Taylor’s – or Taylor Fladgate which is what the logotype on their labels actually says – is one of the most notable Port companies. Taylor’s counts as one of the best, and their style is characterised by good concentration and wines on the spicy and “dry” side. By “dry” I mena that they come across as a little less sweet than the average for the respective style of Port, which of course are sweet (and fortified) wines. So a 10 year old Tawny from Taylor’s tastes a little less sweet than a 10 year old Tawny from, say, Graham’s (also a good reputation but their style is rather on the sweet side) but more sweet than a Late Bottled Vintage from Taylor’s.
Their Swedish importer Vinunic arranged a tasting of Taylor’s wines, led by a representative of the company who was in town.
As an aperitif we were served something completely different from the same importer’s range:
Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Gueberschwihr 2009
Alsace, residual sugar 4,8 g/l (should be “indice 1” on Z-H’s scale)
Bright yellow colour. Rather powerful nose of ripe yellow fruit, zest, some beeswax and honey, somewhat aromatic and perfumed. Palate with ripe citrus, some tropical fruit, rather high acidity, some grapefruit bitterness, rather pronounced mineral notes. Foody, rather ready to drink, 89 p.
This is a wine in the typical fruity and powerful Zind-Humbrecht style, but despite this and a hot vintage it is a dry wine that shows mineral notes. So I think this wine should appeal also to those who prefer their Alsace Rieslings completely dry.
Chip Dry White Port
A mostly fruity nose with ripe banana and yellow fruit, oak barrel notes with some vanilla, spice, slightly nutty, generally somewhat “muted” aromas. Somewhat alcoholic on the palate, dry-ish, definitely oily, yellow fruit with some banana, rather notable bitterness. Rather alcoholic aftertaste. Foody and concentrated, but lacks the freshness of e.g. a good dry Sherry. 84 p.
To be perfectly honest, my experience has always been that dry white Port are the weakest wines of the portfolio of those who insist on producing them, and that sweet white Port usually turn out better. This sample didn’t change my opinion. I don’t think that this style of wine is able to compete with dry Sherry, if that’s what they are trying to do. I recall the old quip “The first duty of Port is to be red” which is attributed to Ernest Cockburn.
10 Years Old Tawny Port
Light to medium red colour, slightly paler edge. Nose with dried berries, some tar, spice, a hint of raisin and dates, some chocolate, slightly flowery. Rather intense nose. Sweet on the palate, spice, alcoholic, dried red berries, good acidity, rather good intensity of aromas. Good and long aftertaste with red berries, sweetness and spice. 89 p.
Many see Tawnies as almost exclusively dessert Ports, while Vintage Port would be Port of choice with cheese (except perhaps during times of famine or widespread financial crisis, when cheaper Ruby Port will have to do). There may however be cases when a Tawny is a good choice, in particular with softer or milder blue cheese, and when the cheese comes with some sweet “side orders” and perhaps some nuts. In particular a 10 year old Tawny in Taylor’s slightly spicier style could be a good choice under these circumstances, in my opinion.
20 Years Old Tawny Port
Light red colour, brick-coloured edge. Nose with dried red berries, hints of dried orange zest, slightly oxidised notes with a hint of mild dried spices, toffee and fudge, flowery and elegant. Sweet palate, powerful notes of dried red berries, dried zest, good acidity, good concentration of aromas. Quite long aftertaste with dried berries, good acidity and some spice. 91 p.
More oxidised notes than the 10 Year Old but also more elegance, and more intensity on the palate.
Late Bottled Vintage 2007
Deep dark red colour. In the nose dark berries, quite spicy, chocolate, good aroma intensity. Rather sweet on the palate, quite spicy, alcoholic, dark berries, medium concentration, good acidity. 87 p.
This wine is less aromatic than all the Vintage Ports that follow.
