Every year the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club (home of one of the few Real Tennis courts in the UK) ask me to host a Port dinner to which members bring their own wines and the club contributes a bottle or two from their own cellar. This year the members and guests gathered to taste wines mostly from the great vintages of the 1960s and 1970s that are now fully mature. Thanks to all those members and guests who so generously contributed wines from their cellars. Thanks also to the Club Manager, Stella Heap, and the catering staff for bearing with us through an enjoyable and animated dinner.
We had a vote at the end of the evening on our favorite wines though the empty decanters told the story.
Fonseca 1994 ****/*****
One of ‘two perfect Ports’ getting 100 points from the Wine Spectator when the wine was declared in 1996. At the time the market for VP was dominated by the USA and there was speculation that wines were being made for drinking younger than in the past. As this wine proves the speculation was totally unfounded. Still deep in colour, withdrawn on the nose (it was a late arrival and might have benefitted form earlier decanting) the fruit is characteristically rich and plummy, supported by ripe, firm tannins that were perhaps hidden by ripeness of the fruit at the outset. Still a youngster and only just ready to drink after twenty-four years in bottle. This will be better still in ten years and will last another fifty. 18.5
Graham 1983 ****
This was my first declared vintage when I joined the wine trade in 1984 and so I have watched the evolution of these wines with interest ever since. Still youthful in hue, though not that deep in colour; open and characteristically fragarant and floral on the nose with firm gravelly tannins backing mid-weight berry fruit on the palate leading to a gentle finish. Well defined. One taster noted a dead spot in this wine (which I felt was a little unfair) but it is far from being a blockbuster. Still altogether but not a long-term keeper. Drink over the next ten to twenty years. 17
From my own cellar, paler in hue than the 1983, this started off quite well but a strange aroma gained precedence in the glass, a smell that reminded me of iodine. Surprisingly light weight, rather lean and skinny on the palate, lacking flesh. It was never the biggest and boldest of wines but I have had better examples of this and it may just be a bad bottle.
Graham 1970 *****
Retaining a lovely colour, a touch of maturity but still with a youthful robe at 50 years of age (I had to pinch myself at the thought of this); glorious on the nose, one taster detected marzipan, still very fresh and opulent in classic Graham’s style, still retaining good grip backing ripe, expressive fruit and leading to a long, elegant finish. Bottled in Gaia, this wine never disappoints and was my favorite of the evening. 19
Warre 1966 *****
A wine bottled by Army & Navy in London in 1968; turning tawny and looking quite mature in hue with beautifully expressive aromas and in perfect condition retaining great purity of fruit both on the nose and on the palate, backed by a spicy-peppery tannic backbone. In perfect balance with a long sweet, silky finish. This was the favorite wine of the evening. 19
I had high hopes for this wine, especially when I saw the impenetrable plastic capsule that was a feature of certain UK bottlings in the mid-1960s (this being Avery’s we think). However the cork had fallen in and the level was low shoulder: the only thing keeping the remaining wine in the bottle was the capsule! Damp smell, soft cherry fruit and a vestige of tannin, not in great condition but just about drinkable, thanks to that wretched plastic capsule that I had to saw through with a breadknife. A disappointment.
Taylor 1963 ****
No information about the bottling, thought to be Quellyn Roberts in Chester: mature in colour, a touch high toned on the nose, lifting the fruit from the glass, still lithe on the palate with succulent fruit mid–palate and extending on to a fresh finish, fully mature and a lovely wine to drink now with a long plateau ahead. Perhaps not quite up to the standard set by this wine and the third most voted for wine on the night. 18
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