TAYLOR, GRAHAM & FONSECA – 1966, 1970 & 1977
On a November-evening (the 8th) in 1995 I was a part of a magical tasting that I often recall as one of the most memorable tastings for me.
It was The Fyn Port Wine Club (often mentioned as one of the finest of its kind in the World). See more at: www.vintageport.dk
The theme was Taylor’s, Graham & Fonseca – 1966, 1970 & 1977. It seems like everything you would want from a Port Wine was cooked into this single tasting.
1966 Fonseca Vintage Port was unfortunately left out as it wasn’t possible to ship from London in time for the wine to settle before tasting. It was replaced with a 1970 Vintage Port from Gould Campbell that should be interesting to taste instead.
Eleven tasters were eager to be a part of this experience. Even for a tough crowd of Vintage Port-veterans this was indeed very exiting. To taste the absolute top producers in their finest hour as these three vintages are. And it is not very often you would find these exact wines to be compared directly against each other.
The wines were tasted semi-blind silent tasting, poured in three heats:
Graham’s 1977 Vintage Port
At this stage the Graham’s style of making Vintage Port is too pleasing and sweet for me. It is still world-class and my number two for this Vintage. Maybe not in Graham’s finest hour as I often think the wines after 1970 and until 1987 not quite as unique as the wines before and after. Probably because of Symington family’s take-over in 1970 from The Graham’s [Johnny Graham later started Churchill's Port]. Though this is still a really stunning Vintage Port with lot of personality and ageing potential.
Fonseca 1977 Vintage Port
Strict and precise like you would expect a Vintage Port from Fonseca. definitely much too you and a very high quality Port. Like Croft Fonseca’s Vintage Ports represent this very english style in Port-making with acidity and firm alcohol. I prefer this more firm style of Port when it is much older. At this stage or younger it is almost unpleasant for my palate. Never-the-less this is a high quality Port with lots of potential for keeping in the cellar.
Taylor’s 1977 Vintage Port
One of the finest wines I ever tasted. At this stage it is just too premature, compared to the silky taste and ripeness of the older vintages. This wine will mature and take its place as one of the best Taylor Port’s ever made. Massive taste is what comes first; loads of dark chocolate, cherry, roasted nuts and raisins. Extremely young and potent wine that should not be enjoyed in two decades.
Graham’s 1970 Vintage Port
A serious outsider to best Port of the year. Deep mature fruit with hints of coffee and sweet dried fruit, caramelised figs. A masterpiece only downgraded simply because I like Taylor’s and Fonseca’s wines of the year better. What a pity for such a World Class wine.
Fonseca 1970 Vintage Port
Excellent body and structure with a velvety that shows just how well Fonseca’s wines age. This must surely be one of their best of the Century (unfortunately we wouldn’t be tasting the 1966 Vintage Port from Fonseca; it has the reputation of being just that!). The velvety taste og walnuts and well-balanced very long finish with long and complex taste. This is a wine that could be in a book about the 100 things you must do before you die!
Taylor’s 1970 Vintage Port
A VERY close runners-up to my prefered 1970 Fonseca. Go ahead make my day is what goes through my mind as I wonder about this wine. This is everything you could ever ask for. A fine, fine Port that shows maturity in all the right places. Still with firm body and grape nuances that lies underneath the thick layers of concentrated figs and honey and mostly walnuts. Rich and balanced rounded with raisins and spice. The wine is well on its way into maturity but it is still showing power and lively palate that is somewhere between youth and real maturity.
Gould Campbell 1970 Vintage Port
This is obviously a very good Vintage Port and in any other situation than this one it would be considered a treat. But as a substitute for a Fonseca 1966 Vintage Port it was measured in a scale that would seem unfair to most of the wines ever produced. Even though this is a neat and nice – in fact a classy Vintage Port that delivers a strong and impeccable taste. Everything you would want from an old Vintage Port. Good clean taste with fine matured walnut notes and a nicely matured body. In this tough company all of that just seemed to vanish in a group of 3 Ports that all should be considered in the top 50 of Vintage Ports produced in the 20th Century.
Graham’s 1966 Vintage Port
One of two wines from this Vintage – and by far the best of the two. A superb and very complex wine at its best. A mature and sweet wine with a hint of mint that ensures the balance in the wine stays in focus. A teat by any means.
