At Corney & Barrow every time there is a Port declaration we have a full tasting, totally blind, with scores recorded in a log of various tastings that have been done. The longest run of accurate reports relates to Port so it is important to keep it going. Many of the companies other records were sadly lost in the war. The last entry was for the 2009’s but to be honest that was only a part declaration. My last report of a fully declared vintage is here 2007 PORTS. I have always had a soft spot for Port as it is what got me into wine in the first place. The full tasting team was:

Alison Buchannan
Tim Stanley-Clarke Widely regarded as one of the leading Port experts in the UK with strong links to the Symington group of Ports.
Godfrey Spence – Author of the Port Companion and a very experience Port taster and lecturer.
Adam Brett-Smith
Paul Masters
David McClaren
Will Hargrove
Tom Bird
Guy Seddon – MW student.

Scoring, in a departure from the norm, is out of 10 which in itself led to much debate. 8 out of 10 being a better score than 16 out of 20 in my view. Anyhow on with the ports. Listed below are my notes and mine alone. I think the over riding patern in this tasting was the absence of any “shockers”. I have put the other tasters scores at the end of the note and then a comment after knowing what the wine was.

The line-up with Alison giving instructions

1) Quinta do Vale Dona Maria – 6/10 – Aromatic fresh, not overly Port-like, richly viscous on the palate, good but a little simple, not quite my style. Other scores 6, 4.5, 7, 6.5,4.5,5,6.5,7.25. I was a tiny bit disppointed after the reveal here.

2) Skeffington – 6.5/10 – Slightly animal with a dash of frazzles on the nose but then a lovely vibrant palate, tannins a little over hard and aggressive. Other scores 6,4,6,7.5,5,8,7,7. Not a house I know well but a decent effort.

3) Pintas – 7/10 – A very “Bordeaux En Primeur nose”, fresh and not savoury. Good fruit on the palate. Overall high-toned with balance and elegance but not masses of depth. Other scores 7,6.5,6.5,6.75,8,8.5,6.5,7.25. A good and consistantly well scored Port. Potentially very good value.

4) Smith Woodhouse – 7.5/10 – Deep and dark nose but with freshness, nicely lush on the palate, a “bit of a tart”, flashy. Not overly complex but good. Other scores 5,6.5,5,6.25,6,8,6,8. A port that has shown well early on before (like Gould Campbell does, not made this year). Good.

Everyone actually listening

5) Quinta do Roriz – Corked – sadly no back up bottle.

6) Offley Boa Vista – 8.75/10 – Savoury, taut and big, may be a shade closed. Mouth coating but also fresh. Dark fruit to the fore, very good, serious, built to last, classical and uncompromising. Other scores 6,7,7,7.25,8,7,8.5, 6.75. I was the highest scorer but there was consistency amongst the score and two others were 8+.

The team (and aprons) in action.

7) Quinta di Noval – 8/10 – Nice, slightly green (not unripe) note amongst the fruit. Soft but with good structure, different from many, almost drinkable. Other scores 6,7.5,7.5,7,7.5,6,8,7.5. I, may be, expected more here. I like this and liked it’s own personality. Worth noting that there was a Nacional made in 2011.

8) Cockburn – 9/10 – Serious but beautiful nose, so so balanced. Dark fruit and savoury complexity on the palate. There is almost marked tannins but not quite, the balance means the tannin is good not OTT. Other scores 9,8.5,7,6.75,6.5,6.5,7.5,9. A good surprise given the perceived status of Cockburn. I like surprises.

9) Croft – 6/10 – A slightly rubbery almost dank nose, not that great a start. Good weight on the palate but otherwise not a complete port. A little forced? has someone tried a little too hard here? Other scores 8,4.5,8.5,7.25,6.5,7.5,7,8. No real consensus here and not my favourite. Croft is often thought to be lighter, this is not that at all.

It’s a sticky business!

10) Warre – 7.5/10 – Lovely nose, no rough edges, nice palate a little bit too red on the fruit side, a little spirity too. Other scores 8,7.5,8.5,8,6,8,8,9. My note doesn’t really match my score here which is strange and it seems to have gone down pretty well with the others so may be taster error (it was the last sample I tasted).

11) Churchill – 6.5/10 –  Dark, brambly, savoury and rich but dry and rich. Lacked balance but then a good length…slightly hard to be sure about.  Other scores 6,9,?,7.75,7.5,6,6,8.75. No real consensus at all here with scores from 6 to 9 and a ? Judgement reserved.

