This is an archive of tasting notes from participants in the UK wine forum, with notes from before 2005








UK Wine Forum - Fortified Wines part II

Port - Sherry - other Old World - New World

N.B. older fortified notes are archived here.

Port

03/04 Warre's 1985 Vintage Port
Double decanted five hours in advance. Bold strawberry red with a pink rim. The nose certainly opened up with decanting, and I found ripe dates and walnuts with a little alcohol. Sweet, ripe prunes, spicy but with a touch of hot alcohol on the finish, the length is certainly pleasant, tailing off after a few waves of entertainment. Although it was enjoyable, I have tasted marginally better bottles. 89/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/04 1955 Fonseca VP
This was one heck of a beauty. It's rich ruby color looks younger than most of the Fonseca '63s I've had in the past few years, with just a light bricking on the edge. It still has some floral notes that are like fresh rose petals with a soft Allspice essence that I found intriguing. Rich and plush with smooth, velvety waves of brambly blackberry that rushed the taste buds and hung out there with a lingering peppery finish. This little talked about Fonseca, is showing great depth and finesse for a wine that is nearly 50 years old. It had been almost 5 years since I last had this wine. This was clearly an excellent bottle and it was consumed to celebrate today's first day back to work (a new consulting gig). Sadly, I don't own a single bottle of this wine. I wanted to save a glass for tomorrow, but just couldn't do it. The '55 still has the rest of this decade before it approaches its peak. 97 pts. Roy Hersh

03/04 1966 Grahams Vintage Port - magnum
Double decanted nearly 6 hours before we started to drink it. All original labels, capsule was intact and I think it may have been bottled in Portugal. No shippers name or additional labelling shown. I tasted it as soon as I had opened it and it was very different to what we were drinking now. As soon as it was opened, the tightness and alcohol of the wine were to the fore, with a burning sensation like cough medicine being felt as it was swallowed. With aeration this had softened somewhat. Dark strawberry red with a red rim, the nose of fresh dates with alcohol and marzipan is certainly tempting. Powerful, showing plenty of sweetness and the characteristic alcoholic streak. To me this was still young and could easily last another 30 years+ in magnum. 95/100. I took home a few ounces to drink the following night and it was softer, less spirit was showing and the finished seemed sweeter. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

01/04 Quinta do Infantado "Porto 10 Years"
First of all this is one of the very driest styles of Tawny I have experienced. In that way, it delivers more like a Sherry. The color belies a 20 year old Tawny with a combo of hues that appear like iced tea and at the same time, cherrywood that fades to a yellowish rim. Aromatically this offers chestnuts up front but infused in the mix, there is the smell of mohogany that you find in an antique furniture shop which struck me as being similar to Verdelho Madeira, with a high-toned note that reflects the veiled alcohol within. The palate delivers a pleasant medium-bodied elegance that is reminscent of an Amontillado Sherry, with a dry and nutty profile and a slight bit of alcohol on the mid-length follow through. If that persistent alcohol was a bit more tamed, and the finish had greater length, this wine would have rated significantly higher. (Roy Hersh, USA)

01/04 1983 Graham
So much for this wine showing its age. There was a sweet cinnamon spice and pronounced violet aromas that swirled in the glass. This was not as unctuous as other bottles I have opened of the '83 but it was still med-full bodied. The scintillating ripe strawberry and plum flavors dominate this wine but were aptly complemented by thick waves of milk chocolate which made for quite a lush combo. The mouthfeel was carried by the full-fledged fruit flavors, followed by fleshy tannins flaunted on the fantastic finish. This wine is about half way to maturity at this point and is still deciding what it wants to be when it grows up. My crystal ball sees a nice long life ahead with lots of improvement to still take place. I would put this on a par with the 1970 Graham in terms of comparative quality and moreso, ageability FWIW. A solid wine and 94 pts. (Roy Hersh, USA)

01/04 Warre 1977 Vintage Port
A good friend from the USA who was here on holiday very generously gave me a bottle of Dow 1977 as a gift. I thought I would open this bottle to show him how well this 1977 Port was drinking. I have already posted a number of notes on this same Port in the last 18 months, so I will spare the details. Double decanted 6 hours in advance, it drank superbly over the remaining 4 hours of 2003. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

01/04 Grahams (Portugal) Malvedos Vintage Port 1995
So there I am finishing off the gorgeous 1993 Musar after my Christmas pheasant wondering what to do for the rest of Chritmas Day when a bright idea strikes me. Have cheese for tea and open that port. Well, we finally get Granny Fin (aged 89) off to bed at eight and on goes the Shrek video and out comes the stilton. I pour the port: inky black. In fact its a black hole. Light cannot escape from its gravitational pull! Mmmmm, its got a Will Smith "lets get figgy with it" nose. And the taste - "no rough edges on this" says Mrs.F. Which is a shame because by the end of the film, which is all of an hour, we'd drunk the lot! Wonderful! I must go back to Sainsbury's with another £18.69 (Daron Fincham, UK)

01/04 Warres Vintage Port 1977
Slightly hot finish, bit hollow and lacking in fruit. Maybe improves with time in the glass, but this isn't a very balanced port. G/VG (Paul Armstrong, UK)

