Since my visit to Tio Pepe last year I became a very big fan of wines like Sherry, Porto and Madeira (as they are more or less similar products). So I figured now that I was doing a Portugal trip and stopping in Porto, a visit to a Port lodge is just obliged! I am of the opinion that if you do something you do it well and therefore if you want to visit a Port Lodge you visit one that makes a high quality product… which in this case lead me to the Lodge of Taylor’s or better Taylor’s, Fladgate and Yeatman as those are all 3 names of the founders from Taylor’s Port and the full name (FYI, this is still a family owned Brand). First things first, there are a few things you should know about Port wine before we can talk more about Taylor’s itself (although one can’t go without the other 🙂 ).
I already mentioned it a few times in previous posts , the wine itself gets made in the Douro valley where the grapes are actually picked and later in the process they will be transported to Vila Nova de Gaia to age. Of course there is more to it to make a Port. There around 48 different types of grapes that port makers use to make Port wines, in the case of Taylor’s they only use 10 of those4 white varieties and 6 red of which 30% is still pressed by trampling them barefoot (so not using a machine). The manual trampling is because it gives the best result, not entirely because of tourism. I’m sure you have already heard some people speak about Ruby or Tawny and maybe if you are lucky also about Vintage or LBV (Late Bottled Vintage), but have no clue what the differences are? Well let me enlighten your thoughts by briefly explaining it to you (trying to keep it as short as possible). The most important things to know is that the 2 big port wine “types” or “families” are Tawny and Ruby all the other terms used are usually indicating a special type of those 2…
Let’s start with Ruby (Vintage) that thanks its name because of its color resembling the color of the ruby stone/diamond . Ruby ages in large(old) barrels (in case of Taylor’s always wooden barrels) as they don’t want a hard wood smell/flavor in the wine. This wine gets made with the best grapes from good years.
LBV (Ruby style) stands for Late Bottled Vintage. LBV gets made every year from the best Ruby grapes. Once it is put in a bottle it won’t change or age further anymore. Best is when you open the bottle to decant it, otherwise there might get oxidation in the bottle and you will have some expensive vinegar :-). Also the difference with the Vintage would be just like the name indicates is that it is bottled later… It is also important that once you opened the bottle to drink it within 3 months if you want to enjoy it in the optimal conditions and maximum flavors.
Tawny on the other hand gets aged in smaller wooden barrels (French oak) giving them a slightly woodier flavor, but not too much as they use old barrels. Taylor’s also prefers their wines having a herbal taste instead of a wood taste. Tawny also gets made with a combination of grapes from different years. Differently than Ruby, Tawny does change over the years in the bottle, it will get a lighter color. Tawny is also best served a little bit cooler. It is also best to drink the Tawny within 6 months
Something you should also know is that Taylor’s doesn’t sell his used barrels like some other Port makers. They re-use their old barrels (they repair them of course) as when they are older than 60 years they don’t give any more flavor to the wines in them… the oldest barrel that still gets used is one from 1864… talking about an investment.
I think this is already a good base for you to know about Port, if you want the Port making process in more detail, please check following link.
The tour around the Lodge was nice, but tasting the finished product is even nicer (also if you do it in company of a real port specialist like Luis Carneiro). As I might have already told, is that Taylor’s Port house is part of a group of Port 3 port houses: Taylor’s, Fonseca & Croft. These 3 together are aka the Fladgate Partnership :-). Which made the tasting better as we tasted all Port from all 3 estates. This tasting taught us that although they all belong to 1 group, each one still has their own identity, tasts and uniqueness. This is first of all because of the location of each estate and grapes (see on map below), as the altitude, north/south location, types of grapes, etc… will have a big influence on the finished product.
If we would have to draw a line between the 3 different brands or give characteristics that make them different, I would say that Taylor’s is the most straight and stronger taste (less sweet taste), Fonseca a more rounder and more fruity (a nice cherry after taste 🙂 and slightly sweeter ) and Croft as the sweetest from all 3, but then again also very play full flavors… In general my preference went to the 20 (30 and 40) year old tawny Taylor’s ports and Single harvest Port from 1964 as my favorites because of their round, full and nutty flavor. My fiancée had a bigger preference for the Fonseca & Croft ports, I think because they were a bit sweeter and fruiter… and I think she definitely liked the 2009 LBV from Croft because of its chocolaty flavors :-). One thing is sure that Port wine is best for at the beginning or end of a meal as during it might become a bit heavy (minimum 19,5% alcohol). Like with all things, this is a personal taste… and my biggest problem like with all visits to vineyards is that I want them all in my collection 😦 . That’s it I’m moving to a warehouse 🙂 😉
FYI, please check following link to find out the best way to serve Port wines. I’m also convinced that if you are not used yet to drink Port wines the best is to start with the White or for example the Bin 27 by Fonseca or maybe using a Croft Pink in a cocktail (mixed with Tonic water, few leafs of mint and slice of lemon) . After this the next level would be the LBV and if you get used to it the vintages…
I did get hungry from all that tasting, so a “light” lunch at the Barão Fladgate Restaurant in the Taylor’s lodge (open for public). I followed our host on taking a succulent piece of Lombinho meat with a Port sauce, my fiancée on the other hand preferred keeping it light (although she made up for it with a dessert) and took the Turbot with sepia Linguini. For with our 40 year old Taylor Port we chose the perfect dessert for on a summer’s day, they heaviest (but definitely worth it) chocolate dessert from the menu: Chocolate cake with dark chocolate sauce, milk chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse.
PEOPLE, please stop seeing Sherry, Port or Madeira as old people drinks!!! Just try a good Port (or Sherry or Madeira) and a whole new world will be opening for you, one with lots of flavors and with lots of history!!! DO IT 🙂 you won’t regret it, I promise you (and don’t buy the junk Ports, buy a good one or try a good one in a place where you know they only serve good stuff)