Port, launch of the 2007 vintage

Vintage port is typically declared 3 in every 10 years so 2007, the 3rd declaration of this decade,  makes for a good innings, not least because it’s an unusually elegant vintage, reflecting a cool summer.  With lovely fruit purity and aromatic lift, it’s a vintage in which the stamp of terroir is readily apparent – the distinctive traits of the shippers’ different houses really stand out.

These notes show my pick of the bunch based on two tastings in May 2009, the first a Symingtons/Fladgate/Noval joint production, the second at the Institute of Masters of Wine.  Interestingly, I thought that the first tasting showed the wines to much better advantage because the ports were kept cooler – it really paid off, especially for this elegant, lifted vintage.

Fonseca – plenty of power here – a dark, grippy nose and deep seam of concentrated yet vibrant red and black berry fruit with liquorice, eucalyptus and a savoury edge, amply supported by ripe tannins.  Long, persistent finish. Very good.

Taylor – magisterial; a firm backbone of sinewy tannins lends an upright, “Sandhurst” quality. Crushed red and black fruits carry a long, persistent finish with a savoury, malty undertow.  Impressive.

Taylor Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velhas 2007 – lifted, floral nose leads onto a singular, impactful palate steeped in rich, savoury dark fruit with liquorice and a pronounced minerality to the finish.  Lots of heft – very good.

Dow – a very deep colour and, though tightly coiled and precise, it has a deep seam of concentrated black fruit with hints of eucalyptus.   Classic dry house style adds gravitas – very good.

Graham – its deep hue foreshadows a fabulous concentration of fruit; true to this vintage it has a lifted nose and bright palate of red fruits and plum with a lively peppery thread; firmly structured tannins beneath suggest a long life ahead – terrific.

Smith Woodhouse – bouncy, exuberant nose and palate loaded with cassis, flowers and chocolate; plush in dimension but with balancing freshness to the finish.

Quinta do Vesuvio – inky black with a brooding nose of black fruits.  A multi-layered palate shows fleshy black cherry underscored by firmer blackcurrant fruit of lovely purity and intensity with a mineral undertow and beguiling floral lift.  Fresh and well delineated – terrific.

Quinta do Vesuvio Capela – robust, intense and dark fruited with dried herb (sage), this new limited release (250 cases) cuvée is foot trodden in small lagares.  Plenty of oomph/potential; needs time to unfurl.

Warre – grippy, fruity nose, with a palate both firm and fleshy – svelte plum and juicy black fruits with a savoury, menthol edge.  Very good.

Niepoort Broadbent – first made in 1994 this has an appealingly wild note to its inky fruit, with pronounced spice and firm, sinewy tannins suggesting a long life ahead.

Niepoort Pisca – juicy and mineral with firm supporting tannins this vinous, maiden single vineyard port is distinctively different.  Although the vineyard was only purchased by Niepoort in 2003, its fruit has formed the backbone of Niepoort vintage port for decades.  Under Niepoort’s ownership, yields have increased and the vineyard has come into better balance.  In 2007, Dirk felt the fruit for this wine warranted separate bottling because it was so distinctive.    Vinified in a less reductive, more traditional manner than usual, it stays in pipes for at least 6 months longer than the house’s other ports.  Well worth seeking out.

Niepoort – broader and spicier than Pisca and Broadbent this is already very complete and balanced; powerful, sumptuous port.

Quinta do Noval – lifted nose with violets and black sappy fruits leads onto a precise palate with plum, red and black fruits and dark chocolate animated by a lively vein of acidity.  Very good.

Quinta do Noval Silval – mid-weight with bright, flavoursome eucalyptus edged fruit, smoke and malt.

Quinta da Romaneira – forward, open knit fruity nose and palate; attractive enough but a little simple.

Churchill Quinta da Gricha – deep colour, lots of mocha on the nose; quite loose knit palate shows lively raspberry fruit with violets; lacks a bit of oomph.

Churchill – more structure than da Gricha as one would expect, fresh and though a little lean now, dark fruits lurk with intent; needs to flesh out.

Cockburn Quinta dos Canais – very deep, viscous wine with an expressive floral nose of violets and rock rose; toothsomely sweet fruit with crème de cassis but, in tune with the vintage, shows elegant balance and ripe, powdery tannins.  Very good.

Cockburn – peppery, eucalyptus-edged black fruits with a savoury edge; quite open knit.

Delaforce – tight and firmly structured with savoury tannins.  Very sound.

Offley – a pretty port, reveals bright juicy fruit with a peppery, floral lift; good supporting tannins.

Ferreira – plenty of interest with floral, pepper and eucalypt notes to its juicy red and black fruits; spicy.

Gould Campbell – deep colour with a tight raspberry nose; quite firm, sinewy tannins surrounded by sweetly ripe but bright red and black fruits.

Quinta de Passadouro – dark, juicy and floral with a crushed rock minerality and eucalyptus lift; attractively gutsy with finesse.

Pintas – a little reduced and closed, admits of a dark flavour spectrum with fine, powdery tannins; needs time to open up.

Pocas Quinta de Santa Barbara –  cool, sappy black fruit supported by powdery tannins; elegant, mid-weight wine.

Pocas – glossy, muscular wine, tightly coiled at the moment, with nice minerality to its long persistent finish.

Quinta do Portal – rich and perfumed with violets, creamy black fruits and succulent black cherry and supple tannins; quite forward and hedonistic.

Quarles Harris – very bright, elegant wine with persistent, juicy red and black fruits, attractive minerality and lithe tannins.

Martinez – a touch “lite” though attractive enough juicy bright fruit with darker mocha undertones.

Ramos Pinto – grippy, sweet fruited with a coal dust and eucalyptus edge to its red and black fruit; good persistent finish backed by firm tannins,

Sandeman – the first vintage to be made at a new state of the art winery, shows great depth of colour with grippy, perfumed fruit supported by firm tannins.  Very good.

Quinta Vale Dona Maria – well delineated, elegant, mid-weight wine with nice fruity purity.

Quinta do Vale Meao – good depth of colour and shows this quinta’s floral and exotic orange oil/peel character on the nose and palate.  Plenty of guts but well balanced with an attractive vein of acidity.  Very good characterful wine.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
May 2009
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