TN: A handful of vintage ports

Tasted up in Santa Fe in December 2008. Wines were not blind and were poured one at a time.

  1. 1983 Taylor
    nose: light green apple, light caramel, subdued, light cherry, light tar
    palate: full-medium body, earth, caramel apples,cherry, light spice
    Score: A+
    try again 2018-2023

  2. 1977 Fonseca
    nose: black earth, subdued, black fruits, light oak
    palate: full body, black cherry, very lightly hot
    Score: B+
    try again 2025

  3. 1985 Graham’s

  4. 1994 Graham’s
    nose: red fruit, warm earth
    palate: full body, red fruits, sweet fruit, lightly hot, light caramel
    Score: A
    try again 2025

  5. 1997 Dow’s
    nose: dry chocolate
    palate: full body, lightly hot, black fruits
    Score: A
    try again 2030

You liked the 83 taylors more than any of the other VP’s? Wow, that has to be a first. While the 1983 Taylors isn’t horrible, it has to be their weakest VP from a major declaration in the 80’s, if not in the past 40 years. That was one where they really missed the boat, but you can’t bat a 1,000 all the time. My recommendation would be to start drinking them up over the next 5 years. They won’t get any better, seriously. The 1985 Taylor’s is a little better but still no where near as good as what a normal Taylor’s is in a major declared year.

The others are very good Ports, I really like the '94 graham’s and that will be a show stopper many years from now. A shame on the '85 Graham’s, as that is a very nice bottling and one of the better ones from the vintage.

The 77 Fonseca doesn’t really surprise me. This has a lot of bottle variation for some reason. They can be either smoking great or just average at best. No idea why the variation, as this late in their life they shouldn’t be doing that. I stopped buying them as a result.

Of course you didn’t mention how long they were decanted for either. That can be real important, especially for the Fonseca.

You beat me to it Andy…I think you know how I feel about Taylor from the 80’s, a wasted decade.

I am a HUGE Taylor fan and was surprised as well by the result. It isn’t their best showing by a long shot, but it still showed well.

No decanting for any, popped and poured.

I would say the lack of decanting is probably the only thing that helped the 83 Taylors. With a good solid decant the others are all show stoppers, with the 1997 Dow’s not quite but still a very good bottle. From the brief Fonseca description I’d have to guess that would have been far better with about 6-8 hours of decanting under it’s belt. Vintage Ports, especially older ones, really do need to be decanted, makes a huge difference. Pop and pour is generally such a dis-service to them.

Indeed pop and pour is a disservice, but that’s the way the tasting was organized so that’s what happened. For parties at my place, we can decant hours to day depending on the exactly bottling to be opened.

That’s pretty much how I feel. I’ve thought the '83 Taylor’s very good at best, but never outstanding.

Unfortunately there is some variation with '77 Fonseca’s, but when it’s on it’s my favorite Port from the vintage. Strangely, I’ve had a high incidence of corked '77 Dow’s, like around 5 bottles.

A shame about the '85 Graham’s being corked. It and the Fonseca are the wines of the vintage.


Funny you mention the high corked rate on 1977 Dow’s. While I personally haven’t experienced it yet from my bottles I know of others who have had lots of corked bottles of this VP. It’s not as bad as the 1983 Cockburn’s VP issue, but it is obviously a problem and I won’t buy anymore bottles as a result.

Not much to add that hasn’t already been said. However, my eyes popped out of my head when I saw an A+ rating for the 1983 Taylor, of all VPs. No matter how many times I try it, even a few bottles from the Taylor’s cellar … I’ve never been impressed, even once. There WAS one very fine Taylor’s from the decade that does not get enough credit and that is the 1987 Vargellas by Taylor, which is one of my top wines of the decade, not just for Taylor. The other 3 that come to mind as tops of the 1980s are the Dow’s 1980 VP, the Fonseca and Graham’s 1985. Not much else stands out except the ultra rare and great bottle of non-corked 1983 Cockburn. But I’d rather play russian roulette with a .44 mag than with my remaining bottles of that Port.

I agree with Andy and others, whenever you can decant VP it pays to do so. Otherwise, the early “snapshot” is all but meaningless with Vintage Ports. With the young ones, like these … you are better off tasting them on the second day, than right out of a freshly poured bottle.

I still enjoyed reading your notes Jeff and we do need to drink some Ports together some day for sure!

It was about the people, a pre-holiday get together before we got sucked into the craziness of the holidays. Everyone brought a bottle and we had a nice evening.

Well, that is a tiger of a different stripe.

[deleted by J. Pfohl]

Why did you delete this? I read it before it was deleted, and, while moderately caustic in tenor, you did seem to make a valid point.

Well, I kept it so I could still post it. And thanks for your feedback. It was written to be sarcastic, and maybe that isn’t the tone I wanted to portray. So i’m giving myself a day to reconsider.

I don’t mind the vintage commentary, as I think it is valid and worthwhile for everyone to know.
I don’t mind the decanting commentary, as I also think it is valid and worthwhile for everyone to know.

I knew it, but others certainly could benefit from that knowledge and I didn’t provide it, so am glad others did.

But I took issue with the feeling I got, and I want to believe that feeling was NOT the intended message, that our tasting, my notes and how we did it was somehow wrong and the results were therefore not valid.

Our group has some of the most experienced tasters I’ve ever encountered, a few of us have sat for the MW exam, most people who visit and join one of our tastings are totally shocked when during a double blind tasting 1-4 people out of 15 will completely identify the theme and many of the wines. We know what we are doing, really. And I never like to be lectured to. Better educated, yes. Teach me. I’m all ears.

While Roy drinks more ports than I do, it isn’t by much. A good 25% of my collection is ports. The contributions were fine, and greatly appreciated as I was lax in talking about vintages, the lecturing is something I don’t do on other people’s notes, I don’t tell you that your famous Cab or Bdx could not have been tasty although it is obvious to me some people are label drinkers, I don’t tell you that 100 point score you reported was overinflated by 6 points or more, and I was pushing back against people doing that to me.

So I kept my slightly hot response in my back pocket…

Fair enough, I’d say. I try to do the same and imagine I would perhaps have reacted similarly.

Do you feel my more recent post still outlines the deleted post material?

OR do I need both?

I think the second one is already ok.