A mighty row of bottles were waiting, when The Vintage Port Club recently invited to another tasting. We were celebrating the 50th year’s anniversary of the Vintage 1963, which is among the best vintages ever. It was born a classical year, as the Danish port lover Henrik Oldenburg writes in his brilliant book about port.
In most of the vertical tasting’s I have attended, 1963 has performed very well and it normally gets the highest score. This was a horizontal tasting, and I was looking forward to see, which port houses took the lead. We had 10 different bottles out of the more than 40 declared: Fonseca, Grahams,
, Dow, Sandeman,
Warre, Cockburn, Croft, Quinta do Noval and Constantino. The last label is
today part of Ferreira, but as far as I know they only use it for their brandy.
The port was made from the vineyards that today belong to Quinta do Crasto. Taylor
All in all the 30 participants drank 1000 years of port! And to be honest, there was less in the spittoons that normally, when we gather together in the club…
Here are my impressions of the evening:
Constantino: Nice and inviting from the beginning, but it did not improve that much further. Dark, a bit slow in the nose, with red berries and brown sugar. Some spirit and a long tail with pepper. Perhaps lacking some debts, but it did well among the big houses.
Quinta do Noval: Dark brown with a light rim. Growing in intensity with raspberry and strawberry in the nose. Needed some time in the glass, but still light compared to later vintages from Noval. I have heard that Noval 1963 is passed its best days. Even that it did not kick that much, this bottle was still alive.
Croft: Light mahogni. The first impression was bad with chlorine in the nose. After a while it changed into the more typically Roêda-style with pine and some strawberries and cherries. Sweetness and fruit. It had its own style, but did not impress me like it did, when we had a Croft-tasting this spring.
Cockburn: Dark red brown and very closed in the beginning. A nice bouquet with red cherries and some vanilla. Improved very well and made its way to my top 3. Nice acid, sweetness and fruit in good balance. Some smoky notes and a good aftertaste. One of the biggest surprises of the evening.
Warre: Very unclear and light colour, due to a bad bottle. But the bouquet and taste was not that badly ruined. Cherries and some fruit, but weak and disappointing this evening.
Sandeman: An impressive red colour. A god smell of Cherrie flowers and a bit blackberry. A taste of sweet cherries and still with power to last. Another good surprise. With a bit more depths and perhaps a broader pallet it could have made it to the top.
Dow: Brown and very close in the beginning. Cherries and other red berries in the nose and the taste, but some pine and mint as well. Dry and elegant in the style and with good freshness and acid, but perhaps a bit to less fruit. Nice tail.
Grahams: Dark red brown. A heavy smell of fruit and plums. Potent and a good structure with nice sweetness and fruit and some chocolate. Powerful tail. A very nice glass too, which ended as number 2.
Fonseca: Very closed and disappointing after the first sip. Needed time and air. Dark with red notes. Cherries and raspberry, a bit spicy with some tobacco notes. Improved a lot during the evening.
After the tasting we voted for the winners of the evening. With 30 people we were divided into to teams with different bottles, and there were some significant differences in the votes.
had a lot of point in the first team,
and less in the second. Croft had no votes at all in the first team, but quit
some in the second. And the same goes for Dow. Considering my notes I guess it
is not surprise that I was part of the first team. Taylor
All together the result was:
- Taylor with 46 points
- Grahams with 39 points
- Fonseca with 35 points
- Croft with 14 points
- Noval with 12 points
- Constantino with 10 points (a bit of a surprise)
The bottles were opened about 2½ hour before the tasting and had about 1 hour in the glass. The wines were not served blind.
My overall conclusion is that Vintage 1963 still is one of the best years ever in port history, and with a good variation in the style and still with the houses characteristic. Mature and ready to drink. Some of them can last longer too, but not all. And I am pretty sure, that those bottles that did not perform well that evening, would have been splendid wines if they were tasted alone or in a vertical tasting.