thin amber rim; richer on the nose than I recall in the past, sublimely soft, dried fruit melded with freshly toasted almonds; smooth and suave on the palate with considerable richness and body mid-palate leading to a fine savoury finish with just a dusting of dry tannin to offset the sweetness. A benchmark: consistently one of my favorite twenty year olds. 18.5

Boeira Thirty Year Old Tawny Port **

Pale amber tawny hue; rather spirity, burnt and dried out on the nose, a touch of burnt rubber; seemingly rather dried up on the palate too, some fresh dried apricot fruit mid-palate leading to a  rather emasculated finish.  14  

Boeira Forty Year Old Tawny Port ****

Almost identical in colour to the thirty year old, smoky and a little rustic on the nose, lifted; butterscotch richness on the palate with the depth and texture that comes from age, touch of orange marmalade on the finish, quite elegant overall. 17

Boeira Very Old Tawny ****

A worthy gold medal winner at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2018: pale, old tawny hue; lifted, fresh orange and quince marmalade aromas and flavours, candied peel, lovely acidity and savoury complexity with the richness and texture of age. A wine to be thoroughly respected. 18

Cruz Heritage, 130th Anniversary Edition ****/*****

A blend of cask aged wines wines from nine exceptional years: 1977, 1982, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2007: lovely mature amber-tawny hue; lifted in the glass, rich fruit cake character, a touch of green tea with savoury undertones; similarly rich and suave on the palate with a touch of all spice mid-palate and a long, full finish. Complete and beautifully balanced.  18.5 

Barros Special Edition 102 *****

A ‘Very Old Tawny’ blending wines from five decades: the 1950s to the 1990s. Just 1,913 bottles were released to celebrate the centenary of Barros which was established in 1913.  Lovely pale to mid-amber / tawny with an orange-green tinged rim; very settled on the nose, delicate and refined in style with dried apricots and nutty – toasty complexity, very elegant with near perfect poise and a smooth, fresh finish that goes on and on and on. 19

Cruz 130th Anniversary Edition ***** 

A blend of old wines from the company’s stock, some dating back to the nineteenth century before phylloxera: mid-deep amber / mahogany with a touch of olive green on the rim; lifted almost maderised aromas which sing from the glass, pungent, a touch balsamic (so called vinagrinho); glorious on the palate, full of figgy richness and the texture that comes from the concentration of age, magnificent, richness offset by a fine streak of acidity which leads to a long fresh finish. A glorious old tawny in perfect condition. 19.5











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