The Douro is slowly passing by Croft´s Quinta da Roêda just outside Pinhão. But it has not always been like that. Until the river was dammed the water was lower and caused rapids where it makes a bend. The sound or the noise from the river, the arrueda, gave name to the Quinta.
The Quinta was founded in 1811 and was owned by Taylor in many years. But when John Fladgate´s daughter married one of the representatives from Croft, the Quinta changed hands. When Fladgate Partnership bought Croft and Delaforce in 2001 Roêda returned to the old owners.
Recently The Vintage Port Club in Denmark hosted a Croft tasting of most of the declarations since 1955 – including two Single Quinta Vintages from Roêda. Normally at a vertical tasting like this we divide it into two sections (as far as I remember it was Dominic Symington who introduced us to this method) – first the oldest half of the wines beginning with the youngest, and secondly the youngest half beginning with the oldest. Tasting the wines in this order means that we don’t start with the oldest vintages, but we will taste them before the youngest wines, that are full of fresh fruit and tannins and can ruin the ability to taste the full pallet of the old and more fragile ones.
The first wine was the 1985, a year that has brought some very good wines, but unfortunately more disappointments. This evening Croft was among the latter. Already somewhere between red and mahogany with a light brim. A weak aroma with a bit cherries and alcohol, low acid and just a bit fruit left. The 1977 was slightly better without making any impression. Brown, a hidden aroma of strawberry and nuts, very light and some pepper in the tail. None of them seems to have a long life in front of them.
This was sort of expected. Croft did not have the best reputation in the 70ths and 80ths, where it seems like they focused more on quantity than quality. From now on the wines could only improve and they did!
The next flight was two great Vintages, the 1970 and the 1966, followed by another two, the 1963 and the 1955. These wines were the peaks of the evening. 1970 was red brown, but still with fruit and acid for developing further. The nose was full of cherries and bit cinnamon and eucalyptus, fruit and well balanced with a nice tail. 1966 was the weakest of the four. Very light and tawny-like in the stile, some strawberries, raisins and a bit coffee. A lack of acid and a very short finish. Often 1966 has performed nearly as well as 1963, but not this evening. What the 1966 was short of was present in the 1963. A lot of power and fruit, mahogany and a good aroma of fruit and cherries. Still alive and kicking, elegant and well balanced and a long, pleasant tail. 1955 was a bit darker, but not as pleasant and comfortable in the nose. Cherries and a bit sharp at first, but a lot better after a while. It just needed some time.
The second section of the tasting started with Quinta da Roêda 1987 and 1995. 1987 was red brown with marmalade and pine needles in the nose. Nice and drinkable right now, but without depths and a broad pallet. 1995 was dark red and had a lot of fruit and tannins left. I think it will approve.
After that we ended with Croft 1991, 1994, 2000, 2003 and finally 2007. Now there was a lot of dark colour and fruit in the glasses, the last ones inky.The more light and perhaps more elegant style with cherries gave room for more powerful and muscular wines with darker berries, plums some coffee and tobacco and perhaps a bit pine needle. In generally they were a bit sweeter, deeper and with a burning tail. 1991 did not have that much depth and power, but a lot of fruit. 1994 was a bit closed right now. Unfortunately the 2003 I tasted was corked, but the report from the other end of the table was, that it was very good and promising. 2007 showed a lot of potential too.
My conclusion is that Croft in older vintages is very good, and that the quality is rising again, but in a bit more sweet and concentrated style. The head winemaker now is Taylor and Fonsecas David Guimaraens, who wisely has chosen to give the brand its own style. One of the first things the new owners did was to reinstall the old lagares at Quinta da Roêda – a fine symbol of the intentions to produce port of high quality.
After the tasting the participants voted for the best wines of the evening. A couple of corked and odd bottles disturbed a bit, but there was no doubt about the first place:
- Croft 1963 with 58 points
- Croft 1970 with 35 points
- Croft 1955 with 13 point
- Croft 1994 and Croft 2003 with 12 point.