01/04 1963 Croft Vintage Port
I could not detect any information to denote who the shipper/bottler was, so I came to the conclusion that it may have been bottled in Portugal. Decanted seven hours in advance, the light strawberry red core was clear and the rim was a light pink. The nose revealed semi-ripe dates and a nuance of aniseed. An alcoholic blast initially on the palate, the mid palate settled down to a warming dry date finish that was very respectable. The finish was a little hot and I sensed that this wine had certainly passed its drinking peak. Having said that, we all derived pleasure from it and this particular bottle was a better showing than the one I tried several months ago. 89/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 1963 Offley
Bright and vibrant appearance. Superb dried fruit and nut nose - christmas cakey, with really good concentrated spicy black fruit streak with tar. Good fruit on attack - concentrated and remarkably fresh. Very smooth and rich. Very classy indeed. Excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

11/03 Noval Raven Special Reserve
First impression on the nose is not quite clean (so could relate to the glass, although it had been used for red wine immediately before pouring this one), and the wine doesn't seem as integrated as it should. Nice sweetness on the palate balanced by some tannins, but slightly spirity and unbalanced. This wine seemed to improve somewhat in the glass, though, becoming more integrated with cheerful youngish fruit. (Jan-Tore Egge, Norway)

11/03 Noval LBV 1997 (unfiltered)
Quite dense colour. Dark fruit (a lot of it) with flowers and some understated oak. A rich wine with a good balance between fruit, sweetness and tannins. Lovely, even elegant. (Incidentally, I remember this from a previous tasting as much better than the 1998, which seemed a bit lean in comparison.) (Jan-Tore Egge, Norway)

11/03 Noval 10 Year Old Tawny
Pale for a 10 YO. Dried fruits and nuts, as one would expect, though with pecan nuts rather than walnuts. Well-balanced and delicious. Very nutty aftertaste. (Jan-Tore Egge, Norway)

11/03 Noval Silval Vintage 2000
Dark, ripe fruits and prune, some flowers and spices and a bit of leather. On the palate, beautiful spicy fruit and appropriate tannins. Easy to like. Very good. (Jan-Tore Egge, Norway)

11/03 Quinta do Noval Vintage 2000
My first proper Noval vintage, I must admit (previously, I'd only tasted Silval vintages plus LBVs, tawnies and a colheita from this producer). Quite intense, sweet fruit of brambles, plums and spice. Some kernels. Intense fruit and good weight in the mouth, too. Great tannins provide structure and balance. Hats off. One of the best 2000s I've tasted (though my favourite is still Niepoort). (Jan-Tore Egge, Norway)

11/03 Quinta do Noval Nacional Vintage 2000
Not unlike the straight Noval on the nose, but very different in the mouth. More (or should I say even more?) expansive fruit and tannins. The tannins, in particular, are in a completely different league from any other port I've tasted. Immensely fascinating. I just sat there for minutes swirling the wine. Maybe it's just as well that I knew the price of this before I tasted, so I didn't raise my hopes of buying too high. I would only have been heartbroken. (Jan-Tore Egge, Norway)

11/03 Warre's LBV 1992
Deep, almost black purple/red. Lovely pure nose revealing blackcurrant liqueur. Great concentration and poise, with lovely sweetness balanced by perfect acidity. Very high class, drinkable and appealing port. Very good indeed to excellent. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

11/03 Taylors 1970 Vintage Port - Corney and Barrow bottling
This bottle came from a complete case that I had purchased from Corney and Barrow with good provenance. The fill level was well into the neck. Double decanted six hours in advance, it showed a deep strawberry body with a pink rim. A nose of ripe dates, some herbs and a nuance of aniseed, with fine ground coffee as well. The palate also showed ripe dates with hints of fine coffee, dark chocolate and a very long finish. Still relatively young, this will gain complexity and last for at least another thirty years. I can't see myself holding onto them for that long! 95/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 Quinta do Noval Vintage 2000
a real glass stainer - impenetrable black in colour. It was therefore much to my surprise to taste the wine - full bodied++, sweet but not overtly so, and the tannins are ooooh sooooo, so fine, so fine in fact that you could almost drink the wine now even though it would be a waste of money as this wine is going to improve with 20 or so years in the bottle. (Phil Shorten, UK)

11/03 1977 Warre's Vintage Port (Douro, Portugal)
I double decanted this bottle about twelve hours earlier, during the half time of the now legendary Rugby World Cup Final that England won against the Aussies who were playing at home. I know that this had been kept in excellent storage conditions since being shipped to England in 1979. What better way to round off the evening then with a fine Vintage Port from the Silver Jubilee year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Deep strawberry red, the nose held a fine balance between fresh dates and aniseed. Good sweetness, the rich dates showed a beautiful length with plenty of grip. Still young, this will probably need longer storage time to develop more complexity. 93/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 Quinta do Noval 1997 Silval Vintage Port (Douro, Portugal)
Wet earth, a touch of aniseed, some sweetness and a dash of alcohol greeted my nostrils. The semi-sweet mouth feel showed soft tannins. The finish was simple and of a decent length. 89/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 2000 Silval Vintage Port (Douro, Portugal)
Opaque, the nose immediately said overripe raisins and prunes. Very easy to drink, velvet mouth feel, medium length. This will probably drink well for another year or two before closing down. 91/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 2000 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port (Douro, Portugal)
A creamy nose with liquid overripe raisins. A bold presence that powers across the palate. Reasonably tannic this showed an excellent length. This is clearly in the premier league of Vintage Ports from this vintage. 94/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 1977 Quarles Harris
Showing ok, not as well as the Smith Woodhouse or Warre that I tried a few months ago. Funny enough even though this had reached its 'liquore' type cough medicine stage and lost its initial purple robe (which the SW hadn't) and upfront fruitiness (unlike the SW). It hadn't lost much of its steely powerful tannins (unlike the Ware) and still had a serious bite to it. So I would say its unbalanced. (nick wise, UK)

