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 I

Port - Sherry - other Old World - New World

This is an archive of older notes.

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11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1967
Not a very fine vintage for port, declared only by a handful of shippers. Medium ruby brown, with a rusty, watery rim; an old colour reminiscent of kirsch, I thought. Nose starts quite alcoholic and cherry-liqueur like, with balsamic overtones of leather and dried leaves, overall rather dry and lifeless, hot if swirled, with chalk dust and medicinal touches of dried herbs. But it is quite pleasant, integrated, not over-the-hill at all, simply very mature and now apparently static. Time in the glass brings cooked aromas with touches of soy sauce. On the palate it is quite viscous, not too fresh, in fact much more sweet than acidic at this stage with an opaque, slightly mentholly finish. Adrian Bridge says he believes Vargellas to stand out for its spicy, slightly liquoricey touch, especially on the finish; here and in other vintages I would rather talk of dried herbs than spices, and menthol rather than liquorice. Keeps well in the glass, with a nose nicely balanced between fruit and secondary aromas; one would perhaps like a bit more richness on the nose, but the palate is utterly satisfying, especially for the age. There's perhaps a minor note of vegetable broth which indicates it will not go much farther, but why keep it when it drinks well today? Excellent. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1970
Pale old ruby, minor rim. Light, wtaery nose of old wood and vanilla at first, followed by eucalyptus and the Vargellas medicinal touch, plus an interesting note of sandalwood. Less spirity than the 1967, in fact much more vivid and elegant, gaining almost gamey intensity in the glass, plus a sour cherry note reminiscent of aged dry red wine. The palate is again slightly mentholly and medicinal, with very good integration and only moderate sweetness. Very long, with good acidity and a sweet, soft vanilla finish. A very serious port indeed. Time in the glass seems to stress the dry side and there are Pinot Noir-like touches throughout. What seems the most interesting feature, however, is the very solid inner consistency opf splendid fruit. A beauty. The standout of the tasting IMO. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1972
Dark if slightly rusty ruby, with a minor rim; as dark as the 1978 today. Nose of aggressive old dry wood, less open, more serious and dark than the 1970, with a whiff of chlorine and the usual medicinal touches. But there's sweet fruit in abudance here, with a long finish, which is however fruit juice-like, more watery and acidic than expected. Soft tannins. There are leafy and meaty touches on the quite dry nose, which seems only loosely related to what's happening on the palate; and on the latter, what I believe to be signs of minor dilution. Airing time develops notes of dried fruit, followed by organic elements of fried egg omelette and some almonds perhaps. Slightly rough, papery tannins now. Seems quite clearly to have been stored in imperfect conditions at some stage, as testified by the slightly disjointed evolution in mouth and the fried note on the nose. But very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1978
Medium ruby, transparent colour. Again a nose that is aggressively old-woody, very dry, almost chalky or birch wood-like in its character, with overtones of medicinal cough pills. Also a bit hot from the alcohol and overall one-dimensional, I would say. The palate is still very young and blocky, with flavours of sour cherry and a smokey note on the finish, which is of medium length. The nose stays quite evasive, and in any case very dusty , throughout the tasting. Typical medicinal touches both on nose and palate. Still quite rich and sweet, viscous and marmaladey for its age, but seems to lack a bit of structure to be really interesting. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1986
