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When it comes to wine, foot stomping is intense and ideal

This is the story of what some have called the greatest wine in the world.

There is, in fact, a saying that I love: “No one should walk the face of this Earth and leave without first tasting a great vintage port.”

Before the invention of the basket press, or the bladder or screw press and others, the traditional way to extract the juice from the fruit was to stand in the tank of grapes and stamp with your feet. Although this is rare today, let me tell you how this process is handled by two of the finest port firms.

If one is making regular red table wine the juice usually sits with the skins during “maceration” for six to twelve days, so that colour and flavour can be extracted before and during fermentation. With port, the desire is to stop this procedure before the yeasts have converted all the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide; all the “goodies” must be extracted in only two or three days. Foot stomping is ideal as it is intense, but also avoids any of the pips being split and releasing unwanted bitterness.

The team at Taylor’s still get in the tank and preform this rather exhausting exercise. Graham’s now employs robotic pistons in their tanks that are fitted with silicon pads with the density and texture of a human foot and which apply the pressure of a 155lb man. One story I have heard is that they resorted to this after finding all the workers stomping at one end of the tank while watching their favourite soccer team on a small television. Maybe the title of this article should have been “man versus machine”.

May I suggest that a perfect way to end a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner would be to share a fine vintage port or consider a bottle as a lovely gift. You are virtually guaranteed of a good year as, on an average, only three years out of ten are considered worthy of being made from a single year and overall, only two per cent of all port ends up being bottled as vintage!

Our 2003 Taylor’s Vintage Port scores 97 points with the Wine Enthusiast and 96 with Wine & Spirits, but as Parker’s Wine Advocate is the most recent review, I will quote this: “The 2003 Taylor’s has a lovely ripe, primal bouquet of blackberry, raspberry, vanilla and marmalade. The palate is medium-bodied with very composed, refined tannins that belie the heat of that summer. There is wonderful focus here and fine tension, the finish offering precise notes of black cherries, mulberry, cloves, and white pepper. This is one of the finest Ports of a precocious vintage.ʺ $106.55 (Stock #3111).

Parker notches the 2011 Taylor’s up another point to 98/100 and writes: “Multifaceted Pandora’s box of a nose that is mercurial in the glass: cassis first before blackberry and raspberry politely ask it to move aside, followed by wilted rose petals and Dorset plum. The palate is sweet and sensual on the entry, plush and opulent, with copious black cherries, Boysen berry and cassis fruit. It just glides across the palate with a mouth-coating, glycerin-tinged finish that has a wonderful lightness of touch, demonstrating how vintage port is so much more accessible in its youth nowadays.” $132.40 (Stock #3113).

If you would like an exquisitely crafted gift box containing a beautiful decanter of 1863 Taylor’s Single Harvest Port then my stock figures show that we have one left. Even after all this time, critics rate it even higher than any other I mention today. What an amazing treat! $3,795 – I have seen it for far more on the internet. (Stock #3121).

Taylor’s now own Croft and it is my understanding that they bought this very old producer, founded in 1581, as they wished to acquire their substantial stock of old tawny ports. We have 2003 Croft that is described in this way by Wine Spectator: ”96/100. Gorgeous aromas of blueberries and dried flowers follow through to a sweet, full-bodied palate. Velvety and round with lovely fruit. Long finish.” $101.45. (Stock #3069).

Our 1994 Graham’s was made in the days preceding the robotic system that was first used in 1998. Parker gave it 95/100 in a 2016 review where he called it “irresistible, sexy and intriguing”. $133.75 (Stock #3044).

According to James Suckling the 2000 Graham’s “smells like freshly picked orchids, with loads of ripe, clean fruit. Full-bodied, medium sweet and very powerful and racy. It lasts for minutes on your palate yet there's a balance and class to this vintage port. This is the greatest glass of Graham I have ever tasted, young or old. Best after 2014. 9,000 cases made – 98/100”. You can celebrate the dawn of a new century for $125.10 (Stock #3042).

Our 2003 Graham's, with 96 points from Wines & Spirits, is described in this way: “An expansive chord of mineral and black fruit flavour, this vintage of Graham's is all-enveloping in its sheer power. The tannins and the fruit strike a balance with dense, floral, purple-black flavours over crushed stone. That schisty grip of the tannin ends up feeling supple and curvaceous, defining the boundaries of the fruit rather than restricting it. The best vintage of Graham's in recent memory.” $115.70 (Stock #3019).

Another 97 pointer from Parker is our 2011 Graham’s that receives these comments: “Deep and complex with incredible intensity. Purple-black to the rim, this wine shows delicate aromas of violets blue, black tea from China, and ripe red fruit. In the mouth, initially offers powerful fruit. Reveals good acidity, balanced tannins and ripe, but not dry. The aftertaste is clean and perfectly defined. It's going to age well, evolving into a very balanced and elegant wine in the coming decades.” $137.25 (Stock #3040).

Things to remember. Please avoid those silly little “port glasses” and give the wine the opportunity to show its beauty in a larger glass, such as one used for chardonnay. Vintage port will have considerable sediment so it should be stood up for a few days before opening to allow it to settle, and then gently decanted. Just do this carefully and do not force it through cloth or a coffee filter.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published November 12, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated November 11, 2021 at 4:46 am)

When it comes to wine, foot stomping is intense and ideal

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