11/03 1983 Dow
The decanting of this port was a bizarre experience. I was using a standard Screwpull and after a couple of turns there was no resistance and the cork started to push down into the neck. Panic commenced but I pulled up gently and came up with a whole cork in circumference but less than half an inch long. With such a small cork I approached the wine with little confidence but not a bit of it. The nose was rich with some spirit but the palate was delicious powerful and harmonious with a firm backbone and a long finish.very good/excellent (Paul Redfern, UK)

11/03 1970 Grahams Vintage Port
An Oporto bottling, this had been double decanted seven hours earlier. A deep strawberry red, the nose was a mix of mature dates and soft spirit. Although initially soft on the palate, the long length was still showing a fine streak of spirit. Still youthful, well stored bottles of this wine have decades of life ahead of them. 94/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 Cockburn 1983
Solid, middle of the road port. Quite well integrated, but slightly lacking in depth and grip. 3/5 (Lucian Holland, UK)

10/03 'William Pickering', Finest 20 Year Old Tawny
An even, pale leathery tawny colour. Good nose - deep extract of black fruits with dundee cake. Quite light attack, which then fills very well. Very soft and rounded. Excellent. Quite a bargain (which is not something you normally associate with BBR). (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old tawny
£68.75 from BBR. As you always find with the oldest tawnies, this is starting to draw colour back from the wood again and presents a darkening leather tawny appearance. The nose is quite tarry with dried fruits and nuts. Excellent on the palate, rich and round. But also quite tough, with a touch of rancio. I found this a little unsatisfying: unusually for a 40 yr old tawny, it's lacking a little in elegance, really quite a bruiser and, I find, just a little unsatisfying. Good. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1997 Quinta do Noval, LBV
£12.45 from BBR (£10.99 from Noel Young). Since visiting Noval earlier this year, this has become probably my favourite everyday port. Dark and really quite young in appearance. Warm dark fruit nose - very fruit driven indeed, with a nice citrus peel note. Lots of powerful, concentrated fruit on the palate. Complex, full and very interesting. Great character. Still a bit young: it could easily go on for 20 years, and Christian Seely himself prefers the Noval LBVs - which it is worth noting are all unfiltered - to have some bottle age: he is currently drinking the 94. Very Good Indeed. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1996 Quinta do Noval Nacional
A deep, viscous youngish very dark black purple couples to a rather ungenerous nose of blackberry, leather and tobacco tar. Very concentrated nose, which continues on the palate. Really deep, complex and brooding, with some bitter tannin notes. Extraordinary intensity, but a touch monstrous and brutish. Very Good Indeed. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1997 Quinta do Noval Nacional
Extremely dark and inky in appearance, with a rather closed, subdued nose. Excellent fruit - full and ripe. Extraordinary complexity. It is very easy to see how the 1997 LBV reflects this wine. Really well knitted, balanced and totally harmonious. Excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1994 Quinta do Noval Nacional
A young, dark purple. The nose is starting to open out: soft clean fruit with heavy hints of gentleman's club. Very open on the palate. Much fruiter style than the 96 and 97, and possibly a little simpler in character. Seems to me to lack the finesse of the 97. Very Good. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1963 Quinta do Noval Nacional
Trying very hard to be objective, and not swayed by its >= £1500 a bottle price tag ... A lovely bright, maturing colour, just browning and fading on the rim. A very distinctive nose - really quite different: tar and brambles are there, but there's also a strong note of De Kuyper's cherry brandy, and it's also quite fragrant, reminding me of a florist's shop and giving it a real vibrancy. Fascinating stuff. An entirely stunning attack. Is this really 40 years old? Very pure, incredibly youthful and vigorous. Mouth-tingling. Loads of fruit and plenty of gorgeously elegant tannic structure. Can't possibly be 40 years old !!! Bags of life left in it. Completely extraordinary. Way above being merely excellent. Quite outstanding. Have it shipped to my desert island, please, Ms Lawley. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1955 Quinta do Noval
The 1955 Noval (straight Noval, not a Nacional) has a really gorgeous colour. Very definitely maturing. A very interesting nose is slightly drying, with almost a tawny nutty note. Very soft and round. Really vibrant, yet very smooth. Lingering, though a touch spirity on the finish. Rather haunting after. Very excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 1974 Quinta do Noval Colheita
From a half, and unfortunately served a little too warm: I prefer my tawnies lightly chilled. A classic dried fruit and nuts nose. Very fresh and vibrant on the palate with a good balance of fruit, sweetness and acidity. Very elegant. Excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 Dow 1977
Dark and inky colour, but with no apparent youth showing. Dense, dark fruit on the nose - quite forward with violets, rose petals and a hint of Johnson's baby powder. Concentrated and deep on the palate. Huge depth with some of the floral notes coming though. Tannins develop in the mouth - quite big on finish and after. Lingering, bitter chocolate and burnt coffee flavours after. Plenty of life left in it. Seems to be a remarkably dry style. Very Good Indeed. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 Warre's 1988 Quinta de Cavadinha
What can I say simply stunning I just love the stuff.Deep,full flavoured ,round ,spicy,intense,warm and still retains grip, charm and poise. At about £20 single quintas are still great value for money . (Bernard Caille, UK)