A wet vintage, with grapes harvested on September 25th. Dark ruby, minor rim. Very Vargellas-like on the nose, with chalk dust, medicinal herbs, also some cassis and what others picked up as violets. Less integrated, of course, than the four preceding wines, with the spirit still staying somewhat apart. Very long fresh cherry finish, which is however slightly diluted and apparently disjointed. One would also like a bit more definition on the palate. But quite good, and promising for the next ten years. Positively vinegary whiffs come to disturb this image, and despite the good intensity of black cherry fruit there is some heat on the slightly burnt finish IMO. Quite good for the vintage of course, which has never been my favourite. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1987
This is the current release, at £22 (£18 if you shop at Oddbins and have staff discount), which indeed seems low. From the three 1980s vintages it is not the darkest, but certainly the one with the most violet hues. The nose here is much fruitier and fresher than the 1986, with very well-defined notes of cassis and burnt black fruit jam. The palate has moderate sweetness and very good intensity of fruit, with some meatiness perhaps. Very young. Stays quite elegant and wonderfully pure I must say, although with an hour or so in the glass there's a cooked, burnt character which is not too pleasant. But easily the best of the 1980s. Needs at least five more years. Outstanding. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1988
In the glass this is slightly darker than the 1987, much into purple territory I would say. The nose is beautiful, textbook young port with black currant, almonds and a fresh leafy note above that, which reminds a bit of great Amarone. This is actually even younger-seeming than the 1987, and by a large margin, though perhaps it is an impression due to the fresh nature of the fruit as opposed to the structured, macerated-like 1987. On the palate it is a bit lighter than the latter, quite long, but with a vegetal touch on the finish, which is much less consistent than the initial impact. A pity. But an excellent Vargellas, and much of a success for the vintage; indeed with airing time it gains even more freshness and at times seems even more appealing today than the 1987. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1991
Dark, impenetrable blood-purple. Nose is dominated by distinctive notes of freshly sewn wood, mirrored by drying tannins in mouth. Not too rich at this stage, completely closed, with none of the poise of other vintages today. There's a good initial intensity of fruit, but the finish seems abrupt, very woody, without any elegance at all. The wood dust changes perhaps into cocoa dust with time, but it is not enough to convince me. There's also a varnishy note with time in the glass that makes me dubious as to its ageing potential. But perhaps unfair to judge it in these circumstances. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1995
On the nose it is very different than the 1991, showing similar notes of wood dust, but mainly lots of fresh almonds and black cherry. This fresh mark gives it elegance and airiness that the previous wine lacked. But there is also a cooked, slightly vinegary side to this nose as well. On the palate there is good integrity of fruit, with strong acidity giving an impression of linear, 'thin' structure, which I actually like better than the more chunky, blocky 1991. Mouth-drying tannins, but convincing fresh fruit finish. Very good overall intensity on the palate. Not fat nor viscous, actually quite elegant and approachable for its age. Very good showing. I have been quite pleased with most of the 1995s I've tasted to date. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Taylors Port Vargellas 1998
Colour is just a bit darker than either the 1991 or the 1995. Nose shows old birch wood, some almonds, egg custard and cooked fruit; a deep enough nose, obviously one-dimensional at the moment, but perhaps not as sharply defined as the 1995. It seems to be a vintage of 'bigger' style in any case. On the palate it is very rich and glyceric, though not too thick in texture, especially on the finish, which is considerably thinner and quite citric. Medium length, powerful, but elegant tannins. I could call the finish slightly disjointed, but final judgements in this extreme youth make no sense. Develops lots of appealing fruitcake notes with time. A rich port with high sugar level and an opulence of fruit, paired in this case with good structure and a generally elegant feel. Should prove outstanding with time. (Nerval, UK)

