The annual Portweinmesse in Leverkusen, November 2022, included two master class events. The first led by Carlos Alves from Sogevinus explaining how to blend old Tawny Port. Included in the tasting was a sample of the relatively new category 50 year old tawny port.
The second master class was led by George Sandeman, who currently is the Chancellor of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto. We had the rare opportunity to be able to taste the Confraria Vintage Ports. The Confraria Vintage Ports are only made the best vintages and is a blend of the member houses Vintage Ports. During the Master Class we tasted the following Confraria Vintage Ports: 1982, 1994, 2000, 2003, 2011 and 2017.
The Port Wine Messe focus on providing the opportunity to taste the last declared vintage, this time 2020, but also includes several older vintage ports and special category ports. In general 2020 is a quite good year. It is not classic, but in general it is better than the two previous vintages, 2018 and 2019. Tasting notes of Vintage 2020 that we have tasted so far are available on our Vintage 2020 page.
2020 is a very special year. It is now 45 years since Sten (co-founder of this web site) and his wife fell in love with Vintage port. Every Christmas since then, the family have enjoyed Vintage Port with Stilton cheese – great tradition! Many years have passed by and the two daughters in the family grew older, both getting married to beer and whisky lovers (sighs), none with experience of port wine (sighs again). Sten had at that time only been drinking beer just once in his life and did not fancy it at all. He thought whisky was drinkable and since then we in the family have enjoyed quite some decent whiskies together. The two sons-in-law, Jörgen and Stefan, learned to love Port Wine and in 2011 we started this web site together.
Christmas time also resulted in other traditions within the family. The whole family have been celebrating the 23rd of December together for 22 years now (giving the opportunity to celebrate with other family members over the coming days of Christmas), but of course we have often also celebrated the following days of Christmas together.
In 2003 Sten decided that his family, including sons-in-law, should taste some old Vintage Ports on the 23rd of December when the family was celebrating. We have been tasting some quite fantastic port wines since then on our Christmas gatherings and were looking forward to doing the same this year. This Christmas, with the Corona, we were not able to celebrate Christmas together as usual. We hope next Christmas gives us a few more days together so we can drink the Vintage Ports for both 2020 and 2021 together.
Often we tried to taste ports with an age of 100 years. This has been possible for some Vintages even if some of the years are very difficult (for Sten impossible) to find.
2014 December 25: Taylor 1935(bottled by Fearon Block) and Croft 1914(This bottle of Crofts 1914 vintage Port was shipped by pipe and bottled at Chester’s Brewery Co, Ardwick for the manager Mr George Smith Thomson’s personal use. It has not been rebottled./ G. Hoban 1989)
2011 December 23: Hooper 1951 and Cockburn 1911(This bottle has belonged to Jorge Guillermo who was married to one of the Dutch princesses and sold his wine cellar at Christie´s when they divorced, but no label on the bottle, just a Cockburn label around the neck where Cockburn 1911 was written.)
Despite all cancelled tastings, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we managed to hold a Great Tasting of Vintage Port 1985 in our Wine club in Malmö, Sweden in September. 1985 is ranked as the best Vintage in the 1980s and expectations were of course high with. We had managed to collect 59 different Vintage Ports, a quite complete setup with all the big houses represented.
At an age of 35 years the Vintage should now show its full potential and it certainly did. There were many wonderful wines and some of them are actually still appearing as young with impressive tannins and great structure. Fonseca was the winner of the tasting. Dow’s and Taylor’s were not so far behind. All three are wonderful today and will remain so for several years.
We got the chance to evaluate the Vintage Ports from this newcomer in the port wine business. Newcomer? Is that true, you might think. Well, most of you, who know your Vintage Ports, and the port wine quintas, have probably heard about or even tasted Quinta da Côrte under the Delaforce label which has been produced since the 1970’s. The last Vintage Port under the Delaforce label was however made in 2004.
In 2013 Quinta da Côrte was bought by Philippe Austruy most known for his career in the health care sector, but also owner of Commanderie de Peyrassol in Côtes de Provence and the Château Malescasse in Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux. After restoring both the vineyards and the main buildings the first wine was released in 2013, a Douro red table wine. Today the Quinta, located in the Cima Corgo, in the Douro Valley, is offering visitors wine tastings, dining possibilities and a guest accommodation.
