Fine & rare Port – 48 wines reviewed

Vintage port

Cockburns 1955 – attractive plum and red fruits, a touch jammy with lovely dried spice notes of cassia bark, anise, clove and sandalwood.  At its peak and very enjoyable.

Fonseca 1963 – shows dried fruit, spice, menthol and coffee notes but what really stands out is its wonderful freshness and vigour – still firing on all cylinders – very long, layered finish.  Fab.

Grahams 1966 – plenty of guts to this, broad, spicy, firmly structured yet expansive; drinking very well.

Grahams 1970 – very tight, mineral, elegant and long.  Excellent.

Taylors 1977 – very fresh, mineral nose, this is intense, spicy, layered and very long. Very good.

Fonseca 1977 – very complete, enjoyable now with expansive spicy plummy fruit; a mellow fellow.

Smith Woodhouse 1977 – a real star of the vintage with tons of vigour – a real drive of blackcurrant fruit with smoke, earth and mineral nuances – still going very strong.

Niepoort Garrafeira 1977 – thought to be the only house still making this vintage port which is aged for decades in special small glass containers “demijons” as opposed to oak.  Very supple, mellow port with lots of nuts, marzipan and caressingly soft, buttery notes – more redolent of a tawny but with more vigour.  Very good.

Taylors 1985 – plenty of muscle with lots of fruit, gum cistus and liquorice and impressive length.  Its sinewy structure suggests stash this away for some years yet.

Fonseca 1985 – gutsy with a great depth of sweet dark fruits and lots of liquorice – a keeper though satisfying enough now,

Croft 1991 – drinking well now with lots of sweet fruit cut with menthol notes/eucalyptus and an attractive cafe creme.

Delaforce 1992 – deep colour, tightly packed fruit with spice and cafe creme; lots of vigour – surprisingly good.

Cockburns 2000 – deep colour, grippy tight nose with lifted white blossom notes with a hint of tar, very good concentration of fruit on the palate with a slatey undertow – great potential.

Croft 2003 – exuberant black cherry fruit with cinnamon – fleshy, pure and svelte – a delight.

Warre 2003 – sweet glazed red fruits with biscuity notes on the nose; well structured palate with a tight concentration of red and black fruits and those malty, biscuity notes, wed to a firm backbone of powdery tannin.

Graham 2003 – a real scrum of flavours with a great heft of boisterous fruit, liquorice and spice; generous, warm spirit.

Dow 2003 – lifted eucalyptus and spice thread to its red and black fruits; very elegant with lovely fruit purity.

Single Quinta Vintage port

Fonseca Guimaraens 1988 – rumbustious take no prisoners port and terrific with it – great thrust of blackcurrant, berry and cherry fruit with dried fruit, wood spice and eucalyptus animated by a lovely persistent acidity; nice textured tannins.

Quinta de Vargellas 1995 –  elegant, spicy wine with good vim and vigour – still primary raspberry fruit with chocolate and violets, smoked cumin and liquorice; expressive, long, spicy finish with a mineral undertow.  Very good.

Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha 1995 – the top cuvee from 70 year old plus vines is very impressive with huge concentration, dimension and thrust.  Its tight knit black, black fruit is chiselled with minerals and edged with liquorice and cumin spice which impart a vinosity – you could almost forget this was fortified and sweet.  Terrific.

 Grahams Quinta dos Malvedos 1996 – spicy, floral nose with great depth of chocolate cherry truffle and sweet plum fruit on the palate cut with liquorice, clove and minerals notes.  Firm backbone of tannins.  Very good.

Warres Quinta da Cavadinha 1996 – lovely nose of sweet fruit with delicate eucalyptus notes; delicious persistent red and black fruits wed to fine, powdery tannins make for a long, elegant finish.  Very good.

Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha 1997 – more overtly fruity and expansive than the 95 with lifted violet top notes; a heft of tannins remind you this is a very serious proposition.