09/03 Quinta da Noval 1970
Nutty, stewed tea and raison development - not quite the sweetness to back up this stage in its development. Palate somewhat disjointed acid and alcohol. Reminds me of Warres '66, but without the balancing sweetness. This bottle suggests it's OTH. But bottles will be bottles… (Nick Alabaster, UK)

09/03 Dow 1963
Unlabelled, vintage port from the cellars of a Cambridge College. A remarkably pale ruby red, not entirely unlike a 10 year old tawny. It has a big nose, which immediately assails with dried fruit, mixed peel and a sublte aniseed note. Interesting perfume to it, like violet cream mixed with dried figs and a plum pudding finish. On the palate, it is clean with the same intense dried fruit. But, boy, it's really rather spirity which undoubtedly detracts from the overall experience. There's a decent-ish finish with some length, though nowhere near as long as you might expect. Clearly this has quite a bit of life left in it, and it could probably do with longer to tame the spirit. Good, but a bit disappointing. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

09/03 1977 Warre
This was a mistake. I thought I had pulled a 1983 but the labels on these are rather damp and when I pulled the cork it was 1977. No matter, rich dark ruby red with glorious nose of chocolate layers of complexity wafting around, on the palate rich and powerful with a backbone to support the richness and a long long finish.Spirit very well integrated. Best bottle of Warre's I have ever had. Outstanding. (Paul Redfern, UK)

09/03 Fonseca 1977
Previously my only “perfect” wine to date. Ruby colour, with lovely fruitcake, raisiny nose. Sweet attack but spicy and rich. Harmonious wine, with a long, near-eternal finish which fades gently and sweetly. Outstanding. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

08/03 Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage 1997
19.5% L2352 (Noel Young). Dark raspberry blood red, showing a bit of youth on rim. Excellent nose - fruit laden with licorice and violet cream chocolates. Excellent attack. Actually quite light and with more than a bit of elegance. Huge depth of flavour. Lots and lots of rich ripe fruit. Very elegant, especially on the middle. No trace of spirit. Beautiful. Really very good indeed/Excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

07/03 Dow 1997 Vintage Port (Douro)
Expertly decanted seven hours earlier by its owner, I was looking forward to re-trying this Port from the great 1977 vintage. The label indicated that the vintage year was the Silver Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen. Dark red, the nose of dry figs, aniseed and alcohol was distinctive. Soft initially on the palate, the medium sweet taste of dry dates lingers beautifully for ages. 94/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

07/03 Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Terra Feita 1988
(Majestic, Oddbins £17.99 - £19.99) Good enough nose, with fruit and tar. Good flavours with a touch of complexity. Remarkably good on finish, though rather spirity after. Not especially sweet. But overall impression is that it's a bit unexceptional, and rather expensive. For me, it's a cheapened version of an excellent wine. (Ray Abercromby, UK)

07/03 Quinta do Noval, Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997
(Noel Young £10.99; €14.00 from Noval's shop in VN de Gaia) Very young, almost impenetrable youthful black. Very deep black fruit on nose with some licorice and chocolate (Green & Black's Maya Gold to be specific, as there's definitely a touch of orange peel in there). Excellent attack. Very intense fruit. Rich and satisfying with quite a lot of character. Very long. Maybe a bit spirity on the finish. Very good indeed, though would definitely improve with a few more years bottle age. (Ray Abercromby, UK)

07/03 Dow Vintage Port 83
Very young pure fruit flavours belie its 20 years. Almost sweet by Dow's standards. Very tasty, with receding tannins, but still rather primary for now. Happy to have a few more bottles of this though. E (Paul Armstrong, UK)

04/03 Grahams 1970 Vintage Port
Double-decanted 10 hours in advance and amazingly the cork came out in one piece. The label was an old style version with "Finest Reserve 1970" printed in red ink in the middle of the unrecognisable format. The colour was a medium rose red all the way to the rim. The nose had impressed me when I decanted it initially and now it was even better, with ripe dates and a dash of spirit. The taste was simply stunning. When it slid across the tongue, ripe dates dominated the soft alcohol with a dried fig character playing 3rd fiddle in the background. The mid palate softened even further but then held a pleasing plateau for ages, warming us ever so gently. Having tasted the outrageously flamboyant 1963 Grahams a few weeks ago, the 1970 does appear to be more refined and civilised at present. Make no mistake, this 1970 was a cracking bottle and I am looking forward to drinking my other bottles in the future. 95/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