09/01 1977 Fonseca:
a great port, with a long life ahead of it, from this evidence. Excellent ruby colour (sc. poor lighting), good firm nose, and very rich, very smooth, with just a prickle of spice on the palate. Long finish. (Matthew Mellor, UK)


11/01 Emilio Lustau Oloroso VORS 30 years old
Light brown colour with apricot and peach hues. Very nice, elegant oloroso nose which is on the light side, with notes of raisins, molasses, old wood as well as some chocolate and varnish. Deep enough, if not the most intense oloroso I know. The palate brings fused, elegant flavours of chocolate and mixed nuts, underpinned by very healthy citric acids and a long, walnutty aftertaste which is rather untypical for Lustau. Rich and luscious, but bone dry. Quite convincing new release , if clearly a step below their almacenista offerings both for definition and complexity, at least when it is tasted standing and from an INAO glass. Plus there seems to be what I identify as a slight hollowness, or should I say a touch too obtrusive varnishy artificiality, on mid-palate, and a minor element of dilution in the texture. But a wine in the excellent range, I would say. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Finest dry Oloroso Añada 1970
Colour is suprisingly light, dark amber with minor brown, but rather orange in its character. This is probably due to the fact that un-refreshed vintage sherry ages much more slowly than the constantly disturbed solera-aged wine. Nose starts slightly varnishy, with a highly dry character of old wood and, with time, walnuts, while growing much better defined, pungent notes of marzipan, walnut cake, a whiff of woman's perfume, peanuts and cashews, followed later by fried Chinese mushrooms. Very peculiar, dried-out style of nose which lacks the lushness of fruit of solera-aged wines, so less rich and complex than these it would seem, although in a quite emotionally moving individual register, which is certainly austere and closed. I strongly thought this and all the following vintage olorosos would benefit enormously from decanting, just as vintage madeira does, and I tried to leave them aside in the glass for half an hour or so, while the tasting went on. But neither did improve substantially, or get better definition over this brief period. In mouth the 1970 is mindblowingly intense, very salty and acidic in an uncompromising oloroso style. But the intensity concentrates mainly on the attack, while later it tends to become much more mellow, with a chlorine touch on the finish. Not the longest of sherries, although I find the finish consistent and convincing. Very peculiar style for those used, like me, to solera sherries (it would admittedly be difficult to get used to anything else in the sherry paradygm); a wine which I believe was very closed and ungiving on this tasting. But probably also one that showed best tonight of the vintage olorosos, probably due to the relatively recent bottling. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Oloroso 1968
Bottled August 14th, 1999, bottle 76 of 432 released. Lighter brown-apricot colour than above. Very closed and varnishy nose, which opens up with a touch of raisins, flowers (rose petals), marzipan, and roasted spices; seems finer and more elegant than the 1970. But in mouth it has less impact, combining lots of varnishy character with a slightly excessive softness of texture for oloroso. Linear in structure, consistent and quite long, in fact longer than the 1970, with superior intensity on the finish. Soft and subdued in style, almost overwhelmingly salty, yet paradoxically lacking some grip. Bone-dry of course, but here almost to the point of faultiness. A meaty mouthfeel concludes with a note of bitterness as of medicine. A quite elegant wine, as fruity as possible in the context, but very closed and even less appealing than the bit more exuberant 1970. The structure seems more complete, better delineated than in the latter wine, but since I am unable to predict any bottle development of this, I could not prefer it today. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Oloroso 1966
Bottled April 1994, bottle 185 of 872 released. More or less the same colour as the 1968. The nose here is meatier, thicker and with seemingly more stuffing, than either of the above, with a distinctive old woody note as of tree bark which becomes more medicinal and bitter in character as time passes. Even more subdued, if possible, than the 1968, with notes of sour cherry and pheasant meat, or perhaps duck soup. Less of an oloroso, I thought, and entering the palo cortado territory in a way. On the palate the varnishy component, which mixes acidity, saltiness and bitterness, is still very present, while the whole is consistent but not enormously complex. Even drier and more austere in style than the preceding two. Medium length at best here, although the finish tends to get longer with time in the glass, while the nail polish and game profile also becomes more aggressive. But the finish, even whne longer, seems quite thin and less integrated with the whole than in the 1968. Some mushrooms note appear with time as well. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Oloroso 1964
Bottled April 1995, bottle 919 of 2,920. This is much darker, medium brown with some pink hues. The nose is now positively herbal and medicinal, as in some old vintage ports (the recently tasted Vargellas 1967 comes to mind) and lots of faintly chemical, varnishy aromas. VA is at the high end of human tolerance here, although I would again believe it would eventually integrated with the wine if given one or two decades in bottle. But amazingly, there's an intensely sweet note as of fruitcake and marzipan, almost milk-chocolatey in fact, soaring above the old wood scaffolding. In mouth it starts quite mellow, but the finish is aggressively varnishy and medicinal, and a bit unappealing for that. The 1964 is the only wine to change substantially if left in the glass, becoming very charged, pungent and aggressive. The VA does not blow off, however; the mouthfeel is integrated and long, with a positive uplift of acidity on the finish. There's a minor dirty note which I would attribute to not entirely clean wood. Most people at the tasting, including liked this best of the vintage olorosos, but I must say that it is also the most problematic, disjointed of the four, seemingly now in a proces of re-construction of its self. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Oloroso Millennium
