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Wine Reviews

Into The Douro With Four Port Wines From Taylor's: Fine Ruby, Fine Tawny, Taylor's 10 Year Old Tawny Port & Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port

 

We have a set of Taylor's in the house! Make it a Port house!

Well Taylor's is amongst the oldest and most well-regarded Port houses up in the Douro Valley in Portugal making fortified wines. They've been around as long as 1692, and as you might expect from bring around for over 330 years, they've seen some things! But beyond that, Taylor's is quite a pioneering force in the Port scene, having introduced the now commonplace styles of Late Bottled Vintage and Dry White Port.

 

 

In those 330 years, it is rather remarkable that Taylor's has not only managed to see the opening up of the Douro Valley to Port-making, but has also seen revolutions and wars, and no shortage of historic figures having made their way to Taylor's 1700's built cellars that remain its home today. Through it all there was never a moment of certainty that the Port house or even the category of Port wines would make it till this day, and yet Taylor's has grown ever larger and greater in esteem.

Obviously we can't cover all 330 years, but we'll give you the highlights so we know the iconic Port house a little better.

 

 

Taylor's is first and foremost a family-run British-established Port house that finds itself it the historic left bank of the Douro Valley in Oporto, Portugal. It was established in 1692 by a British merchant, Job Bearsley. Bearsley had settled his family in Portugal, and each successive generation of Bearsley's would pave greater inroads to Port-making. In the early days, foreign merchants would simply get into the city, procure Portuguese red wines and then export them for sale. Yet, it was the Bearsley's that became the first English wine traders to make their way up the then uncharted Douro to get closer to where the wines were made. The Bearsley's would figure that because of the Douro's schist heavy soils that were nutrient rich and had high water retention capacities, that these wines could be fortified and aged for far longer to create more richness and depth. They would eventually establish the first British-owned property in the Douro, the Lugar das Lages, which is today still where Taylor's cellar tours are held!

 

 

In another instance of Taylor's having tided some pretty difficult treacherous times, in the early 1800's during the Napoleonic Wars (yep, that Napoleon), the French army was fast taking over Spain, and any British person would not be safe, with any British-owned assets deftly seized. Oporto's British wine merchants would quickly evacuate and head back to Britain, most of whom were forced to leave behind their Port assets. Taylor's would find a savior in the form of an American employee of Turkish descent, named Joseph Camo.

As Camo would remain safe from the French, he chose to remain put, helping to ship as much wine back to Britain. In what might seem fitting of an action movie, the British merchants first had the difficult task of convincing ship captains to sail into a soon to be overtaken Oporto, yet when the ships finally arrived, they were met with torrential rain and a flood that disallowed the ships from embarking. When the ships were finally loaded by Camo with wines, they were stuck and could not head out to sea - the French army would seize the ships but thankfully could not stand the weight of the huge barrels. They were held back sufficiently long enough for British forces to arrive and defeat them, securing the wines!

 

 

When every other British merchant had left, Camo was still buying up wines up until 6 days before the French arrived, and would resume just 21 days after the French were defeated! The enterprising Camo had allowed Taylor's to secure a huge headstart on the other merchants, and thus gave Taylor's a massive reserve of the highest quality Port wines.

Yet you might be wondering - where did the name "Taylor's" come from? After all no one up till this point had the surname Taylor. The name of the storied Port house actually comes from Camo's colleague back in London. Joseph Taylor, who's last name eventually became the name of the Port house, was its London manager who had been liasing with Camo who was in Oporto. The Oporto office was responsible for procuring the wines, whilst the London office was responsible for sales. When Camo had left the company, Taylor would take the reins of the company and eventually become its sole owner - hence the name!

 

 

Over the next century into where Taylor's is today, the Port house would continue to grow and expand - today it inhabits three prestigious vineyards in the esteemed Upper Douro: Quinta da Vargellas, Quinta de Terra Feita and Quinta do Junco; it also acquired other major historic Port houses including Fonseca, Croft and Krohn. The house would also come under the leadership of the Yeatman's, who were originally wine merchants from Dorchester, and had been long time customers of Taylor's, and when the opportunity arose, they would take the helm of the company.