Together with the Quinta the wine stock in the cellars were included and this made it possible to also start producing and selling port wine. Currently the port wine portfolio is made up of a 10 years Tawny, a 20 years Tawny, LBV’s from 2014 and 2015 and Vintage Ports from 2015 and 2017.
Back to the Vintage Ports. The first Vintage Port under the new management, and from wine maker Marta Casanova, was the 2015 Vintage Port. This is today still very young and dark ruby in colour. The bouquet provides a rich fruity and powerful touch of dark berries like mulberries, blueberries, black currant and dark cherries. Still of course young in taste with loads of dark berries and massive but lovely tannins. Although we like it today, this would definitively improve even more with some years in the cellar.
The 2017 is the latest Vintage Port from the Quinta. The style is recognized, with very dark ruby colour and dark berries in the bouquet. This time the bouquet is accomplished with some peppery notes and fresh herbal notes. The Port is very fresh in the mouth and provides a long very balanced taste with soft but noticeable tannins. The tannins appear a bit more rounded than in the 2015 but there is definitely ageing potential for this youngster as well.
We have had a marvelous month of November. It started with the Port Wine Festival in Copenhagen, which we’ve already written about, and ended with the Port Wine Fair in Leverkusen, Germany organized by Axel Probst and Christoffer Pfaff, World of Port.
Ramos Pinto had a Master Class tasting focusing on Tawny in Copenhagen (read about it here). In Leverkusen we once again had the great pleasure of meeting Ana Rosas from Ramos Pinto. This time the focus was on Vintage Ports and the importance of the different grape varieties used. Ramos Pinto has always been one of the companies leading the research on grape varietals. Joao Nicolau de Almeida, former winemaker at the company started to plant grape varieties separate, something that was not common at that time, and also bottled single variety wines from different vintages. All to better understand how the different grape varieties contribute to the final blend. These single varietal bottles are not for sale, they are only used for Ramos Pinto’s internal reference. Remember that Vintage Port is bottled already when two to three years old and then the final blend must already be made. So it was very interesting to get the opportunity to taste some of these single varietal bottles of Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Roriz from 1982 together with the released 1982 Vintage Port.
This wonderful Master Class was rounded off by a magical white port from 1884, directly from Ramos Pinto’s cellars!
The Port Wine Fair in Leverkusen is focusing on the latest Vintage and this year we tasted about 60 different Vintage Ports from 2017 and we have now tasted more than 70 different 2017 Vintage Ports, a very great vintage indeed. Some of us are unfortunately too old to have the opportunity to drink this memorable vintage once it is matured, many years from now. We think there are too many houses with incredible vintages this year to be mentioned them, so just buy your favorite producers of the vintage and enjoy it. Our tasting notes are as always available. Check out all the 2017 Vintages we have tasted here. Last time in history seeing three consecutive such great vintage years as 2015, 2016 and 2017 was 1820, 1821 and 1822 if we remember correctly.
Now we are looking forward to Christmas, when we usually drink very old
vintages (often > 100 years old). That will be nice indeed!
For Vintage Port lovers like us the last year’s Port Wine Festivals have been exciting with three fantastic vintages in a row, 2015, 2016 and now the latest released 2017 Vintages. At this years festival it was possible to taste more than 20 Vintage Ports from 2017, more than ten from 2016 and 8 from 2015. There was also an impressive range with more than fifteen older Vintage Ports with at least fifteen years of age. From 2017 we especially liked Warre’s from Symington’s followed by Churchill, Wiese & Krohn and Quinta da Romaneira, but many smaller companies and some companies better known for their tawnies definitely impressed us as well. Some of these were Burmester, Kopke, Messias, Pacheca, Quinta da Sequeira, Quinta da Santa Eufemia, Quinta dos Mattos, Vieira de Sousa and Vista Alegre. As usual you find tasting notes and our ratings for all Vintage Ports we tasted here on our web site.
To honor that Mr. Henrik Oldenburg have arranged the Port Wine Festival for more than 30 years, Ramos Pintos led a master class with extra focus on the 30 year old Tawny. Master blender Ana Rosas of Ramos Pinto, and her cousin Jorge Rosas, CEO of Ramos Pinto wanted us to understand the enormous effort and persistent work over several decades that is needed to create these old wines.