González's special project for the Millennium. A tour de force of bodega work, a blend of 1902, 1917, 1923, 1935, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1977, 1983 and 1992 single-vitage oloroso (with the first three two aged in bottle rather than in cask), created by Don Manuel González and bottled in June 1999 in 2000 bottles, of which this was n. 750. This is said to retail for a whopping, and rather ridiculous, £300 if you can find it (the total UK allocation was of 200 bottles). Very consistent light to medium brown colour with no rim. Nose starts subdued, with a cooked character and a note of soaked bread and toilet soap, altogether very much in a kitchen register. With more time there are purer aromas of vanilla custard, hazelnut, quince and citrus and a menthol-like medicinal touch again. In mouth it has good purity, if not too much focus; extended but subdued finish with echoes of raisins but a citric, acidic character. Not as intense as I would like, especially on the finish. On the light side, and patently in some kind of dormant stage; compared to some explosive olorosos from Lustau almacenistas this is indeed a shy teenager rather than the monster I expected. Not an extremely convincing showing for this wine, which I am afraid I will not taste again given its price. There seems to be outstanding raw material in here, but it is in a state of rare diffusion. At a certain point I thought the answer to its weaknesses would be too short a stay in wood after blending, i.e. that the component parts have not been given enouight time to properly integrate. I should have asked for more details about how it was aged but somehow didn't. A hugely untypical oloroso in any case, rather medium-sized, not too intense or focused today, and of course shamefully overpriced for what it is. I do not think the rarity of a wine or its components is enough of a justification for such a rip-off. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Emilio Lustau Vendimia Cream 1988
Medium brown colour. Sweet nose with evident notes of raisined and figgy PX, with subsidiary notes of roasted fruit and game stock, but overall not as complex as I would like. On the palate it is also quite simple, with lots of sweetness underpinned by dry wood oloroso character. Lots of grapey PX sweetness here as well. Long, very bitter aftertaste. Not my favourite style, but a decent sweet wine for £15. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Emilio Lustau Centenary Edition Moscatel Las Cruces
This comes 'mainly', says the label, from Lustau's property vineyards in Chipiona. Dark mahogany colour, minor rim. Very cooked grapey-marmeladey nose, dark and concentrated, with a touch of orange zest to it (but not as much as other Moscatels, e.g. Valdespino's). On the palate it is lean and silky, obviously very raisined in character and with a cooked note as of heated madeira. Huge sweetness, low acidity, some fruity flavours of blood oranges. A good wine which is a bit out of balance. At £20 a bottle it is less of a QPR than the IMO superior Valdespino Toneles at £16. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Alvear Pedro Ximénez Solera 1910
Only 13% alc., £40 per 500 ml. Dark, opaque brown with lots of burning orange hues throughout, and a minor rim. The nose is very PX-style in its intensity of raisins, dried figs and treacle, but with an almost dry, game bird meat character. On the palate it is quite viscous, but with beautiful aristocratic touches of supremely defined fruit despite all the sweetness of concentrated grape must, or rather syrup in this case. Very elegant, juicy finish and long aftertaste with hints of dried fruit. But not the longest PX in history. Difficult to analyze due to the sheer size fo the raw material, but I think this is quite an elegant and fused PX which is sadly on the pricey side (the 1972 Toro Albalá, for instance, is £10 for a half-bottle only, and drinking better IMO). (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana
Nicely soft vanilla nose, though still dry, thick and slightly dusty; some sardine funk. Quite heady on the palate, chewy and fruit pulp-like, with a touch of diluted chlorine (as in swimming pool water) and golden delicious apple. Light and airy style, perhaps even too much so for sherry. The unclean nose made me think of a dirty glass, but rinsing a new one with the wine did not help. Probably an unfresh bottle. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 A. Barbadillo Manzanilla Solear
Sweeter nose of vanilla and fruitcake here, slightly bitter in its medicinal touch of albariza, while staying quite fresh with green apple notes, although a sausagey whiff also appears. Also some green olive scents I think. On the palate this wine is extremely lean and light-bodied, with almost a touch of sweetness. Lacks acids. Another unconvincing bottle. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Fino Tío Pepe
Recently re-designed bottle and label, much for the worse IMO. This famous solera consists of no less than 30,000 butts. Nose is on the light side, with green apple and some yeast stink. Mainly green apple flavours in mouth, with a very soft finish. Lacks cut, a bit opaque. Growing more and more stinky. A second bottle was recognizably the same, although with more vanilla and showing slightly stronger on palate than the first one. Not as great a fino as González Byass people would like to think. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 E. Lustau Puerto Fino