04/03 Graham's 1975
This seemed an awfully light colour, but revealed a good deal of concentration on the nose, which to me was slightly tight, but a lovely prickly-rich, sweet mouthfeel, perhaps lacking some firmness and length. Good plus. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

04/03 Warre's 1975 Vintage
Spiritity initially. Oh, and stays spirity. Some prunes and chocolate on the palate, bit diffuse and loose, but nice sweetness on the finish. OK, but not my thing really (Stephan Muller, UK)

03/03 1963 Martinez
This cost about 90 pence on release. Lightest of all eight glasses by a margin. The light tawny and faded rose petal colour was not a good sign. A rush of alcohol, some aniseed and a faint echo of dry dates to the nose. It had an alcoholic punch to the palate, not much else going on and the finish fell off an imaginary cliff. Some tasters were sympathetic but for me it was definitely over the hill. 75/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Cockburn
Atypically, this was the darkest of all eight glasses, like a medium bodied Chateauneuf du Pape with a light pink rim. It was released at about the same price as the Martinez back in 1965. I smelled dried sultanas, prunes, figs and strangely fresh mint! It tasted much softer than the Martinez, with a warming mid palate and a tingling alcoholic finish that was slightly dry and rustic for my liking. Nice, but no second glass, thank you. 82/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Dow
Released at the more expensive price of £1.15 per bottle! The colour was a red/terracotta with a cinnamon edge to it. A nose of dry dates, soft aniseed (like Pernod). The mouthfeel was also soft, the very light mid palate led me to a hardly noticeable finish. Not much power left in this bottle. Interestingly this was the last vintage that was foot pressed at Dow. Drink up, 85/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Croft
Same original price as the Dow, this bright and relatively light coloured example smelled of high quality tea leaves and dried flowers (pot pourri). The moderately sweet taste showed some alcohol, but the long finish exhibited both dry dates and figs. Best finish so far, hence 86/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Quinta do Noval
Good colour in this glass. A sweet nose of rose petals, alcohol and dates. My taste buds focus in on the ripe dates, aniseed and alcohol. The finish is respectable if a tad spirity. The biggest port so far and the balance was good. 88/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Fonseca
In hindsight this should not have been pared with the Noval. Pretty much any port would have been battered into submission. An encouragingly bright red colour showed a cinnamon tinge around the edges. The nose was complex, with dry figs, tea leaves, dark chocolate, and pepper. It tasted like pure velvet as the tongue is enveloped with ripe dried fruits leading to a long warming finish. Easily the best so far and with plenty of life left in it. My second favourite of the night, hence 95/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Graham
A release price of £1.50 in 1965. A rich red colour. Powerful yet seamless nose of dry dates, some sweetness, and the alcohol is hardly noticeable. The taste is sweet, and the mid palate just gets bigger and bigger as time ticks by. I could easily have drunk another few glasses of this! Definitely the boldest personality and was my wine of the night (WOTN). Let's hope that the 2000 is as good as this in 40 years time. 96/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 1963 Taylor
The final port of the night, originally priced about the same level as Graham. This was bright and a deep red colour, which was a good sign for a port this age. The nose was floral especially violets, and also some almonds. The taste was very balanced liquid dates and figs, a touch alcoholic to start with. Any harshness disappears rapidly to leave a finish that softens into the distance, like the Lone Ranger on horseback, which was the opposite of the Graham. I have read that there is much bottle variation with Taylor 1963 and this may have been an underperforming bottle as I expected more structure and length on the finish. Many people chose this as their WOTN, but I begged to differ. 93/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

03/03 Graham's Malvedos 1997
From a half bottle and the first one opened was corked. I didn't taste this as I didn't want to lose the aftertaste of the Heimbourg but it had a good figgy, alcoholic nose. (Paul Anderson, UK)

03/03 1977 Warres
sublime end to a lovely meal. Completely mature now and proable will last me out if I decide to keep any..(I doubt it...It's too good to keep!!) Greaty depth of fruit and the balance between the hot spirity element was super. Trickled down my thoat a treat. This roundness and completeness in a port is something that I had not experienced in a port before..then again my taste buds are not tuned to Portugal. (David Bennett, UK)

02/03 Fonseca Vintage Port 1983
A lovely fading old wine. Pale, but with a very intense, complex figgy nose and the length goes on and on. **** (Joel Hopwood, UK)

02/03 1980 Dow
This is right near the top of my list of the "best half dozen vintage Ports of the decade." Always looking to stir up some controversy and this should do it. At the end of this TN, I'll list my 6 favorites in order of preference. I have touted this wine for years and like it just a bit more than the 1980 Taylor and Offley that are also quite good. I really believe this is the best wine from the 1980 vintage and I have tried quite a few. This Dow is still improving and may be even better than the 1983 which I also think highly of, not to mention the 1985. Dark and unctuous with depth and balance, this 1980 at 23 years old is preparing for maturity and I am looking forward to the development of the secondary nuances. The fruit is still very jammy, yet soft and this wine has great length on the finish. 92 points (Roy Hersh, USA)

