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Port Stars

Vintage Port's Highest-Rated Wines Come From Fonseca, Graham, Quinta do Noval and Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman Vinnos SA
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 1)

It's also astounding how Fonseca vintage Ports remain hefty in style even after three or four decades of bottle age. For example, glasses of 1963, 1955, 1948 and 1934 are all full bodied and rich although the rough edges of youth have been slightly polished away.

Bruce Guimaraens, the man who makes Fonseca Ports, is rather dismissive of the purple prose that Port aficionados lay on his wine. "It's just big, bloody good vintage Port," he says. "That's the way I like them." This is not surprising, considering Guimaraens' stature. He stands about six-feet-three-inches tall and weighs 280 pounds. He is not a fellow who favors delicate Ports or anything else with a similar description.

Fonseca's vintage Port comes primarily from two quintas, or properties: Quinta do Cruziero and Quinta do Santo Antonio. They are located in the heart of the Cima Corgo, the best vineyard area in the Douro Valley for vintage Port. Depending upon the vintage, quality wines are purchased from a few nearby farmers as well. All the Port made at these estates is trodden or produced in lagars. Production of a given vintage averages between 8,000 and 14,000 cases. Fonseca has been under the same ownership as Taylor Fladgate since 1948.

Current vintages to buy and lay away in your cellar include '92, '85 and '83. Especially impressive is Fonseca '92, although the wine has not yet been bottled. Potentially as great as the legendary 1977 Fonseca, it shows masses of color, fruit and tannins at this early stage. It is currently being sold in the United States on a prearrival basis for about $435 a case.

The '77 Fonseca is still a "current" vintage; it should not be consumed until the next millennium to allow it to mellow a bit. The finest bottle of Fonseca produced since '48, it may become the shipper's greatest wine. It currently sells for about $65 a bottle. Recommended vintages of Fonseca to drink now include 1970, 1966, 1963 and 1955. These adult Ports have all lost their rambunctious youthfulness and are now smooth in style. They range in price from about $75 to $200 a bottle. Other readily available and drinkable vintages of Fonseca are 1980, 1975 and 1960, although I believe all three are fading and not worth the money.

If luck leads you to a bottle of '48 or '27--two perfect, mature examples of vintage Port--buy them. Drinking a glass of either vintage illustrates why Fonseca is the quintessential Port.


The name Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, or simply Taylor, is synonymous with superlative vintage Port. No other readily available vintage Port attracts higher praise or commands higher prices.

Great bottles of Port like the 1927 or 1948 Taylor have set the standard for many serious vintage Port aficionados. They are breathtaking wines to this day with layers of fruit character ranging from coffee and cocoa to dusky violets and berries.

Taylor vintage Ports always have an understated raciness. What they lack in power and richness, they make up for in finesse and pure elegance.

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