Taylor’s Single Harvest 1896 Tawny Port

All good things come to an end.  This is the end for two pipes (casks) of a wine that were set aside 125 years ago and bottled this year. The 1896 vintage was a watershed for the Port trade as it was much the best harvest since phylloxera had ravaged the Douro valley in the 1870s. I have had the good fortune to taste a number of wines from this remarkable year including Dow 1869 (in 1998) and Cockburn (in 2012) both of which were still in extraordinary condition for the age. But those were Vintage Ports, bottled early on in life and aged in bottle whereas this wine has spent the entirety of its life in wood. David Guimareans who supervised the bottling of the wine estimates that these remaining two pipes represent 18 pipes originally put aside, such is the evaporation rate over 125 years. 

The wine came to Taylors from Wiese & Krohn, latterly a small Portuguese-owned company that was bought by the Fladgate Partnership in 2013. Caring for and nurturing a wine for this long in wood is no mean feat. So we have to thank Theodore Wiese and Dankert Krohn (both Norwegian) as well as generations of the Carneiro family for looking after this wine as well as Adrian Bridge and David Guimareans of the Fladgate Partnership for bringing the last of it to market. Taylors have 10,000 pipes of tawny ageing in their cellars and lay claim to fifty percent of the ‘super’ premium tawny Port market represented by wines forty years old and above. They previously released Scion, a tawny from 1855 and another Wiese & Krohn wine from 1863. The notes for both these wines can be found on this website. 

I have tasted this wine before, most recently in 2013 and prior to that at a tasting in The Hague in 2010 when at the time it seemed to me to be almost undrinkably rich and dense.  Something tells me that to make this wine palatable it may have been gently refreshed at some stage (though it was bottled direct from the cask without any intervention or filtration). It is a truly remarkable wine and the last we shall see of it unless you buy it for around £4,000 in its ‘Scottish crystal decanter and elegant, luxury cherrywood case’. 

Taylor’s 1896 Single Harvest *****

Deep mahogany centre with a thin olive green rim; distinctly and very beautifully lifted on the nose, a touch balsamic or in Portuguese terms, vinagrinho, with a touch of cask dissipating to reveal a wonderful perfume of quince and a hint of coffee roast; richly concentrated (218 g/l residual sugar) with wonderfully mellifluous texture and a fresh streak of acidity which stops it from cloying, there’s a hint of molasses, butterscotch and leather on the finish which, as you might expect, goes on and on and on. The essence of Port: glorious and the last of its kind. 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