Taylor’s 1966 Vintage Port
I always wondered about this wine. I tasted it, found it pleasant and absolutely a high quality wine by any standards, but it was a little bit strange maybe beginning to decline, orange color all through the glass, almost sweet and not very much like the Taylor-taste I so much appreciate and to me is The standard to be measured against when you produce Vintage Port (I re-tasted the wine from another cellar some years later with the same result). Though being harsh to this wine it is only because of the expectations and the high level of its competition. By any means this is a lovely high-class wine – just not World Heritage!
At the end of the tasting all of us had made our remarks and rated our own three top preferences with 3 points (best), 2 points (2nd) and 1 point (3rd).
My top preferences was:
1. 1970 Fonseca Vintage Port (3 points)
2. 1970 Taylor’s Vintage Port (2 points)
3. 1966 Graham’s Vintage Port (1 point)
- Taylor’s 1977 Vintage Port was a close runners-up but simply because of the prematurity it was not in my final 3 (this is probably one of the best Ports I ever tasted it just wasn’t as ready at this stage as the others).
The general opinion at this tasting was different:
1. Fonseca 1970 Vintage Port
2. Graham’s 1970 Vintage Port
3. Graham’s 1966 Vintage Port
4. Graham’s 1977 Vintage Port
5. Taylor’s 1970 Vintage Port
Overall all of these wines (except 1970 Gould Campbell and 1966 Taylor’s) should be considered 97+ on a scale of 100 points. I almost never judge the single wine on a scale like that when I taste wines in this league. I think it is insulting to the masterpieces that was meant to be enjoyed and not rated. The difference between the wines would depend on personal preference which should only matter to one-self…and by this I don’t mean that the wines can not be discussed!
After the tasting the glass washer-team shared a bottle of Fonseca 1991Guimaraens Vintage Port that was offered to the members as a bargain from the importer at a ridiculous price of approx. $20. As I write this I recall that I still have a few bottles of that in my cellar.
A few days later I tasted a Hooper’s 1912 Vintage Port that was in amazingly good shape. Silky and smooth with walnut and honey notes. Another fine experience!
All tastings notes are from November 1995 so all recommendations towards drinkability and maturity is from that date!
Tomorrow I am going to the Radici Wine Experience. I was contacted by the great Italian wine writer Franco Ziliani and Nicola Campanile who arrange this event. They asked if I could come and see what is going on in the south of Italy.
My first reaction was: count me in, this is something – but a difficult time of the year with Chrismas sales and everything…but the entusiast in me got the overhand. So tomorrow I am leaving cold and freezing Denmark to meet sunny Puglia. I will also have the pleasure of meeting American wine writer Charles Scicolone, whom I met in Barbera Meeting 2010 earlier this year. See you down there.
1998 Tertre Rotebeouf, Saint-Èmilion Grand Cru (Bordeaux)
92+ Ι This very elegant and balanced Saint-Èmilion offers sweet fruit with that extracted dryness underneath that you would only get from an Merlot-based wine from Bordeaux in a great vintage. The wine developed fine in the glass a actually needed more than 45 minutes to open up. The reward was great and in this Merlot-trio tasted (the next 2 wines) this was clearly the wine that had taken the years past most well, and the better wine in with fine company. The structure of this wine is excellent and it seems slim and powerfull at the same time with a hint of mint. Also it would probably mature well for another 10-12 years if kept well. Too little of these wines on the market today. It reminds me of how Saint-Èmilion wines used to taste 15 years ago. 21.06.2010
Le Defi de Fontenil Lot. 00 (Vin de Table)
92 Ι Le Defi de Fontenil is a unique wine in Bordeaux terms. It comes from Michel Rolland’s Estate in Fronsac called Château de Fontenil. It is 2,47 acres of 100% Merlot grown under a plastic roof. Extreme in every detail. The wine is very extracted and the deep color defines how the bouquet and the palate is. Dark in every sense. This wine also could need extra time to develop but it actually is very attractive at this stage. One might say the opposite of Tertre Rotebeouf as this is more meaty and rustic. Also a great wine. 21.06.2010
1999 Château Cheval-Blanc, Saint-Èmilion 1. Grand Cru Classé A (Bordeaux)
90 Ι This is not the best vintage for Saint-Èmilion. Even though one always have great expectations when tasting royalty of wines. Sometimes you can have too high expectations to things, but then again if a wine is priced extremely as the giants in Bordeaux are today this is no good. In my opinion these medium (and also too bad) vintages should NEVER be on the market. Why they degrade their market value by selling these (a little) boring wines – I never understood – when the potential in great vintages is enormous.