02/03 1966 – Graham (from Magnum)
How can you not like this wine? It is so evenly balanced and possibly the only character which mars a few more points is the spirity-Graham (alcohol) quality that is immediately apparent but not overbearing. Otherwise, this is a complete vintage Port. The ruby-orange color is beautiful in glass with some minor bricking depicted on the rim. Once past the spirit, the exotic nose brings it full circle with cassis, ripe purple plums and a touch of cocoa powder. The palate is rewarded with not only great flavors and impeccable balance, but a sumptuous mouthfeel like a classy, aged Grand Cru Burgundy. I enjoyed the soft and gentle plum and prune flavors that had so much distinctiveness with some chocolate or mocha on the finish that was soft, lingering and filled with promise. A very good Graham and just nearing its peak. Will celebrate its 40th with panache. 94 points (Roy Hersh, USA)

01/03 Warre's 1977 Vintage Port (Duoro)
Drank at lunch the day before, but this tasting note is for 22 hours after it had been decanted. Still maintaining its dark colour, the soft nose reminded me of dry dates with a dash of alcohol. It tasted sweet and surprisingly still had a noticeably tannic grip. Persistent finish, some pleasure. 88/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

Sherry

11/03 Palo Cortado N/V, Emilio Lustau
Dark brown colour. Rich, nutty but slightly coarse nose with a fair bit of unintegrated spirit to it. Palette lacks the finesse and poise that I would hope for in a good Palo Cortado, slightly portly and earthy. Good rather than great. 3/5 (Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Manzanilla La Gitana N/V, Hidalgo
As always, a lovely, fresh clean, wine - salty tang, very smooth, very light. Superbly delicate for a wine with 15% alcohol. I can never have too much of this stuff :) 3/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Fino Napoleon N/V, Hidalgo
Quite rich yellow colour. Nose is somewhat less fresh than one might hope - slightly oxidised and somewhat mute. Very rich palette for a fino - quite strong almond nuttiness. Very hot spirit. Yeasty character a bit more apparent on the finish. Disappointingly clunky - I don't know whether this had been badly stored. But I suppose if you go for a richer, heavier style of fino, then this is not a bad wine at all. 2/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Manzanilla Pastrana N/V, Hidalgo
Another Hidalgo wine of which I never seem to tire. Like the La Gitana, only much more so - a real hit of a raw sea salt jumps out of the glass, but backed up by an ethereal richness and depth. Magnificient stuff! 4/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Amontillado Napoleon N/V, Vincola Hidalgo
Rich amber colour. Walnuts and lots of caramel on the nose, along with hints of very dried fruit (apricots? Oranges?) Nice delicate pungency to it as well. Very bright, very dry palette, with a lovely delicacy of touch and a wonderful long blossoming finish. Another excellent wine! 3/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Oloroso Seco Napoleon N/V, Hidalgo
Deep amber colour (perhaps a touch darker than the amontillado). Nut and caramel profile again, but more raucous, rougher and slightly deeper (not that much in it, though). Palette is rounder and richer than the amontillado, and hotter. Nice rich finish, but perhaps somewhat more direct and less fascinating than the amontillado. 3/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Amontillado Viejo N/V, Hidalgo
Another deep amber wine. The nutty, caramelly core here is overlaid with a beguiling, bitter, almost herbal flavour, perhaps a bit like slightly rancid walnuts (not unpleasant though) Whiffs of super-concentrated, pungent orange peel/orange fruit. Lovely balanced nose (actually more interesting than the Palo Cortado for my money). Palette is a little bit of a let down; I was bracing myself for a Del Duque like experience of mouth-puckering intensity, but as it turns out, this is actually quite smooth in the mouth, and a little bit on the hot, unintegrated side. Not quite as long as the Palo Cortado either. On the other hand, we're being picky here, since this is a really very excellent wine which I thoroughly enjoyed :) 4/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Palo Cortado Viejo N/V, Hidalgo
Guess what - deep amber colour again (all of the later sherries were actually remarkably close in colour). This has a much richer, smoother nose than the amontilllado - really playing on the caramel and vanilla; very enticing, if not quite as fascinating as the other wine. In the mouth however, it's the clear wine of the evening - lovely poise and balance, very bright and wonderfully long. Strangely given the smoother nose, this is much more lively on the palette, with quite a pungency and zing. Quite delicious, although as I hear, at quite a high price. 4/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

11/03 Pedro Ximenes Viejo Napoleon N/V, Hidalgo
Brown. Really brown :) This stuff always gets me - it's just mad! Surprisingly good for a £9 PX - a bit more than just treacly dark sugar fruit and a hint of orange, this has actually got some nice wood characteristics and a bit of complexity to it. On the other hand, there's no getting away from the fact that it's fundamentally a very silly wine indeed :) 3/5(Lucian Holland, UK)

09/03 Tio Pepe 'Extra Dry' Palomimo Fino
Typically sea air/salty tang with citrus nose, but did I get some sort of taint too? It soon assimilated, but a refreshed glass showed the same. Contention here, I understand the iodine/salty edge to these wines, but something else, musty, was there for me. Was it TCA? Not totally sure, but seemed like some sort of taint to me. (Nick Alabaster, UK)