Much more serious nose, white wine-like in a way, with an industrial yeast note and some fishy edges, but also rich vanilla and pie dough; slightly stinkier and more rustic than others, thick and reasonably complex. On the palate it is also quite thick, if lean; long, but still not entirely satisfying aromatically and not too clean either. But approaching the real thing. All these four bottles stayed opened for too long, no doubt, which is yet another proof of the extreme fragility of this kind of wine: at 16o C and after 2 hours from uncorking, this could be any white wine. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Sánchez Romate Amontillado NPU
I've TN-ed this in April. Today it shows rather well, if still not a 'non plus ultra' of any kind. Dark amber with light crimson hues. Sweet egg-custardy scent on the nose, lots of old dry wood, vanilla, cured meat and smoke, with a bit of amontillado bite. Cool, reasonably pleasant nose. On the palate I find it a bit too soft, with a drying finish, lots of fresh orange peel and a custardy note. The finish is the wine's best part: long, intense, very dry, quite fine with its notes of spice, salted almonds and a touch of woman's soap. Probably about 20 years old. Nice wine. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Harvey's Club Classic
This is the so-called 'medium dry' style, a loathable concept of sweetening amontillado with arrope syrup or young PX. A tad darker at core, but lighter on the apricotty rim. Very raisiny and candied cherry-like kind of nose, sweet, with some old wood, with the sweetness already evident here in the semi-dried fig touch of PX which masks any amontillado saltiness. On the palate it shows awful, if not very high, sweetness; it is moderately elegant and light-bodied, but too lean and lacking even the lushness PX could bring into this. A disaster. The amazing thing is that both these amontillados cost exactly the same. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía Palo Cortado Viejísimo
I have never heard of this Puerto di Santa María producer. Now I see I should have. 22% alc. Colour is medium brown throughout, with medium to dark crimson hues. Extremely intense, almost intoxicating nose which is quite elegant and sweet, with lots of vanilla and sweet fruit, but enough poise to cover this; exact notes are of fresh cherry and orange gelée, old cupboard and varnish. On the palate simply superb, perhaps just a tad too dark and old-woody for a palo, in fact could easily be mistaken for a light oloroso if tasted blind, so concentrated and pungent it is. Great intensity and length. Lacks a whiff of elegance on the palate, but very, very good indeed. Of course the best wine of the tasting by far. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Osborne Oloroso Bailén
Slightly more austere brown than the palo cortado, same crimson hue. Nose starts slightly dirty and stemmy, with raisins and walnuts, a peculiar, distinctive note of banana and a touch of herbs and old wood. On the palate it is very light, not sweet, but not too dry either; has some finesse. There are some hazelnuts on the good, medium long, slightly cooked finish. Strange, patently very young wine (someone said 4-5 years, but I find it hard to believe). Not a very appetizing style of oloroso once you've biten into the real ones, but not bad either. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 González Byass Oloroso Dulce Matusalém
Tasted just two weeks ago. Now it seemed much less exciting. Very dark mahogany. Sweet and viscous nose with very noble notes of vanilla. Treacly, dark finish after a bittersweet palate of considerable richness. Not too much refinement. Good acidity, as a matter of fact, but in this tasting seems quite pedestrian in style. An acquired taste (as all sherry is, I admit, but it is better to acquire a taste for great sherry rather than moderately good one, IMVHO). (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Croft Original Pale Cream
The pale straw colour should warn anyone attempting to drink this. Nose is of canned asparagus, diluted sugar syrup and dirty socks, boiled carrot, stale orange peel and rotten vegetables. I tried to find a single clean aroma and failed. I was reluctant to taste it, but decided to do so in the interest of science. Very stewed on the palate, with a vanillin character as in industrial custard. Takes a brave man to actually swallow this. The worst liquid I've had in my mouth for a very long time. Scandalous. Apparently a blend of very bland fino with some sweetening agent; people from the Wines From Spain agency insisted it is young PX, but I doubt it is anything nobler than arrope. What they also added is that this jewel of a 'wine' makes up for 23% of the entire sherry market in the UK. I would issue a ban on it if I were the Health Secretary. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Harvey's Bristol Cream
Here we go again. This was served on ice to prove how good an apéritif it makes. I actually tasted it before the ice arrived. Light brown, with some amber hues. Relatively crisp and perfumed orange jam nose, with a wet wool touch. On the palate it is dull and sweet, quite syrupy and as a matter of fact reminiscent of arrope itself, and with a fresh fig note. Bittersweet character, not much length, and actually seems diluted even before adding ice. But compared to the previous one, infinitely nobler. This actually is drinkable if you really fancy a syrupy concoction with 20% abv. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 Williams & Humbert Canasta Cream
A bit darker than the Osborne oloroso. Very muted nose of raisins and some dirt, cooked and burnt sugar, cigar smoke perhaps. Nobler than Harvey's on the palate, with a faint reminiscence of a definition, sweet and vanilley, though also with a strong green pea note. Very canasta-like if that makes sense. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 E. Lustau Moscatel Superior Emilín
Very dark mahogany, a tad darker than the Matusalém. Nose is very typically Muscat with orange marmelade and a bitter note of rottening meat. On the palate it has only moderate sweetness, and for how dark and concentrated it is, it remains remarkably citric. The finish is slightly cloying and syrupy. While it is evidently simpler and less ambitious, I actually liked this one better than the hyped Moscatel Las Cruces from Lustau's Centenary Edition. Good wine in its style. (Nerval, UK)