Today Taylor's continues to reside in its original estate - the one purchased by the Bearsley's, and produces the entire range of Port wines, red and white, and of every style that exists.

We'll be trying 4 of Taylor's red Port wines today - the Fine Ruby and Fine Tawny, as well as 10 Year Old Tawny and 20 Year Old Tawny!

Let's go!

Taylor's Fine Ruby Port Wine - Review

We'll start with the youngest of the lot - the Fine Ruby. This is a blend of Port wines aged for around 2 years in large oak vats in Taylor's cellars. It's made with 100% Touriga Nacional varietal red grapes.

 

Tasting Notes 

Colour: Dark Ruby

Aroma: Heavy on the stewed prunes, plums, figs, black raisins, wafts of vanilla sauce. It's got a good richness without being overly dense or heavy. It's in fact rather fresh and vibrant, and not too syrupy despite the concentrated dark fruit reduction.

Taste: It's rounded and sweet, big richness with a good hefty body that is bouncy and again doesn't sink. It's got a nice freshness and vibrance and isn't too syrupy, with the sweetness being quite gentle. There's some milk chocolate coated raisins here. More of those stewed plums and prunes, also some blackberry jams. It's very cohesive and well-integrated as a singular note.

Finish: Light tannins here, a gently receding wave of sweet of concentrated plums, raisins and blackberries. 

 

My Thoughts

This was a very solid fruit forward Port that's fresh and vibrant, with a good bouncy body and richness all around that is not overly syrupy, dark or heavy. In fact it leans towards a brightness within the Port category. That said, I do tend to find that the palate could carry more complexity and depth - this is exactly what it is, an entry point to Taylor's and is therefore unsurprisingly a very much middle of the road Port wine. 

For the price and availability, this is a good entry point to start with. I do particularly like how this is abit of everything, definitely is well-made, and with a nice vibrance without being overly sweet. 

Taylor's Fine Tawny Port Wine - Review

Next we come to the other major style of Port wines - the Fine Tawny. The Fine Tawny is aged for up to 3 years in oak casks that mature in Taylor's cellars, after which the individual casks are blended together before bottling. Also 100% Touriga Nacional red grapes. 

  

Tasting Notes

Colour: Ruby

Aroma: Dried dark fruits - raisins, dates, plums. It's alittle more dry, alittle more concentrated and raisin, with some light spiciness. Cacao nibs here and about as well. It's rich and dense, less juicy but more focused.

Taste: Leads with some cough syrup and eucalyptus, heaps of black raisins - it's really rich and syrupy, making it really sweet. The dark berries here are less juicy but more forward and muscular. It's accented by some light strawberry jams, black licorice, nutmeg and abit of cacao. Fuller-bodied.

Finish: It's leaning brighter here - cherry fruit leather, dustings of cocoa and nutmeg.

 

My Thoughts

This comes off alittle more raisin-ed, more focused and also leans towards a more dry profile. It's got more complexity in the way of cacao and spiced, and into the finish, more red fruit jams and pastes begin to emerge, giving it a nice transition. It is less juicy and plush, and could be more cohesive in its spectrum of flavours, but that said, I find it more concentrated and less boozy.

I couldn't necessarily say if someone new to Port would enjoy the Fine Ruby or Fine Tawny more - they're both good starters if you're just curious about Port wines. I think the Tawny edges out better because its less boozy than the Ruby, but I do find that in turn it's not as juicy and plush which would come across more approachable. My preference was for the Tawny which I felt was more balanced. If you're just getting your toes wet, I'd start with the Fine Tawny.

Taylor's 10 Year Old Tawny Port Wine - Review

Now we have the 10 Year Old Tawny Port - this is fully matured in seasoned oak casks, after which they are blended and bottled. This is made with a combination of Pinot Grigio and Tinta Roriz varietals of red grapes.