With that said this is a good and solid wine that can still age well and opens up after an hour. It offers a good and fine wine experience that would be sufficient if we hadn’t had the two wines above. In this lies the problem. This wine should never be run over by the wines above if they want to sell to these high prices. Plus I was being nice giving 90 points to this wine. Another day my rating would have been lower. 21.06.2010
Ratafia Eugénie, Cahors
Château Eugénie (South West France)
87 Ι A fine wine, quite heavy and more rustic and farm styled wine than elegant. Really good quality with dried apricots and raisins on the palate. Very sweet and almost liquid honey. Maybe a bit too much in the end. But nice with broad appeal. 21.06.2010
2007 Nackenheim Rothenberg, Riesling-Beerenauslese
Weingut Gunderloch (Rheinhessen – Germany)
90 Ι Tasted blind I had no doubt that this was a young Riesling from Rheinhessen. It was wonderful, but as always from this region (in my opinion) there is a lack of acidity. Even though this is a very good wine, with a flirting taste with honey, peach and a hint of orange flower. Will keep well the next 12-15 years. 21.06.2010
1998 Burg-Layer Johannisberg, Weisser Burgunder-Eiswein
Weingut Michael Schäfer (Nahe – Germany)
90+ Ι This wine I have tasted several times. It never fails to impress. Though not being in the elite of German – or Nahe wineries – this is a clear example of the neighbor making almost as good wines as the star producer for much less money. The wine is perfectly matured at this stage with sweet but dry apricots in the nose and on the palate. Raisin notes and sweetness not as obvious as earlier. It doesn’t reach the skyes but it is a very good inexpensive Eiswein. 21.06.2010
1997 Madame de Rayneau (2nd wine Ch. Rayne-Vigneau), Sauternes (Bordeaux – France)
89 Ι A bargain bought in a local supermarket. The poor bastards didn’t know what they were selling. Price? 7 Euro a bottle. Fresh and forward without any signs of declining or age for that matter. Very attractive, almost sexy I might add. Sweet but very well balanced. Not as much Noble rot as in the 1st wine from the estate but a fine and refreshing dessert wine with actually great potential. 21.06.2010
1998 Château d’Yquem, Sauternes 1. Cru Classé (Bordeaux – France)
93+ Ι As always Yquem delivers what is expected. This is several decades too soon to be enjoyed fully, but even in this premature stage it performs in a unique way that only Yquem does. Mega concentrated and full bodied with heavy structure that seems to never end. After 25 minutes the wine opens up and gives layers of honeyed with peach and apricot. 21.06.2010
This Saturday evening my wife Tina and I went to visit Gitte and Simon, very good friends of ours. The 2 wifes enjoys good wine, for Simon and I it’s a lifestyle.
For some time now Simon had me wondering what he had found of new strange/exiting/mouth-watering wines. It became an evening of extravagance (a night of sin).
After lately having tasted numberous overseas and italian wines.
1998 Tertre Rotebeouf, Saint-Èmilion Grand Cru
Lot. 00 Le Defi de Fontenil, Vin de Table
1999 Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Émilion 1. Grand Cru Classé
Ratafia Eugénie, Château Eugénie, Cahors
Weingut Gunderloch 2007 Nackenheim Rothenberg, Riesling-Beerenauslese
Weingut Michael Schäfer 1998 Burg-Layer Johannisberg, Weisser Burgunder-Eiswein
1997 Madame de Rayneau (2nd wine Ch. Rayne-Vigneau) , Sauternes 1. Cru Classé
1998 Château d’Yquem, Sauternes 1. Cru Classé
I will edit this post with comments on the wines later.
After a long tasting week I took a break last week – and for the first time since I don’t know when I actually didn’t have any wine for a whole week. reason: I really needed something else on my palate after the 4 days of massive Barbera-tasting a period of relaxing and regaining my palate my was great.
So, some Danish beers and one Belgian Rochefort 10 was something completely different and almost calming in my mouth.
The “wine” of the week therefore belongs to my good friend, hardworking Eddie Szweda, who after taking over probably the worst microbrewery in 2006 called Midtfyns Bryghus turned toward prime quality and won the award Best New Beer 2007 by Danske Ølentusiaster (Danish Beer Enthusiasts) counting more than 10.000 beer crazy members.
March, 20 the achievement was repeated with the award Best New Beer 2009. Congratulations guys!!
“Wine” of the week!
Midtfyns Bryghus - Chili Tripel
First of all I like fresh forward wines mostly – I am halfway German that way. But it seems that no one is stepping up and into the debate about oak – or no oak taking the side of the producers or at least trying to understand their perspectives; developing the wines and markets, having to make daily choices in the productions and dealing with requests and financial situations concerning the trade and the world markets.