Following the instructions by Ana Rosas we elaborated and blended our own 30 year old Tawnies from a range of base wines directly from Ramos Pintos cellars. Finding the balance between old complex heavy wines and younger wines with fresher notes and vivid acidity to create the perfect balanced wine is indeed a work of art. We can only conclude that our attempts led us closer to the goal but still far from the final blend by Ana Rosas sold by Ramos Pinto. Actually Ramos Pinto is one of the best producers of tawnies with indication of age.
The newest released Vintage, 2017, is already claimed to be a fantastic Vintage. Following the excellent Vintage of 2015 came the even better 2016. So when the word started spreading that 2017 was also something extra, it was almost too good to believe. Three good Vintages in a row! It was therefore with great expectations that we went to the so called Preview Tasting of the 2017 hosted in Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen. Three of the largest and most renowned port wine companies, Symington Family Estates, The Fladgate Partnership and Quinta do Noval had joined forces to introduce their new Vintage Ports to the market.
Our general impression is that the Vintage is indeed worth all the hype. The extremely dry weather conditions in 2017 resulted in small grapes and a low yield. In fact all companies compared the 2017 Vintage to the legendary 1945 when it comes to the dry growing conditions and the early harvest. We can confirm that the wines in fact show a greater concentration in the fruit compared to 2016, but it is a bit too early to judge one of these Vintages superior to the other.
Symington (Wine maker) and Dominic Symington (Director) from The Symington
Family Estates presented the following Vintage Ports from 2017:
Cockburn– General impression is that this is one of the best Cockburn’s in a long time. The style is the more dry classic expression that we have learnt to love in old Cockburn bottlings. Tasting notes.
Dow’s – Another port in the dry style. As always the intense dark fruit is impressive in young Dow’s and this is certainly no exception. Tasting notes.
Graham’s – Here the concentration of the Vintage becomes apparent in the rich aftertaste. Fantastic wine that is so well balanced that it is surprisingly enjoyable already today, but please, keep your hands off for a few decades!! Tasting notes.
Graham’s The Stone Terraces – This is actually quite similar to the ordinary Graham’s but with a bit more focus on the fruit, definitely one of the best from the Vintage. Tasting notes.
Quinta do Vesuvio – Perfectly clean and nice black fruit dominates, not one of the most powerful but really elegant and nice long balanced finish. Tasting notes.
Capela da Quinta do Vesuvio – Extremely packed with dark berries, terrific concentration in the fruit and tough tannins. One step up in everything compared to the ordinary Vesuvio. Tasting notes.
Warre’s –As usual appears a bit sweeter in style but great structure and firm tannins. Very pleasing sweet dark fruit, floral notes and chocolate. Very easy to like already today. Tasting notes.
Bridge (CEO) and David Fonseca Guimaraens (Head Winemaker) from The Fladgate partnership
presented the following:
Croft – Classic style of the house with good fruit, some elegancy and eucalyptus. Quite easy to drink and like already but there are of course plenty more to come with storing. Tasting notes.
Quinta da Roeda Serikos – The first Vintage made from a small plot of old vines in Quinta da Roeda, the main Quinta of Croft. Again with eucalyptus hints in the nose. Shows a really good concentration in the fruit and will be interesting to follow. Tasting notes.
Fonseca – As always huge power in the fruit and heavy weight tannins. This is one of the more closed wines at the moment and definitely needs time. But as always the quality is on top when it comes to Fonseca. Tasting notes.
Krohn – Since the Fladgates took over Wiese & Krohn in 2013 the Vintage declarations have been kept to the generally declared Vintages and after 2011 only 2016 and now 2017 have been declared. Nice to see that the brand is kept and is still used also for bottle aged port. A bit lighter than most of the other but still an excellent wine and normally a bit more affordable in price. Tasting notes.
Taylor – Interesting to compare to the Vargellas Vinha Velha. The Taylor is a classic style Taylor that will certainly be recognized for its elegancy with floral notes and violet. Quite massive tannins and a lovely aftertaste. Tasting notes.
Vargellas Vinha Velha – Made from grapes harvested on old vines growing on a small plot in Taylor’s Quinta da Vargellas. Fantastic depth in the fruit and outstanding long lasting finish. This is also one of our absolute favorites in the tasting. Tasting notes.
Seely (Managing Director of AXA Millésimes) and Carlos Agrellos (Technical
Director) of Quinta do Noval presented the following:
Quinta do Noval – As usual Noval impresses not by power and tannins, instead it is the complexity, elegancy and balance that is the hallmark of their wines, and this absolutely fulfills our expectations in that sense. Tasting notes.
