Roy’s note: This month’s Guest Corner contribution comes to you from frequent FTLOP contributor, Alex Bridgeman. He is a serious Port-ophile from the UK, who organizes many tastings around the London area. Here Alex presents the details of a fantastic Port event he attended. I am sure you will enjoy the read.
Berry Brothers & Rudd Present The Great Port House of Taylor
ARTICLE © BY ALEX BRIDGEMAN
Berry Brothers & Rudd, one of London’s oldest wine merchants, regularly hold 2 port tastings in the autumn of each year. These tastings take place in the wonderfully atmospheric 17th century cellars which have been converted into a wine seminar room that can comfortably hold around 25 people. Descending the steps to the cellar is always an adventure for any wine lover as so many interesting (but empty) bottles line the way – a favourite for the people attending this tasting being the incredibly rare bottle of Quinta do Noval Nacional 1955.
In October 2009, Adrian Bridge led a group of around 20 people through a tutored tasting of wines from the Taylor Fladgate Partnership’s portfolio. The evening started with a presentation by Adrian of the Douro region, but he very quickly realised that his audience was already well acquainted with the unique geography and geology of the area and was instead keen to hear more of the obscure details and history of Taylor, which Adrian was happy to provide.
After an entertaining 20 minute slide show of some spectacular pictures, the tasting began. The wines started with a well chilled Taylor Chip Dry white port, followed by an equally well chilled Croft Pink Port. Sales of the Croft Pink are very healthy and the wine is attracting a new consumer to the world of port. There was an interesting discussion about the blending and taste testing that went into the development of the Croft Pink, including the range of experiments conducted to find the right level of alcohol needed to support the delicate flavours of the wine.
These two chilled wines were followed by an extremely impressive Fonseca organic Terra Prima, bottled after cold stabilisation and a light filtration but with the ingredients and stuffing to develop for a few years in the bottle. This is a reserve ruby that comes thoroughly recommended.
And then the tasting moved on to the vintage ports. A very fine and burly Taylor 2003 was followed by an impenetrable Vargellas Vinha Velha 2000 that will outlive anyone born in the same year. A Croft Roêda 1997 was a lovely, elegant contrast to the tannic VVV.
The next flight of vintage ports was a chance to compare the barely mature Taylor and completely immature Fonseca 1985 ports side-by-side. Interestingly, the room was almost evenly split between those who preferred the Taylor and those who preferred the Fonseca.
And then the final flight was an astonishing opportunity to try the Quinta de Vargellas 1970 vintage port from magnum – so rare that this was the first time that Adrian had drunk this wine from magnum, only 12 magnums were filled when the single pipe of wine made from the flooded vineyards was bottled. Alongside this rarity, were a Taylor 1955 and a magnificent Croft 1948.
And that was the end of the evening. Adrian Bridge was entertaining and charming, fielding the questions of the audience in a relaxed and open manner and leading a very interesting discussion on the currently topical debate for and against using river water for irrigation in the Douro region.
But, as always, the evening was over too quickly, the fine ports consumed and the cellar lights switched off to encourage us all to leave. Hopefully, we were counted in and the same number of people were counted out…
The Tasting Notes Taylor Port Wines
Chip Dry – flavoursome, with a good palate presence and texture and a long finish. A good example of a fine white port. Best drunk chilled or in a mix with tonic.
Croft Pink Port – light bodied and delicate. A good seller, but not intended for those who would already choose to drink a full-bodied ruby or tawny port.
Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Ruby Port – very impressive; plump ripe fruit with a balanced tannic core and a long finish. A good port to use to as an everyday drinker.
2003 Taylor Vintage Port – intense and opaque; showing nothing but youth in the colour. A distinct Taylor spearmint mixed in with the fruity nose. Huge and balanced doses of fruit and tannin and an unbelievably long finish. One to add to the cellar, if it is not already there.
2000 Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port– sweet and ripe and with an incredibly silky texture. Despite being big and burly there is a remarkable balance to the wine. So difficult to judge, just unlike any other young vintage port, but one which will last for decades.
1997 Croft Quinta da Roêda Vintage Port – what a contrast to the previous two wines, elegant and soft and surprisingly forward. Very easy to drink now and will likely be an early maturing wine (which is why Croft declared this vintage as a single quinta wine). Difficult to resist another sip!
1985 Taylor Vintage Port– transparent and giving the appearance of having reached maturity. Sweet and inviting on the nose and with a lovely spicy fruitiness on the palate and a astonishingly big finish. Very good now and will continue to improve with more time in the cellar.
1985 Fonseca Vintage Port – much darker than its Taylor cousin with a distinct tobacco tone on the nose; sweet fruit and dominating tannins lead to an aftertaste that just doesn’t finish. This is a big wine that is still a decade or two from maturity. Leave this one to slumber in the cellar.
1970 Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port from magnum – a very rare treat made from the grapes grown in the vineyards at Vargellas that lie closest to the river, below the railway line. When the river dam was completed, these vineyards were flooded and a single pipe of port was made from the grapes from these fields as a commemoration to their loss. Only 12 magnums were filled from this pipe and the rest of the wine was put into bottle. This wine has never been offered for sale and has only been used by the family at company sponsored events or for charity fund raising. Mature in appearance, with an irresistible smell of redcurrants and juniper berries. Amazingly layered on the palate, with so many subtle variations of flavour that it can be enjoyed for hours and a lovely aftertaste that fades away slowly to leave you with the last kiss of sweet and intense orange. What a privilege to taste this wine.
1955 Taylor Vintage Port – mature and pale in appearance, this bottle was hot and alcoholic and could, perhaps, have used more time in the decanter before being served. Not a bottle which showed this wine at its best.
1948 Croft Vintage Port – that beautiful glowing burnt orange colour that mature vintage port develops with 60 years of bottle age. Dominated by the mandarin peel on the nose that is so typical of mature Croft, so Sauterne-like in both smell and flavour; long and glorious to taste and every bit as good as the legendary Croft 1945.