Until now we have mostly heard from the people with the power to be heard and the loudest voices: the press and the bloggers.
Sorry guys and gals, I love you but I have to speak up a little for the producers here. I am a sales pro and a wine lover, so I have a leg in both camps.
Comparing the Barbera wines from Asti and Alba is almost like comparing Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara and Oregon. Two different styles and approaches. Both very good when made the right way but extremely different. Alba-producers have the luxury to make good Barbera and use it as a sales ticket to get their more expensive Barolo, Barberesco and Langhe Rosso on the market. Maybe it is a little bit rude but Barbera must be considered the second or third choise for those producers. In the Asti and Monferrato regions Barbera is the single most important grape. So success and developement is crucial for their existence.
I see a lot of effort and evolution in the Asti/Nizza region and also a potential to bring Barbera wines to another level. The danger of this being that they totally forget the fresh forward wines easy to consume. That is an important part of the Barbera-success.
Asti is a huge area compared to Alba, and the diversity between the wines and wineries must be larger to maintain a sales- and production appearance/image. Otherwise it could just as well all be Cantine Sociale as in the “good old days”. Maybe the Asti region is underdeveloped in the sence that they are in the process of finding higher grounds and pushing the quality up. They have to learn and respond to the new markets requests and wishes.
For many (I’m sure) this is what they are in the process of doing. The producers most often live and breathe wine and have for generations. The new generation of producers will not stand in line and wait for their chance of success to happen. They act upon the market requests.
In my experience from the trade, a lot of consumers want Xtra wooded wines. I don’t think it is possible to even discuss this fact. Just have a look at some of the worlds largest wine producers like Beringer, Wolf Blass, Gallo, Banfi or Guigal. They all use new oak and they all produce good quality wines – and I do not suspect them not to know exactly what the consumers wants!
It is not my taste; I prefer the lighter more strict fruit of a wine as you often see in a northern grown Pinot Noir.
To claim that we all want Barbera to be all that must be a personal preference, and to say that we want Barbera’s as in the good old days is for my part rubbish. To quote (I hope I quote you precise) Mr. Jorgen Aldrich (esteemed wine writer from Denmark) who has been writing about Barbera for several decades: “the Barbera’s of the 1980′s was like 5-10 top producers and a lot of insignificant producers, producing a lot of acidic and unpleasant wines. Today we see an increase of the quality and Barbera’s in various styles which proves that wines made from the Barbera grape can be diverse and very distinct – and always interesting.” I can only join him in this conclusion!
Time will prove if the new oak trend will stay and if the oak will integrate well in the wines. No question that a lot of producers needs to adjust the use the balance the wines in a more refined way.
The wines we blind tasted last week were all young-just-bottled wines that would need another year or two to reach a better stage of maturity in the bottle.
Some producers claimed that the use of new oak was a question of “too little use of oak” and if aged for a longer period in new oak the wood would integrate better; for instance 6 months of ageing would bring wines that was like licking on a wood in the forest and 18 months would bring a more refined elegant and silky structure of oak in the wines. I think this is a very important and essential statement – and a path worth investigating!
To me the province of Asti needs more time to develope and a major appellation might grow in 5-8 years. 15 years ago nobody knew about wines from Chile or Australia, and even less from the subregions that came after like Bolgheri or Paso Robles.
The difficult quest is to find the right balance. Nobody (not many) wants to pay $50,00 for an elite-Barbera grown without consideration for what is clever to do in business. So you have to appeal to the masses to have the money to produce the wines you like to make.
We tasted a lot of wines in a very short time at the Barbera Meeting 2010. One of the problems at the tastings were; when you taste wines like this it always tends to be the heavier oaky wines that wins and dominates the palate. If you taste 2-3 heavy oaked wines in a row the next 5-6 wines will also have an oaky touch, and when the glasses is refilled with other wines the oak sticks to the glass – and the new wine.
Finally, on my part, I think we (the party) were a bit rude when visiting the Nizza producers in the afternoon/evening. I think these wines mostly – oak or no oak – was at a very high level of quality.
The debate became a little bit too intense and out-of-hand, and maybe also misunderstood from both sides, and for my part my tasting palate was quite filled after tasting more than 180 wines in 1½ days, so the 2006-tasting of 30 Barbera d’Asti Nizza was wasted on me. It was a tasting which came without much interest from my part and some questions from “us” was a little bit wild west. Maybe due to the fact that the two first days showed more oak than we preferred we rubbed it all off on the Nizza-producers. Even though the general impression was that the wines was superior to the regular Asti-wines. Oak or no oak.