12) Sandeman – 6.75/10 – Initially hi-toned, then a little green, on the palate an explosion of fruit, a little crude and clumsy also a little hot towards the end. Other scores 9,8.5,9,6.75,8.5,6,7,8.5. Clearly I missed something here just didn’t seem very together to me.

13) Ferriera – Brambly black fruit and some savoury edge, good. Dense peppery and big with good grip but not harsh or dry. Refined in fact. Richness and length are great. Big, serious but poised. Other scores 9,6.5,9,7,7.5,6.5,7,7.25. My 9 was joined by 2 others, I was really impressed, nice to be surprised again.

14) Niepoort – 8.75/10 – Pepper and a little spirit, very primary and peppery character stays. Serious, dense and savoury, a powerhouse where the black fruit comes through on the palate. Other scores 8,8,6.75,6.75,7.5,7.5,9,8. I liked this for it’s power, no compromising.

15) Quinta do Vesuvio – 8/10 – Lovely lovely nose, very complete, not over big, almost drinkable now, some richness but a quieter style, low key. Other scores 6,9,6.5,6.75,5.5,8,8.5,9.25. Varied scores here but from a decent base, did well and if people have a run of Vesuvios this is not one to miss.

16) Dow – 7.75/10 – Refined, not extravagant on the nose, subdued? Good fruit on the palate, nice combination of red and black fruit, lively not heavy. Tannin appears lower but I think that may just be the fruit. An early drinker? Other scores 7,7.5,6,7,6,6,9,9.25. I have an emotional attachment to Dow, always have, just like the style which confused me here, the nose was subdued in a Dow style but the palate was far fresher and showier than I expected.

17) Graham – 7/10 – Waxy and slightly unpromising on the nose. Palate is ok but not expressive even a little medicinal. Balance ultimately but not exciting. Other scores 8,8,6.5,7.5,8,8.5,8.5,9.75. I must have missed something here just didn’t do it for me.

18) Fonseca – 7.25/10 – Fresh even elegant and racy. Mulled spices and fruit. Then on the palate the fruit is so red, almost no black, almost candied. A totally different style good length too but where’s the grip?
Other scores 9.5,9,9.5,7,9,6,9,9. With 6 people giving this a score starting with 9 my fear over the grip and slightly strange fruit profile is obviously not a problem.

19) Taylor – 8/10 – Serious, has fruit and savoury balance. Deep big and rich but not OTT. Mighty and masculine without charm (as yet). Other scores 6,7.5,8,7.25,7.5,7.5,8,9. In retrospect I am glad taylor showed this way, uncompromising and I fear I may have been a tad mean.

20) Niepoort Bioma Vinha Velha – 8/10 – Lovely black fruit, lively freshness, with some aniseed, I like, quite forceful, has personality. Other scores 8,9.5,8,7.5,9,8.5,9,9. Not a port I have had before, good.

My usual scribbles

21) Capela da Quinta do Vesuvio – 6/10 – Exotic, almost weird melon like freshness, a bit strange. All in all this was ok because there was good weight on the palate but I just didn’t really like it. Other scores 7,9,7.75,8.25,8,7.5,9,9. May be, again, I missed something here but I think not. I started tasting by tasting Port number 11 so that there wasn’t too much of a squeeze to reach samples so this was half way through my tasting where others were nearing the end.

22) Graham – The Stone Terraces – 9/10 – Lovely nose, decadent, expressive with just a drop of savoury seriousness. Some slightly candied fruit. All in all very fine, big tannins but in balance.  Other scores 9,9,7.5,7,6.5,8.5,9.5,9.25. It is great that this Port scored well but a pain as there is so little of it.

So my verdict – well going into any tasting expecting a lot is always dangerous but I thought the amount of fruit and the balance was very good in general. There were very few if any poor wines and that in itself is a very good sign. I enjoy the tasting massively. Two things struck me. Firstly, all wines really need tasting several times to make a sure assessment but I would say if you are only going to taste once then blind is sensible. Secondly the overall standard of Port seems on the rise, I loved the 2007’s as well when we did this tasting.
I think everyone needs to re-assess when to drink Port. It is too often either not touched for years, if you have a case why not have at least one bottle when it is young or it is left to the end of the evening when the senses are battered by all that has gone before. Give it a bigger glass too when drinking it! Now for a glass of Tawny I think.

The Port Log!