Cockburns Quinta dos Canais 1998 – very sturdy, with good depth of red and b lack fruits,smoke, liquorice and menthol notes; god length.

 Dows Senora da Ribeira 1998 – very fleshy yet peppery black cherry fruit, expansive and warm with savoury coffee notes gum cistus.

Dows Quinta do Bomfim 1998 – attractive sweet, touch jammy red fruits and plum with a mineral undertow and good supporting tannins.

Quinta do Vesuvio 2000 – iron fist in velvet glove – terrific depth of juicy black fruit of great purity with a tight mineral seam; fine and focused.

Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha 2000 –  in a word, phenomenal – deep, dark and inky with a tightly focused seam of minerality and peppery black fruits with violet tops notes.  Fabulous structure, length and concentration supported by powdery ripe tannins.

Dows Senora da Ribeira  2001 – inky wine with opulent black cherry and juicy cassis fruit, hints of raisin, mint and gum cistus supported by firm tannins – very good.

Quinta do Vesuvio 2003 – a broader wine from this big vintage – great heft of peppery red and black fruits on the attack supported by ripe but firm powdery tannins; tightens up for the finish – a big wine.

Warres Quinta da Cavadinha 2004 – 2004s have a lovely precision like this elegant wine; juicy blackcurrant with lifted floral notes and powdery ripe tannins beneath.

Dows Senora da Ribeira 2005 – lots of finesse here with violets, black berry and cherry, crushed rocks, dark chocolate, mint and coffee.  Utterly seductive.

Late Bottled Vintage Port

Warre’s LBV 1999 – nice developed palate shows dried cherry, plum, biscuit and mineral notes.

Taylors LBV 2002 – very good concentration and purity of blackcurrant and berry fruits with very well balanced acidity and tannins make for an elegant, focused LBV.

Dows LBV 2001 – lovely concentration of camphor-edged blackcurrant with liquorice and spice.

Tawny & colheita (vintage-dated tawny) ports

These are seriously under-estimated styles of port – totally mellow fellows to enjoy on their own, with fruit cake, cheese and nuts and, a recent discovery, Green and Blacks milk chocolate…

Warre Otima 10 yr old – a mellow fellow with a smooth melange of nuts, raisins and dried fig; well balanced.

Warres Otima 20 Year Old Tawny – good depth of flavour with expansive orange peel and walnut flavours, spice and a pleasurably granular texture.  Long.

 Delaforce His Eminence’s Choice Tawny – mellow, rich palate with orange, marzipan and walnuts; soft as kid gloves – lovely.

 Delaforce Curious & Ancient 20 yr old – lovely structure, weight and depth of walnuts, almonds and caramel – totally moreish.

 Taylors 20 yr old – lovely freshness, length and balance with attractive orange peel and candied citrus surrounding a nutty core.

 Ramos Pinto 30 yr old – café crème, lots of interest in a relatively dryish, walnutty style; precise, long finish.

Niepoort 30 yr old – a very gutsy, quite fiery style with plenty of depth – really builds on the finish.  Plenty of staying power.

 Fonseca 40 yr old – rumbustious wine with lots of toffee-edged, spicy fruit delivered with vim and vigour.  Takes no prisoners!

Taylors 40 Year Old Tawny – as soft and darkly sweet as demerara sugar, rich but structured with a lovely balancing dry edge of walnutty tannins.

 Barros Colheita 1996 – a deep plum colour with a tawny rim this is a baby but very delicious with lovely spicy slightly caramelised damsons and plum cake with almonds; smoky, savoury finish.  Yum.

 Barros Colheita 1978  – wonderful freshness and intensity to this spicy wine – very good indeed and an indication of where the 96 will go when it loses some puppy fat.

Kopke Colheita 1980 – complex wine with raisins, nuts, caramel, dried fennel and spice box; long and persistent.  Very good.

Delaforce Colheita 1964 – great delicacy, purity and intensity to its fruit which you will also find in the 79 & 88 Colheitas – long and persistent with a lovely freshness.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
October 2007

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