Port – a Fonseca tasting with David Guimaraens

Presented by David Guimaraens, Technical Director and Winemaker of the Fladgate Partnership, who acquired his family port house, Fonseca, in 1949.

Fonseca produces 3 styles of vintage port:

  • Fonseca classic vintage – made only in exceptional years that will produce a long-lived classic wine and with the extra complexity of a blend from different vineyards.
  • Fonseca Guimaraens – made in good and great, but not exceptional years, from the same vineyards as classic vintage.
  • Quinta do Panascal – a single quinta (vineyard) port, made since the mid-80s to showcase the character of the quinta.

All 3 styles are foot trodden in traditional lagares, though modern influences include sourcing fruit from block (single varietal) plantings as opposed to the randomly mixed vineyards of old (giving greater control of fruit quality in the vineyard and of the blending process during winemaking) plus the use of better quality spirit (for better palate purity and approachability).

Since 2001, Guimaraens has co-fermented between 3-5 varieties together and believes that this optimises quality and complexity.  To this end, he favours planting in smaller varietal blocks which can be picked and fermented at the same time.

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 1991 –  a hot, split vintage – the classic vintage was declared in 1992, deemed the better vintage owing to greater freshness.  Deeply coloured with a rich, porty nose and palate, this is warm, spicy and expansive with a pronounced liquorice character to the finish.

Fonseca Guimaraens 1995 – a hot vintage, this is relatively deveoped in appearance and on the nose though the palate is surprisingly fresh and intense with an emphasis on red fruits; quite linear in structure with an undertow of liquorice.

Fonseca 1994 – ripe, with heady red and black fruits to the nose with lifted carraway seed/liquorice which seamlessly integrates with the generous fruit in the mouth; lovely vinosity/structure with balancing freshness gives the legs for ageing.

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 1998 – robust but ripe tannins beneath its red and black fruits with pronounced liquorice; nice freshness and length.  Well made.

Fonseca Guimaraens 1998 – youthful appearance with lovely purity, freshness and definition to its vibrant black and red berry nose and palate.  Atrractive lift in the form of aniseed/star anise.  Mouthfilling with a firm backbone of ripe tannins.  Very good.

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 1999 – a lighter year than 98 and this is certainly more on the reds fruits, fresh and elegant side with less stuffing, though the liquorice is intact.

Fonseca 2000 – bright hue with flashes of ruby.  Floral with a real depth of bulging ripe black and red fruits to nose and palate.  Excellent freshness and definition with an edge of spicy carraway.  Firm backbone of tannins – lots of potential.

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2001 – very inky with a vibrant pink, youthful rim. A creamy ripeness to it exuberant fruit with pronounced liquorice. Ripe powdery tannins complete the heady picture.  Very good.

Fonseca Guimaraens 2001 – a grippy, tight nose and palate yet one senses a massive seam of black and red fruits beneath its solid but ripe tannins.  Bags of potential here.

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2004 – so youthful you almost bounce off it; needs time, but there’s a discernible freshness and grip herethat bodes well.

Fonseca 2003 – massive grippy tannins encase the fruit; very young and not giving away too much.

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2005 –  much more expressive than the 2004 with a ripe, bouncy (but inclusive) blackcurrant nose, the fruit following through on a vibrant palate, supported by firm tannins.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
4 September 2008
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