I had the supreme pleasure of tasting the soon-to-be-released Vintage 2007 Ports from a number of houses today. The weather in 2007 was quite cool in June and July but the first two weeks in September were hot enough to finish ripening. The vintage is marked by amazing freshness, great acidity, and silky tannins. It was an excellent gathering in San Francisco and not only did we get a peek at what should prove to be an excellent Port year, but also at least one previous vintage from each shipper.
Key take-aways from this tasting were that modern Vintage Port production technique has lead to the wines being more approachable upon release but still with enough acid backbone to last for decades. Another key find was to hear Port shippers are no longer to use government-issue brandy, but are now allowed to source their own brandy suppliers (most from Spain or France) in order to halt fermentation and fortify. (This increases the potential for high quality in itself.)
Here were my favorites, which are nearly everything I tasted...
The 2007 Vintage Port Declaration Preview Tasting
First the 2007s:
Croft 2007 - very dense fruit and has both a big dark color and flavor, tangible tannins.
Fonseca 2007 - Earthy with green herb scents of mint and menthol. Multi-layered red and black fruit finish.
Noval 2007 - The first whiff was like Beaujolais --really fresh and lively. Very clean but dark and dense fruit. One of my favorite 2007s.
Quinta da Romaneira 2007 - This wins for the most unusual Port of the day and I really enjoyed it. It smells like a fresh, still Touriga Nacional still wine --fresh and floral. Smells and tastes of roses.
Silval 2007 - Pretty and floral
Smith Woodhouse 2007 - Shockingly easy drinking for a brand new vintage Port. Lots of cloves and red raspberry scents and flavors. Jammy.
Taylor's Vargellas Vinha Velha 2007 - Stunning Port. This is from 100 year old fruit with so little fruit that it takes four vines per bottle. 100 years ago, it was common to plant mixed varieties to vintify together and the complexity of the 15 or so grapes in this blend shows beautifully. Highly recommended if you can find it. Only 200 cases were produced and the price should be around US$250 upon release.
Warre 2007 - This had both scents and flavors of a beautiful dark cherry pie. Fresh and vibrant.
Older Vintage Ports:
Dow 1980 - Quite fresh with lots of red fruit flavors. Very youthful still.
Fonseca 1985 - Highly perfumed (violets?) with hugely ripe and unctuous fruit. Tongue-tingling acids. Great.
Graham 1970 - One of the highlights of the tasting. Celestial perfume of flowers, cocoa powder and coffee. Lots of blackberry on the palate. Delicious. There is quite a bit of this around because Graham's moved a lot of this out of Portugal fearing political strife in the 1970s and a parcel of this was recently unearthed. Recommended.
Noval 2000 - Still fresh and clean, earthy with citrus peel overtones. Not as dense as the 2007. Delicious.
Quinta da Romaneira 2004 - Another surprise from this house, Fresh blackberry tastes with a hugely floral nose. Lovely and unusual.
Silval 1998 - Quite dense and almost peppery with generous tannins. This will last a very long time indeed.
Smith Woodhouse 1977 - Hardly browning at all after 32 years. Amazing mature flavors of caramel and vanilla. Terrific.
Taylor Fladgate 1977 - Smells like a linzer torte with mature fruit flavors. A bit of cocoa on the palate. Delicious.
Taylor's Vargellas Vinha Velha 2000 - Stunning in a more mature way than the 2007 with more eucalyptus aromas, spice, and blackberry pie. My top pick.
Warre 1983 - Scents and flavors of Dolce de Leche. Super-fresh with great acidity. Lovely.