Visit to Porto and Douro: Day 1 Tastings at Taylors and Churchill

At the start of a research visit to Porto, my first impression is how distinctly the styles of the individual houses come through their old tawnies and vintage Ports (even though some of the houses fall under the same management in large groups). More detailed reports of visits to each house will follow, but in the meantime, here is the most interesting Port (or table wine) tasted from each house today.

Taylors 30 Year Tawny

I always see a significant jump in interest going from ten year to twenty year tawny, but sometimes the next increment of increased concentration going to thirty year is outbalanced by increased oxidative character. Tasting Taylors 10, 20, 30, 40, and the Single Harvest 1966 (effectively a 50 year tawny), for me the thirty year beat out the twenty year by a whisker. There’s a great sense of precision to the nose, the palate is sweet and infinitely smooth, and there’s just a touch more sense of the supporting acidity to bring crispness at the end. (The 1966 is closer in style to the 30-year than to the 40-year, and is infinitely refined.)

Fonseca Guimaraens 2013

This is a blend from all three vineyards that would go into Fonseca when a vintage is declared, so in a sense it’s a second wine representing the best lots in a year that’s not declared as a vintage. It’s sweet, ripe, full and approachable on the palate with chocolaty tannins at the end. A very nice opportunity to get the full style of vintage Port in a young wine.

Churchill Vintage 1997

The first impression is just how refined this is for vintage port, with a lovely sense of precision to the fruits, almost a sense of minerality demonstrating the good bones of the structure. Fine elegant black fruits are beautifully delineated, showing a seamless surface with layers of flavor underneath. This is certainly ready to drink but it will surely age another couple of decades becoming if anything even more sharply focused.

Douro Red Table Wine

Quinta de Gricha, Churchill, 2007
This comes from a field blend of 60-year-old vines in the Quinta de Gricha, that is, it’s a single vineyard red wine from the same vineyard that contributes to Churchill’s vintage Port. A warm fruit impression is softer and more aromatic than the Gran Reserva (which comes partly from Gricha and partly from other locations), with furry tannins giving a chocolaty finish. Black cherry aromatics are backed up by some spice notes. This shows a more savory direction than the 2005, which is more perfumed. It’s a very fine demonstration of the potential for table wine in the Douro.

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