09/03 Fine Old Rare Sherry Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlucar 1/80
Bottled by Emilio Lustau S.A. From the solera of Manuel Cuevas Jurado. Specially selected by Berry Brothers & Rudd 17% 37.5cl (BBR £6.95) A bright mid copper in the glass, this has an excellent nose: initially there is flor, then an ozone-y saltiness, then raisiny fruit and molasses. Very good attack: this really is lovely. Light and remarkably fresh tasting initially, this fills with layers of interest, building steadily to an engrossing richness. Lovely salty tang, but loads and loads of fruit - quite an intense fruit. Returning to tangy dry-ness on finish, and searingly dry after. Thoroughly excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

09/03 Palo Cortado Viejo, Hidalgo
Rancid, dried out, volatile nose. Strange rancid fruit character. Palate is weird, oxidised, funky. Plenty of concentration and style. You've got to love it. (David Strange, UK)

07/03 Manzanilla La Gitana (Hidalgo)
(Majestic, Waitrose etc, £4.99 - £6.15) Very very pale. Very elegant nose, not overdominated by flor. Light, elegant, refreshing. Actually seems more salty on the palate than the nose. Very good indeed. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

03/03 1985 Vintage Gonzalez
Very fruity for this vintage. Not particulaly spirity and I really enjoyed this with the cheese course. I had not come across this shipper who is a trad. Sherry merchant. and I think will be keeping my eyes peeled for more. (David Bennett, UK)

01/03 Toro Albala PX Vino Dulce de Postre Gran Reserva 1972
Colour and density of used car engine oil! Gloopy tears in the glass. Nose and palate of muscovado sugar and black treacle with lovely thick velvety mouthfeel. Incredible stuff. E (Paul Armstrong, UK)

other Old World

03/04 1995 Banyuls - Vin Doux Naturel - M.Chapoutier
As two confirmed Banyuls lovers were in the room, a 16.5% bottle had to make an appearance. Ron pronounced this as the only “gay” wine of the night and both he and Ray treated us to a ten second rendition of “YMCA” (Village People), we aimed to make sense of what was in our respective glasses. A dark strawberry red, the nose showed muted fruit with some VA, it reminded me of Italian Recioto but nowhere near as flamboyant. Sweet with some acidity, dry dates and a blunt finish. I think this may have been a slightly off bottle and that was the consensus around the table. Not rated. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 1963 Massandra Pink Muscat (Crimean Republic, Ukraine, ex Soviet Union)
A rare wine that Alexis had picked up from Fine and Rare Wines in London, none of us had tried this wine before. Dark red, actually starting to turn brown, we had decanted this about 20 minutes before consumption. I found volatile acidity on the nose, some citrus, pine needles and overripe strawberries. A different story on the palate, with rich sultanas and a long finish. An interesting alternative to Port, and we all were impressed. 93/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 1928 Maury Solera - Les Vignerons de Maury - Gerald Gauby (Roussillon)
We felt like something sweet to finish off the meal so I ordered this bottle from the restaurants list. This is a blend of Grenache, Grenache Gris and Carignan. A deep burgundy red, the volatile acidity on the nose lifted the oloroso style sweetness. Sweet raisins, long length and the tannins amazingly could probably do with another 30-50 years ageing to further soften them. Very enjoyable and the 50cl bottle disappeared reasonably quickly. 93/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/03 Bual 1973, d'Oliveiras
Rancid, acetone character. Some rich coffee notes. Really astrigence, dry but rich at the same time. Long, complex, very good. (David Strange, UK)

11/03 Verdelho 1968, Blandy
Quite cloudy. Rancid, leather volatile nose. Quite astringent, quite acidic, quite rigourous. Real concentration. Like a mixture of glue and old tea. Very long. This is an assult on the senses. In-croy-able. (David Strange, UK)

09/03 Chateau de Savagny, Vin Jaune, 1992
A bit of an experiment, bought in Paris last year and my first vin jaune. Tight nose, rather like a good fino. On the palate this came across as a rather rich mix between a fino and a manzanilla. Really rather nice and excellent with a plate of anti pasti. I'll look to try other vin jaune in future. Very good. (Mark Pearce, UK)

07/03 ETKO winery - Commandaria Century NV (Cyprus)
This was the main driver for setting up the tasting, believe it or not. Bottled unfiltered, this dark red/brown liquid had a nose of burnt Demerara sugar and a dash of alcohol. It tasted very sweet initially, with liquid prunes, dates, and a long sweet and balanced finish. Very distinctive and a great drop to try. 95/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

07/03 M.Chapoutier 1992 Hermitage Vin de Paille
Bottle number 179 of what must be one of the rarest wines in the world. Cooled to a refreshing temperature, this 15.5% alcohol wine was a healthy orange. The strong marmalade nose also had a positive hint of ripe apricots. A ripe marmalade swathe of taste with some alcohol covered my tongue. An excellent wine, aside from a hardly noticeable oxidation element that added to the sensations already there. 92/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