We now go over to a number of “Quinta Ports”. Quinta means “farm” and is thus a vintage Port from a single property. The large Port companies often own several quintas. In the range of these companies, the quinta-labelled Ports are usually a kind of “second wines” to their “genuine” Vintage Port, the flagship wine that only carries the name of the house: Taylor’s Vintage Port, Fonseca Vintage Port and so on. Compared to other wine regions it’s a bit of a paradox that the wines with a more precise geographical origin is usually the simpler wine, but all fortified wine regions have their peculiarities. Quinta Ports are not only cheaper than the “flagship Ports” but are often sold with some years of bottle age, so they are more ready to drink already when sold. This means that Quinta Port, in particular in half bottles, usually is a good buy for the Port wine drinker who is looking for good quality, but doesn’t have unlimited budget or patience, since it is above Late Bottled Vintage in quality. Vargellas is Taylor’s classical Quinta Port, and I think it showed better of the two.
Quinta de Terra Feita 1995
Nose of dark and red berries, raisins, very flowery with violets, spice and chocholate. Nuanced nose. Clearly sweet on the palate, dark berries, spice, good intensity, well polished tannins, long aftertaste with some alcohol. Nice maturity but only at the start of its drinking window. 90 p.
Quinta de Terra Feita 2001
Nose with dark berries, tar, chocolate, spice, somewhat aromatic and flowery, some crushed stone. Sweet palate, dark berries, spice, medium+ tannins, aftertaste with some spice and bitterness. Drinkable now, but can develop more. 89+ p.
Currently less expressive than the 1995, and with more obvious tannins.
Quinta de Vargellas 2004
Nose with concentrated red and dark berries, flowery with violets, perfumed, some tar, very elegant and expressive. Sweet palate, quite spicy, dark berries, good intensity, medium+ tannin but with pleasant structure. Young, but accessible, 91 p.
Not surprisingly it comes across as younger than the Terra Feita 1995, but it is more aromatic than Terra Feita 2001. I think this one shows higher class than the two Terra Feita wines, but the again Vargellas is probably the crown jewel of Taylor’s vineyard holdings.
To get some perspective on Vargellas I tasted another vintage.
Quinta de Vargellas 1998
Not in the tasting with the other wines, tasted back home a few days later, from a half bottle with a difficult, dry and brittle cork than gave off some cork dust and pieces to the wine.
Deep medium red with lighter red edge and some bricking tendency. Nose with ripe dark berries (blackberries), liquorice, spice, aromatic and flowery notes (violets), some dried prunes and chocolate and just a hint of volatile acidity. Medium sweet, good fruit concentration with dark berries and a hint of red berry liqueur, some alcoholic fire already in the attack, quite spicy, medium tannins, slight bitterness. Approachable now, but would perhaps gain from slightly more polished tannins. 89 p.
This wine showed some pleasant developed characteristics, but its score is moderated by the volatile acidity in the nose and more notably alcoholic palate than the three Quinta Ports above. When the alcohol comes through, this usually mean less substantial palate, that is not able to balance the alcoholic content. I don’t know if this is due to a weaker vintage, or less good development in half bottle.
Back to the tasting and two vintages of Taylor’s top wine.
Taylor’s Vintage Port 2000
Nose with dark berries, raisins, mineral with stone dust, spice, flowery notes with violets, very elegant with some development. Sweet palate, dark and red berries, quite intense, clearly spicy, obvious tannins but with good structure, the alcohol is very well imbedded. Rather young, but with some development, 95 p.
Comes across as a Vintage Port of very classical build, and time-wise I’m sure it has half its journey to the top still ahead of it.
Taylor’s Vintage Port 2009
Nose with dark berries, spice, chocolate, some tar, mineral with crushed slate, flowery and aromatic with violets. Clearly sweet on the palate, alcoholic, spice, dark berries with good intensity, powerful but embedded tannins. Impressive but young, 93+ p.
More spicy and with darker aromas than the 2000, and sweeter on the palate, so it shows that it comes from a hot vintage. This wine is impressively constructed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are those who award it top scores already, but it hasn’t yet acquired those elegant aromas that I want to find in a stellar Vintage Port. So I wait to see how far upp the “+” sign will finally take this wine. For those who prefer to drink Ports young, I’m sure this could work well with e.g. chocolate already.
In general, fortified wines deserve more attention than they generally get, and that’s true for Ports as well as the rest. And where I’m located, the cold season is upon us, which makes Port an excellent choice to keep warm!
Taylor’s also have their own Youtube channel where you can see a number of videos from their vineyards and so on.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.