A decent showing for all styles at the Silver and Bronze levels, though the Gold List this year remained the preserve of pricier tawny and vintage entries
Although the number of entries in this category is growing, it hasn’t seen the same kind of explosive growth as some other sections of the competition. There was also puzzlement on the part of the tasters at the relatively small number of ruby, reserve and, particularly, vintage ports sent in. Perhaps the port shippers don’t see these as important in the on-trade. And maybe they’re right to be wary.
‘We only list two ports: one very old tawny and Taylor’s 1985. Not many people order them,’ said Charlotte Jonasson, in an analysis that must have had the shippers in Vila Nova de Gaia shaking in their cellars.
That said, entries of LBV and, particularly, tawny were pretty impressive. And since both manage to combine quality and finesse at easier-to-sell prices, it’s perhaps no surprise that, as with last year, these were the wines that our tasters generally liked the most.
However, there were plenty of peaks and troughs in the less-oxidised styles.
‘It was obvious to tasters which wines they liked,’ said Caspar Auchterlonie.
‘Alcohol was an issue for the ports,’ said Emily O’Hare. ‘It has to sit in the wine; when it overrides the fruit it’s a real turn-off.’
Tawnies were the most successful category, with five picking up medals. ‘When you think about food the tawnies have more potential,’ said Robin Felstead, Ignite Group. ‘That nuttiness and complexity really comes through.’ Great value, too. In the end, none of the cheaper ports got beyond Silver, though the high number of wines at this level suggests some decent strength in depth.
‘[The Quinta do Infantado Tawny] was sensational for the price,’ said one taster, losing all sense of decorum in their enthusiasm. ‘It was just f***ing great.’
This wine, in fact, provoked lengthy discussions at the final stage of judging. Some sommeliers loved it, while others thought it was not Gold List standard. Perhaps unluckily, given the lack of affordable alternatives it topped out at Silver.
No such controversy over the Duque de Bragança 20 Year Old Tawny. ‘What can you actually peel away from it? I can’t find anything wrong with it – it’s perfect,’ said Ivan Dixon. ‘Seamless. I love it,’ added Charlotte Jonasson.
‘It’s that fabulous tawny-style nuttiness and lushness. It’s got fruit but we’re almost going towards amontillado territory,’ chimed in Kyri Sotiri.
“It was good to see some elegance coming through in the tawnies. It shows that people are being clever with the blending. ” Angela Reddin, Team Leader
Fonseca Guimaraens 1996, Douro, Portugal
£21.88 @ Mentzendorff & Co
Big and rich, with a strong streak of coffee and chocolate, this offers great balance and a long, persistent finish. ‘The soft coffee and berry aromatics are followed by good prune fruit, a hint of spice and the alcohol sits well in the wine,’ said Mark Deamer. ‘Great value for money and good “by the glass” potential,’ said Ivan Dixon.
Duque de Braganca 20 Year Old Tawny NV, Douro, Portugal
£23.91 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Undoubtedly rich and complex due to its age, it is never cloying, thanks to judicious amounts of young wines added during its maturation. ‘Great, sweet, almost iced, dessert wine, rather than port due to its age,’ said Irina Atanasova. ‘It has stunning fruit,’ said Angela Reddin. ‘There’s a soft feel, with good freshness,’ said Charlotte Jonasson.
Quinta do Infantado 10 Year Old Tawny Port NV, Douro, Portugal
£8.59 (37.5CL) @ Liberty Wines
Top marks from Irina Atanasova for this complex tawny, with its rich flavours of nuts, Christmas cake, sweet dried fruits and espresso. ‘There’s a good level of bitterness,’ she observed. ‘Simply great.’
Ferreira LBV Port 2000, Douro, Portugal
£10.32 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
‘Huge, big and bright,’ said Emily O’Hare, ‘with lots of fruit, spiced fruitcake and nuts. Lots
of ageing potential.’
Krohn Colheita 2000, Douro, Portugal
£10.61 @ Boutinot
Dried figs and raisin flavours rub alongside chocolate, honey, caramel and sweet, dried apricots. Sweet but with an elegant finish. ‘Very intense,’ said Ivan Dixon.
Fonseca Crusted NV, Douro, Portugal
£13.18 @ Mentzendorff & Co
Plenty of sweet, dried fruits alongside caramel, honey, chocolate, espresso and orange blossom. Sweet and fresh on the palate with good tannins.
Quinta do Vallado Tawny Port 10 Years Old NV, Douro, Portugal
£18.26 @ Bibendum Wine
Classic aromas on the nose, the beautiful, aged complexity continues onto the palate, with Christmas cake, caramel and sweet, dried fruits. ‘Wonderful length,’ said Angela Reddin.
Delaforce Vintage 1992, Douro, Portugal
£32.90 @ PLB Group
Serious yet in its youth, the judges were agreed, there was plenty of ageing potential in this bottle. The fruit is bright and juicy with good acidity. ‘Great freshness that lasts,’ added Charlotte Jonasson.
Krohn LBV 2005, Douro, Portugal
£8.36 @ Boutinot
This is smooth and balanced with sweet plummy fruit, raisins, nuts, some mocha notes and a rich finish. ‘The palate has a silky feel with added peppery spice,’ said Charlotte Jonasson.
Delaforce His Eminence’s Choice 10 Year Old Tawny NV, Douro, Portugal
£13.60 @ PLB Group
Showing its age – to great effect – this offers plenty of rich nut flavours alongside raisins, dried figs and apricots. ‘A good balance of alcohol and fruit,’ said Robin Felstead.
Quinta da Romaneira 10 Year Old Tawny Port NV, Douro, Portugal
£15.12 @ Liberty Wines
An elegant style of tawny, with almost sherry-like flavours of Christmas cake and dried figs. ‘Great balance,’ said Irina Atanasova.