Nobody's talking about Port at the moment. The immense non-event of Bordeaux 2011 teeters above all of us in the trade like the sword of someone far more boring than Damocles and so most vinous thoughts are focused on the Gironde and not the Douro.
Pity, that. Port's awesome. I tasted some last summer and they were rather nice. I'm not sure why I've taken so long to post this, but there you go. With everyone dropping heaps of cash on re-scored Bordeaux, the savvy might find a bargain here.
Adrian Bridge, the Managing Director of Taylor Fladgate, was our host. Informed and charming, he explained that 2009 was special enough a vintage for the group to break with the '3 Declarations per Decade' tradition and declare a fourth vintage. I bit my pedantic tongue with regards to 2000 technically belonging to the previous decade due to there never having been a year '0'. Apparently, 2009 was a hot summer and harvest but never excessively so. It was also very dry, with low-yields and high concentration. Which is perfect for Port, as during ferment you have a very small amount of time to get maximum extraction.
There are no scores here - I rarely use them for a tasting like this. Also, there's no mention of colour for the 2009s, because they were all crazy dark.
Taylor's Skeffington 2009
Nose of plum and spiced apple with a nice mealy-fleshiness. Very apple-y.
Fleshy fruit but with a touch of bitterness that starts at the end of the mid-palate. Simple, pleasant, but probably wouldn't lay it down for more than 20 years.
Croft Vintage 2009
Dark and sweet on the nose, quite brooding. Hint of varnish. With air there's more apple and less varnish.
Big purity of fruit burst on the start, with all the secondaries and tannins coming through from that ripe, brash dark bramble and cassis. Intense and structured. 20-30 years before I'd really start enjoying it.
Fonseca Vintage 2009
Glazed meat with black cherries and plums. Quite stony. Floral notes as well- apple blossom on a warm, spring day.
Utterly delicious. Rich, layered fruits with superb purity that just flows from juicy to floral to rustic and back again. And then there's this awesome, bracing grip. The tannins lock down on the tongue, reminding you of its youth and that it's going to take time to come round. The first half of the palate is decadently drinkable. The second half reminds you that patience will be a virtue.
Taylor's Vintage 2009
Brighter fruit. More flower petals.
The palate is so elegant. Light, crunchy dark fruit crushed with violet and apple blossom petals. Superb structure and poise. The tannins kick in a touch earlier but they're sweeter than the Fonseca.
Taylor's Vargellas Vinha Velha 2009
Not a lot coming through on the nose. Bit of apple, bit of stoniness, bit of meat.
Um. Wow. Quite enormous. The grip jumps in from the start. The fruit and savoury just match each other step for step. Flower petals, cassis, pata negra, ground cloves and anise and all the bits and pieces are kind of turned up to 11. Depth, complexity and great stoniness. Incredibly intense, but also brilliant.
We then moved onto some older vintages, starting with a couple from my favourite vintage harvested in my lifetime, 1985.
Very large harvest in 1985 - 25,000 cases of Taylor's - as the weather was hot and the fruit abundant.
Interestingly, Taylor's still source from small holders who tread themselves. Fladgate still foot tread 2000 tons a year themselves - just for vintage though, not for 'wood ports'. There is three and a half days between picking and fermentation and all extraction has to come in that period.
Taylor's Vintage 1985
Slightly lighter than the Fonseca, but still intense and bright.
Quite hot on the nose, surrounded by glacé cherries and plums with red apple peel.
Creamy on the palate. Very luscious, with nice softness of the fruit. Cherries and strawberries with clotted cream surrounded by wood spice and cloves. A bit of tobacco leaf, touch of leather. The booze pops up on the finish, but a bit of cheese would sort that out no problem. Delicious.
Fonseca Vintage 1985
Lovely colour of ruby and translucent purple. It's lightened, but not rusted. Intense.
More perfumed, soft on the nose with a soothing spiciness to it. Still cherry-like.
There's such beautiful harmony and integration. Candied cherries, roast plums and toffee apples, coated with cinnamon and spearmint. There is still that lovely creaminess and again a hit of booze on the finish, but it's softer and more liqueur-y. I think this pips the Taylor's to the post.
Still deep colour, though a bit stewed looking (no bits or anything, just a bit)
Like a massive slab of cured ham or beef glazed with a cherry jam.
Nice, fleshy palate. Dark cocoa and plums, with quite soft tannins and really nicely integrated fruit. There are some bitter tones that come out with coaxing, but not unpleasantly. Minty. Quite charming.
Croft Roeda 1997
Dark. Ruby edges.
Black fruits and caramel on the nose.
Quite simple, dark and pleasant. Doesn't go anywhere in particular, but it's nice.
Fonseca Panascal 1998
Nice maturity on the colour.
Hot and savoury nose. Hot salt beef and roasted red apples, laden with plums.
Very much follows through from the palate. Savoury, meaty with stewed fruit. Not a huge amount of structure. Small hit of mint on the finish.
Fonseca Guimarens 1996
Bit mute on the nose. Touch of mothball.
Soft and light on the palate, relatively speaking. There's a lot of secondary mint and mothball and a bit of heat too. It's also a bit drier than expected. Not in a bad way, but all of it results in being a touch thin.
Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2001
Young and dark.
Quite serious on the nose. Young, dark and a bit broody. Dark fruits.
Palate is superb, bright but dark fruit integrated with youthful but curbed tannins. The structure is table wine like. Good length and spectacular purity. Nice one.
Taylor's Quinta de Terra Feita 1999
Quite earthy and rustic on the nose. Berries and brush, forest floor.
Nice dominance of sweet secondaries surrounding the fruit, giving it structure and providing a nice elegance.
Tasted at The Bonham in Edinburgh, 14/6/2011