Taylor's Port
Visiting the one of the leading Port companies in the beautiful Douro region of Portugal, part 2

One of the greatest of all Port houses, Taylorís have a long history and can boast a string of firsts. They introduced the hugely successful LBV style with the 1965 Taylors LBV, and were the first to release a single quinta Port (1958 Quinta da Vargellas). Vargellas, acquired in 1893, is the heart of the operation, located in the Douro Superior, with its own railway station.

Initially three separate properties that were acquired between 1893 and 1896, it is a beautiful estate with 67 hectares under vine, including some very old blocks. There are a range of varieties planted, of which the most significant are Touriga Nacional (25%), Touriga Francesa (25%) and Tinta Roriz (22%). Recently, Vargellas annexed a neighbouring Quinta, S„o Xisto, which has been extensively replanted, and has added another 46 hectares of vines.

But two Quintas in the Cima Corgo, Terra Feita and Junco, are also significant contributors to Taylorís Ports. Quinta de Terra Feita is located in the Pinh„o Valley, and has 61 hectares of vines. Itís a south-facing property, and the wines it makes are an important component of the Taylorís vintage Ports. Key varieties are Touriga Francesa (27%), Tinta Roriz (22%), Tinta Barroca (13%) and Touriga Nacional (13%). Nearby to Terra Feita in the Pinh„o Valley, Junco has 46 hectares of vines, with a fairly even spread of six key Port varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinto C„o, Touriga Francesa and Tinta Barocca.

The Taylorís Vintage Port is consistently superb, with concentrated dark, brambly fruit, firm structure, and the ability to age for many decades: it is one of the very best of all, and the 2007 is truly great. Single Quinta Ports from Vargellas and Terra Feita are usually released in undeclared years, and can be very good indeed. Taylorís also boast an icon wine: small quantities of a thrilling Vargellas Vinha Velha are also made in some years (just five vintages since 1995 have been released).

After some messing around on boats in the Douro, it was time for us to do some foot treading at Vargellas. The foot treading of Port  is a bit of living history. Traditionally, the inhabitants of a rural village will come to stay at the Quinta during the harvest period. The same village comes back year after year.

During the day they will pick the grapes, then, in the evening, it is time to work the lagares. Initially, the treading is systematic. Then, after a couple of hours, someone gets an electronic keyboard out (in the past this would have been an accordion), strikes up a tune, and everyone dances. Interestingly, the two lagares we were treading in had quite a different mood to them. One was full of happy, dancing treaders. The other had fewer people in it, and they werenít as jolly. The village glums? Or had there been a row?
A film: foot-treading at Taylor's

Foot treading is more than just a gimmick, though: it serves the purpose of extracting lots from the grapes fast (the wine is only on its skins a few days before it is fortified and pressed), in a really gentle fashion. The human foot has been hard to replicate, and Port companies have put a lot of work into ways of working the skins and must to achieve the same way without the labour-intensive foot-treading operation.

THE WINES

Taylorís Chip Dry White Port NV
Lemony edge to the nose. Pure and fruity with nice clean fruit. 87/100

Taylorís First Estate NV
Vivid colour. Very bright, fresh, focused fruit with a peppery edge. Lovely freshness here. 88/100

Taylorís Late Bottled Vintage 2003
Cedary, spicy warmth to the nose. Nicely dense, spicy and quite complex. 88/100

Taylorís 10 Year Old Tawny
Complex and spicy with nice soft texture. Lots of interest here. 89/100

Taylorís 20 Year Old Tawny
Lovely complexity on the nose: earthy, spicy, cedary. Some raisiny sweetness. The palate has lovely balance between the sweetness and the acidity, with complex minty, herby spiciness. Complex. 93/100

Taylorís 30 Year Old Tawny
Smooth, alluring, brooding spicy nose. The palate is warm and complex with lovely sweet, nutty, citrussy, spicy fruit. Refined and elegant. 94/100

Taylorís 40 Year Old Tawny
Super-elegant and smooth on the nose. Very concentrated, rich and sweet on the palate with lush spicy, herby complexity. Smooth and yet powerful. 93/100

Taylorís Quinta de Vargellas 1998
Woody, cedary complexity to the nose. Soft, smooth, lush fruit on the palate with a cedary edge to it. Mellow and quite complex. 91/100

Taylorís Quinta de Vargellas 2005
Vivid, intense, sweet fruit nose with some bold, spicy, herby notes. The palate is lush and pure with lovely vibrant fruit and good structure. 93/100

Taylorís Vintage Port 2003
Very deep coloured. Complex cedary, spicy nose is warm, rich and intense. The palate is super complex and intense with massive concentration of spicy, dense, earthy fruit. Lots of structure here. 95/100

Taylorís Vintage Port 2007
Amazing aromatics: violets, dark cherry, black fruits. The palate is pure, vibrant and fruity, yet structured. Dense, fresh, yet superbly fruity, this is almost perfect. 97/100

Taylorís Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha 2007
1995 was the first release of this super-cuvee, and the other releases so far have been 1997, 2000 and 2001. Itís a small lot from the oldest part of the Quinta. Wonderfully aromatic: floral, bold, spicy and quite fine. The palate has amazing lively, spicy complexity to the dense, structured fruit. Incredibly complex, this is approaching perfection, with wonderful structure. Dense, complex, tannic and yet so elegant. 98/100

A short video of Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas:

 

VISITING TAYLOR, CROFT and FONSECA

Introduction: visiting Taylor, Croft and Fonseca in Portugal's Douro
Taylor's Port, and Quinta de Vargellas
Fonseca's Port, and Quinta da Panascal
Croft Port and Quinta da Roeda
The Nogueira Winery: making Port
The Yeatman, a new luxury hotel in Porto
The 2008 single Quinta Ports from Taylor, Fonseca and Croft
Photos from the Douro Valley, Part 5, Taylor's Vargellas and Fonseca's Panascal
Photos from the Douro Valley, part 4
Photos from the Douro Valley, part 3, Croft's Quinta da Roeda, Douro

See also:

Photographs from Quinta do Noval
Photographs from Quinta do Noval's Nacional Vineyard
Tasting Noval Nacional and Vintage Port back to 1962
An older report on Noval's table wines
The new Douro (series)
Vintage Ports from 2007 assessed
Vintage Ports from 2003 assessed

Wines tasted as 09/09  
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