Quinta do Noval Nacional – Nacional is legendary for a reason, it has delivered some of the finest wines of the 20th century. After a little weaker period in the 1980s there is now again reason to keep an eye on Noval Nacional. The 2016 Vintage released last year is fantastic and the new 2017 Vintage Port is indeed one of the top from the Vintage. Tasting notes.
Quinta da Romaneira– There is no doubt that since Christian Seely took over as Managing Director also for Quinta da Romaneira, the ambition to restore the vineyards to top quality. The latest Vintages shows that they are well on way but it is still a bit lighter in body compared to many of the other wines in the tasting. Tasting notes.
To celebrate the Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th anniversary of The Wine Society 18% in Malmö, Sweden, we decided to have a special tasting. Unfortunately 1993, when the Society was founded, was a horrible year for Vintage Port and only one producer declared, Quinta da Romaneira’s single quinta Quinta das Liceiras. So to get a proper tasting we decided to add all the 1992 Vintage Ports as well. So, it ended up with a proper Jubilee tasting of 24 Vintage Ports in total.
On November 8 we conducted the tasting with 16 attending participants. The tasting was held in two flights and it was semi-blind.
It was with great expectations we went to this year’s Festival in Copenhagen. Not only because we were looking forward to taste some 2016 Vintage Ports, the latest generally declared Vintage, but also to learn more about the Colheitas from Andresen in a special tasting with the owner of Andresen, Carlos Flores dos Santos and their wine maker Alvaro van Zeller.
Andresen are producing both Colheita and Vintage Ports, but according to Carlos they have always considered themselves of being a Tawny and Colheita house. After participating in this tasting we can understand why. Vintage Port lovers as we are, we have of course tasted many of their Vintage Ports, and even if they are good they are not competing with the best in that category. Their Colheitas on the other hand are indeed very good and in this tasting we got the chance to taste two Colheitas from each decade all the way back to the 1960’s, and on top of that two older fantastic Colheitas. 1937 Colheita bottled already in 1980, meaning it had about the same time in wood as on bottle. This was a great wine, showing elegancy, complexity and a quite light body, but with a long lovely finish. The last wine was more recently bottled Colheita 1910; actually it was bottled when 100 years old in 2010. This wine has an enormous concentration and a fat lovely aftertaste which never seems to end. Indeed a top quality Colheita!
Carlos Flores dos Santos and Alvaro van Zeller
In the open tasting we focused on the Vintage Ports and we found some interesting new producers we never got the chance to taste before. Dona Otilia, Martha’s, Boeira and Lacrau were new to us and we also tasted Quinta da Oliveirinha from Alves de Sousa for the first time. The latest Vintage 2016 was quite well represented and some of them are very impressive, we especially liked Sandeman and Dow’s but there were others that also impressed on us like Churchill, Kopke, Barros and Quinta da Romaneira. Even if 2016 is generally declared and 2015 is not there are for sure some really good wines made from 2015 as well. One that we have been very impressed by since we tasted it the first time last year is Niepoort Vintage Port 2015, and once again it shows that the best from 2015 can match many of the 2016 Vintage Ports.
Overall this year’s Festival shows that port wine is more popular than ever in Denmark. There is a huge assortment of all kinds of port available from many devoted and passionate importers, many of them with great knowledge of Port in general and there is always something new to learn when talking to them over a glass of port. So a big thanks to all of you for all the generosity, both with wine and knowledge. We are also of course sending our compliments to Mr. Henrik Oldenburg for the great arrangements. This is indeed one of the highlights on the year for port lovers like us.
We have been lucky enough to participate in two Great Sandeman tastings together with George Sandeman in the last six months. The first one was in London in May at the Big Fortified Tasting where George Sandeman held a Masterclass tasting together with wine maker Luís Sottomayor. The following vintages from Sandeman were tasted:
10, 20 and 40 years Tawny, LBV 2011, Founders Reserve and Imperial Reserve Tawny.
Two brilliant and exclusive tastings guided by George. It was very interesting to hear his analysis of the development of Sandman’s Vintage Ports over the decades. These tastings showed that Sandeman is again making top quality Vintage Ports. It will be interesting to follow the latest Vintages from 2007, 2011 and 2016 and see if they develop into the same kind of fantastic wines as for instance the 1963 and 1970.
We are very thankful for the opportunities to taking part in these two wonderful tastings. Tasting notes are on our Sandeman page.