 

Tasting Notes 

Colour: Ruby, Light Burnished Copper

Aroma: Leads with Pei Pa Koa cough syrup, eucalyptus, raisins, assorted traditional Chinese herbs. It's syrupy, with quite a herbal theme to it, definitely sweet on the nose, with a good freshness. With time it turns alittle more confectionary with some milk chocolate and butterscotch, slight rancio nuttiness too.

Taste: Medium-bodied here, not as syrupy as on the nose, even if it is still pretty sweet. Some of that cough syrup persists, stewed plums, cooked figs, dates, dried cherries, leather, light tannin bitterness. Again slight touches of toffee weaved in, with crushed walnuts. There's a bit of wet oak in the background, but very fine and gentle.

Finish: Light sweetness, still quite sweet and candied, light bitterness, dried plums, red licorice, backed by alittle bit of brown sugar.

  

My Thoughts

This was definitely a step up - it's much more refined and elegant. The flavours are less bulky and heavy, yet the flavours remain focused and concentrated, just with less sweetness attached to it. In that sense, I find it more elegant and having more structure. It's less boozy too, which is really the key to keeping it very approachable and something you could keep drinking without it tiring the palate. I find that there's also more finesse and control in how it expresses the flavours - it's not BAM! or splattered all over, instead you get a more nuanced and detailed sense of the flavours and its composition.

At this point in Taylor's stable, you start to really see the finesse come through in Port wines. That said, it's also less big and in your face, and the freshness is not immediate as with the Fine Ruby and Fine Tawny - here it's a little more subtle and so if you're just starting out, this might not be the most apparent in terms of giving you a sense of the Port wine style.

Definitely a solid Port wine here - I'd say for about 50% more the price (which makes it under US$60 where I'm at), it's definitely 50% more the upgrade in quality. If you're familiar with Port already or you're bringing something to dinner - this is a good choice. Having tried the range of Taylor's, this was my favourite of the day.

Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny Port Wine - Review

Finally we've got the 20 Year Old Tawny Port. Like the 10 Year Old, this is also fully matured in seasoned oak casks, which is then blended and bottled, the main difference being obviously the duration of ageing. This is made with the full gamut of Port grape varietals - Tinta Cao, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca.

 

Tasting Notes

Colour: Copper, Amber

Aroma: Definitely richer here, it's got more depth and comes across as a soft aromatic plume. It's also more herbal, with some cough syrup, eucalyptus, as well as dates, prunes, toffee, brown sugar, light rancio nuttiness of crushed pecans and walnuts. It's like a pecan pie, really. Also abit of mocha.

Taste: Still medium-bodied, it's not dense, it's very plush, with a good brightness and silkiness. It's rich but remains fairly vibrant with a bounciness. More earthy here, tobacco leaves, old wood, it's alittle more syrupy but still not close to cloying. Lots of cooked prunes and dates, figs, bits of dark chocolate, some toffee too. There's some fruit acidity towards the finish.

Finish: The acidity continues, it gets alittle more dry. It's back to the cough syrup that persists, sweet but not cloying, it's a nice receding syrup sweetness. Some of that pecan pie and mocha here too right into the finish.

 

My Thoughts

This has a really good richness and body - very plush and bountiful, it's very silky and with alot of depth. It's cohesive and rounded, very much full bodied and big in flavour. The rancio is more prominent here, expressed very well in the form of lots of nuttiness which combined with the sweetness comes across as baked confectionaries with lots of candied nuts. The oak also plays a bigger role here but remains soft and subtle, I wouldn't even call it oaky, but you do feel it giving abit more of the tannins in the background, which feels like there's more structure here too. This makes me feel like it could easily age for another 20 years and maybe then the oak might actually be a major note. 

Interestingly, I find the 20 Year Tawny to be somewhere between the Fine Tawny and the 10 Year Tawny - it's got the rich plushness and juiciness of the Fine Tawny, but also more structure and nuance. In that sense, it's not as detailed or as precise as the 10 Year Tawny, but it's also not as austere. It's less raisin-ed in that sense! I thinks this takes the best of both and combines it, which keeps it being approachable but also demonstrating finesse. That said, I found myself enjoying the 10 Year Tawny more for its more austere style that also had more structure.

 

Kanpai!

  

 

@111hotpot