11/01 A.R. Valdespino Pedro Ximénez El Candado
Very dark but transparent brown colour. Dark and burnt character on the nose, with lots of raisins, old wood, treacle, even some tar actually, while still quite spicy and analyzable for what it is. To say it is very sticky on the palate is an understatement; clearly a wine and a half, or two and a half, in one. Has some character, but over-the-top even for me. Medium length. Extreme style of PX. Would perhaps become drinkable / enjoyable with 40 more years in barrel. Now I understand why people feel inclined to pour this over ice-cream (Nerval, UK)

07/01 Hidalgo Amontillado Seco Napoleon
Attractive light-to-medium tan with orangey depths. Very full, very attractive nose with clear PX notes. Lightly raisined, but perhaps tending to caramel. Good attack. Really quite fresh. Very dry. Fills enormously in the mouth. Flavours of sweetish caramel and riains, but aggressively dry. V. hot and spicy on tongue at finish and long after. Remarkable length. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

05/01 Almacenista Amontillado del Puerto N/V, Lustau
Golden amber colour almost right to the rim. Nose has a lot of caramel and vanilla mixed in with a good flor character. Nose is also very rich and thick, with a strong roasted nut character, but there is a clean tang cutting through this, which has surprising tangerine/tangerine skin hints to it. A variety of spices, most notably ginger, also make their presence known. On the palate it is very thick and oily, and perhaps very slightly too alcoholic. The attack is fresh and bright, and feels almost off-dry. I worry slightly about the mid-palette to start with, because it feels rather flat; but I think this is just a matter of calibration, because it begins to feel soft and rounded rather than flat after a while (food helps as well, strangely). At any rate it picks itself up for a gloriously nutty finish, which does the sting-in-the-tail thang by being absolutely bone dry. It even has a bit of a peacock's tail, as the wood flavours blossom in different directions. Yum. Not convinced that it merits being quite so expensive in relation to other sherries, but considering that many other sherries are insanely cheap for what they are, I suppose that's not saying much. (Lucian Holland, UK)

03/01 Alvear Fino 'Capataz', Montilla Moriles
A long, long time ago, Montilla was considered part of Jerez, but no longer, although they're allowed to use the stylistic terms still. This bottle was definitely not wholly pristine, with a bland nose, fairly unexciting fino nose of subdued flor, white nuts and hot candle-wax that fails to conceal the un-integrated alcohol. Disjointed in the mouth, signs of degradation, with a too nutty finish, and completely un-refreshing. Usually shows somewhat better than this, but I've never been convinced by Alvear's fino. Disturbing that this bottle wasn't completely fresh. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 E. Lustau Almacenista Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlúcar 1/80, Sanlúcar de Barrameda
This was a weak, watery manzanilla pasada, with an interesting highlight of green pepper on the nose, but unbalanced on the palate, and with an odd finish. Some nuttiness is to be expected, of course, but again I had my doubts about the freshness of this bottle. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Alvear Amontillado 'Carlos VII', Montilla Moriles
Hot on the nose, quite nutty, very rough on the palate, where it starts off with some sweetness before the acid kicks in and dominates till a rasping roasted nut finish that fails to come together. A bit simple, but more distressing was the lack of refinement in this wine, as if all the time in cask had been wasted. Long, long finish, but that's a minus in this case. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Alvear Oloroso 'Asunción', Montilla Moriles
A simple raisin and nuts confection, lacking interest, and again with a worrying acid and alcohol kick towards the end. Otherwise, not too bad an oloroso, although it's overpriced for what it is. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Añada 1970
Quite a lot going on aromatically, but some heat on the nose suggests that this might have a smidgen too much alcohol. Lots of varnish, cask character, spicy, floral, with shelled nuts and wood chip contributing to the nose, nice tang in the mouth, rich and filling without being cloying, and a definite notch above the sherries so far. A good wine, but one always suspects that the prices the vintage olorosos from Byass command are as much a function of scarcity as anything else. Buy it to complete your vertical. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Alvear Pedro Ximénez de Añada 1999, Montilla Moriles
How enterprising – bottle a just vinified PX without the cask character that is very primary (grape-y) with a floral, almost minerally edge, and overwhelmingly sweet, without sufficient balancing acidity. A curiosity, and fun to drink on its terms, but my money's going elsewhere. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Croft's Original Pale Cream
Strange, dead, fino nose, rather flat and unexciting, and then a disconcerting sweetness on the palate that just shows up the deficiency of this wine – insipid, thin and hollow. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Harveys Bristol Cream
How should I put this – inoffensive, but worryingly industrial, I suppose. No further comments. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Harveys Bristol Milk, bottled 1963
Lovely taste and consistency of mud diluted with an equal amount of sherry, this looked and tasted well past it, with the acid failing to hold together what was left of this sherry. Perhaps proof that only the best sherries improve with bottle age. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 Alvear Pedro Ximénez Solera 1910, Montilla Moriles
A fairly syrupy nose, not a whole lot of nuts, quite forward and giving, dark raisined fruit character. Lacks grip on the palate, and perhaps a bit too cloying for my taste, without enough complexity but a fine PX nonetheless, although, like most of Alvear's range, overpriced. (Yixin Ong, UK)

