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The great port wines of Portugal

Fine wine: The Scion Port.

Grape Expectations

By Michael Robinson

In the 1600s a trade war broke out between France and England; Louis XIV restricted the import of English goods and then Charles II forbid French wines altogether. The Brits had to look elsewhere and they turned to Portugal.

To protect their wines during the rough voyage to England the Portuguese fortified them with a small amount of grape spirit, or brandy and gradually during the 18th century it became common to add the brandy during fermentation. The result was sweeter, stronger and more aromatic wines that became very popular and one of our world’s benchmarks for an extremely long life. An example is the 1855 SCION Port that we just sold out of (the good news is that we are flying in a few more bottles plus a Taylor’s 1863).

Long ago, in a book that I no longer remember, I read “No one should walk the face of this Earth and leave without first tasting a great vintage Port”. Wise advice indeed.

Before I list the vintage Ports that we have in stock let me respectively suggest that if you have any of those tiny “Port glasses”, that you put them in a blue plastic bag with your empty wine bottles and then use a regular white wine glass so that you can so much better appreciate the aromas and bouquet of your fine Port.

Also if you are buying an older vintage Port please stand it up for a few days before opening as it will have sediment. Carefully pour it in to a decanter as you hold a candle or flashlight behind the neck and stop pouring once you spot sediment.

Let us take a trip back with a wine that is only made in great years and takes considerable time to reveal its beauty, hence the custom of giving a bottle for a christening present, with the hope that you may be invited to share it on the recipient’s twenty-first birthday.

In case you are wondering why these historic firms have names like Croft, Taylor’s and Graham’s and not familiar Portuguese ones, it is because the English could see a good thing in the making and so moved in and set up business ventures to produce this new wine.

Croft 2011. Parker “92-95/100 blackberry, Seville orange marmalade, blueberries and dried figs, will fill out and become both gentle and generous with the passing years”. $96.60

Graham’s 2011. Parker “95-97/100 beguiling scents of blackberry, wild hedgerow, tobacco and cloves. It is utterly harmonious with pure black cherries, damson, marmalade, cloves and spices. Drink 2025 – 2055”. $122.55.

Taylor Fladgate 2011. Parker “96-98/100 multifaceted Pandora’s box nose that is mercurial in the glass and so much accessible in its youth, but don’t let it fool you into dismissing the seriousness or magnitude of this outstanding Taylor’s”. $110.00.

Croft 2003. Wine Spectator “96/100 gorgeous aromas of blueberries and dried flowers, velvety and round, long finsh”. $48.95 ½ bottle.

Graham’s 2003. Parker “95/100 violets, roses, spices and candied dark fruits. This opulently jammy wine assaults the palate with powerful, yet soft layers of oily, candied red fruits as well as tar and mocha. Drink 2030-2055”. $110.70 or ½ for $59.20.

Taylor Fladgate 2003. Wine Enthusiast “97/100 Inky purple this boasts a floral, wonderfully open and appealing bouquet backed by layers of rich fruit and seductive texture”. $55.35 a ½ bottle.

Quinta do Vesuvio 2001. This great single vineyard is owned by the Symington family of Graham’s renown and the Wine Spectator rated the 2001 95/100 and called it “sweet and pure with really lovely linear fruit”. $74.85.

Graham’s 1997. The Wine Spectator “95/100”. Now we are entering a drinkable age and this will be beautiful now and on until about 2025. $96.60.

Graham’s 1994. Parker gives this 96/100 and comments “Opaque purple colour that is fruity, powerful and rich with addictive hedonistic quality.

As always, this is showy, flamboyant and a great Graham’s”. Drink now and until 2035. $114.75.

Taylor Fladgate 1977. Parker scores this classic vintage from Taylor 96/100 and writes “Of all the vintage Ports, those of Taylor need the longest time to mature and even when fully mature they seem to have an inner strength and firmness that keeps them going for decades. Certainly the Chateau Latour of Portugal”. $256.60

Our Taylor Fladgate 1970 tops out at 99/100 from the Wine Enthusiast that calls it one of the greatest vintages of the past century.

Be mesmerised by it now or hold. Only a few bottles left at $257.90.

So please get out the Stilton, the candle, the decanter, the “white wine” glasses and the walnuts and let the party end with a tasting of historic proportions!


This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St. George’s (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits are available online at www.wineonline.bm