05/03 Bual Quinta do Serrado 1827
(Served blind) Decanted into a half bottle. Guessing either Sherry or Madeira from the nose was easy. Guessing it was Madeira from the palate was even easier. Guessing the age? Somewhat more difficult. We got back as far as 1947 before we all gave up! This is a wine in a class of its own and the oldest I've ever drunk. Incredibly rich toffee and caramel flavours on nose and palate, washed away by the searing acidity suggesting a still youthful wine. No hurry to drink (but why wait!?). Special thanks to Paul for sharing this. (Philip Vaughan, UK)

04/03 Banyuls – Domaine du Mas Blanc 1985 – Vieilles Vignes
Cherry liquor and cigar box aromas on the nose. A medium sweet sensation, nice length, but with the excellent pot au chocolat it worked even better. 90/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

02/03 Les Clos de Paulilles 2000 Banyuls
Virtually black, it smelled overripe or as the French say 'sur maturite', with some alcohol. On the palate, it was tight, sweet, rich and powerful. Mmmmm, this wine did not ring my bell. Give me a bottle of vintage port over this wine anytime. 80/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

02/03 NV Licoroso, Quinta di Cabriz
This is a sort of Banyuls from Dao. Light stewed plums nose with a hint of burnt almonds. Very full fruit attack. Very rounded and clean fruit, but on the palate it develops a rather spirity note. some tannins on the finish, but mainly lots of fresh black fruit. Interesting with plenty of character. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

01/03 Blandy's Sercial 1966
Glue and acetone nose, burnt and cooked. Palate is full and rich but dry. Long, complex, nutty, oxo cubes. Very good. (David Strange, UK)

New World

02/04 De Krans Cape Ruby Port
15%. Dull porty nose. Decent up front fruit. Solid, decent unexceptional ruby port. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

02/04 1999 Balm of the Night, Krone, Twee Jonge Gezellen, Tulbagh
15.5% [A fortified muscat de frontignan] Orange creme brulée nose. Rich and sweet. Huge depth of flavour, especially on the finish. Fascinating. Excellent balance. Quite light for a fortified muscat. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/03 2000 D'Arenberg fortified Shiraz
From half bottle. A really very nice scented herbal nose. Blackcurrant and licorice on the palate. Gorgeous. Excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

05/03 Elysium Black Muscat (California) 1996 15% (Half bottle)
Standard dessert wine at mid level restaurants, this is normally a bit too sweet for me, but the 4 or 5 years aging have done it the world of good. Slight browning around the edges, the sickly sweetness has gone and the wine has the taste and smell of raspberry jam. Intense, well in balance and with a long finish, this was surprisingly good. I'd buy more of this to put in the cellar. (Phil Wilkins, UK)

05/03 1997 d'Arenberg (Australa) Fortified Shiraz
Dark ruby. Nose which is reminicent of the fruit which is baked on the side of a dish of blackberry and apple pie - perhaps blueberry too. Alcoholic palate (18.5%) with fading grainy tannins and quite good acidity. The finish is persistent, sticking to your teeth for some time afterwards - pretty good. (Bill Nanson, Switzerland)

02/03 Chambers "Rosewood Vineyards" Rutherglen, Special Muscat
(375 ml). I have had some intriguing red wines lately, but some of the stickies stand out even moreso. I have not had this particular wine ever before and have heard that there are various renditions of it, and that "Special Muscat" is just one of them. Super concentrated and almost too sweet to drink more than a glass of. I did say "almost". A dentist's dream, this wine looks like maple syrup in a glass and is far sweeter. It smells a heck of a lot better though and the Muscat aromas of rich prunes come to the fore along with tangerine as a backdrop. The smooth texture of this beauty and the heavily raisined flavor makes for a dynamic duo. The finish is impressive and I did have a glass the second day and it was every bit as good. I didn't see any vintage on the bottle. This wine epitomizes "stickies!" 93 points (Roy Hersh, USA)

02/03 1899 Seppelt Para 100 Year Old Vintage Tawny port (Barossa)
24% alcohol makes vintage Port from Portugal look mild, although this would equate to a Colheita stylistically. Possessing a unique color of molasses with a vibrant yellow edge akin to a PX. This port is thick and chewy with much the same characteristics of a nice old and dry Verdelho, Madeira. This is my first time trying the esteemed Para port, which until now was one of the few well-known Australian ports remaining on my "must try" list. Similar aromas to Madeira with some beef bouillon and caramelized notes as well as alcohol dancing in the glass that added rather than detracted from the experience. Mostly prune flavors that are complemented by extract of sun-dried black raisins. A refined and complex wine with huge levels of acidity, and one of the longest finishes of any wine in recent memory. Dessert wine of the month for me! 97 points (Roy Hersh, USA)

01/03 Cape Williams NV Romsey Willow – 18%
A liqueur made from the pressings of ROMSEY Brut and Rose, fortified with aged brandy and matured for 3 years in old red wine barrels. This curiosity was brought over from Australia by an Aussie wine enthusiast who was there over Christmas. The deep lemon/light gold/apricot colour was evident in the glass. It smelt predominantly of brandy, with faint honeysuckle, toffee and aniseed as well. It tasted semi sweet, rounded with an alcoholic kick in the back of the throat. This style is definitely different and certainly challenged my taste buds. Not sure I really liked it, hence not rated. (Nicos Neocleous, UK) N.B. older fortified notes are archived
here.