03/01 1972 Don Pedro Ximenez, Bodegas Toro Albala, Cordoba
Easy drinking, this bottle was showing some obvious alcohol, but otherwise a very nice Pedro Ximenez with lots of raisins, some oxidised notes, and the classic tangerine peel on the mid-palate that attracted me to this wine in the first place. Fun to drink (Yixin Ong, UK)

02/01 Viejo Oloroso Dulce 19.8 %, Valdespino
a dark brown colour, pleasant burnt sugar aromas, on the palate sweet, more burnt sugar with nuts and spice, very intriguing and easy to gulp down until you are under the table (Charles Adams, UK)

12/00 Valdespino "Inocente" Fino
Started the mince pies early this year with this pale, pure fruited really dry and delicious sherry. Its hard to write a proper note other than to say this is very good. £5.65 Morrisons 16.5% abv. (Daron Fincham, UK)

11/00 Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
Nice, quite open nose of flor, fairly pungent, a bit too warm perhaps. Good structure in the mouth, a clean wine and quite crisp - a pristine bottle. Some hints of oxidation towards the finish (bottle had been open some time), but otherwise good drinking. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 Alfonso Dry Oloroso Sherry
Quite woody on the nose, nutty, but with good fruit and some dried character. Fairly sour and acidic in the mouth, but still generous flavour-wise, and definitely drinkable. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 La Concha Medium Dry Amontillado Sherry
Quite citric on the nose, but reinforced by nuts, dried fruit and flowers, some hints of yeastiness (not flor). Sweet in the mouth, but with resstraining citrus flavours and sharp acid, some toasty cream crackerish notes, a bit of a disappointing finish where it doesn't quite come together. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 San Domingo Pale Cream Sherry
Slightly reticent nose compared to before, but floral, lemony and some hints of buttery, flaky croissant, sweet impression. Similar on the palate, surprisingly well balanced, although I would like more acidity, a good wine if not my thing. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 Del Duque Amontillado Sherry
Quite a pronounced nuttiness, some flor characteristic, but some roasted coffee as well. Mouthfilling but nice and dry, quite intense floral and nut flavours intermingling, and good levels of acid, with a nice long nutty finish. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 Apostoles Palo Cortado Sherry
Raisin fruitcake, petrochemicals and light coloured nuts intermingle to produce a rich nose. Bits of honeyed sweetness on the mouth, quite nice and raisiny with toast, rich and lasting finish. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 Matusalem Dessert Oloroso Sherry
Intense nuttiness, quite a nose, always has been my fave of the 4 Solera Exclusivas, spicy cinnamon and nutmeg with bits of various other flavours that elude description. Raisin character from the PX is evident. Quite sweet and viscous, perfect with the ham (specially brought over from Spain), and very nice. (Yixing Ong, UK)

11/00 Noe Pedro Ximenez Sherry
Dried plum powder, almost salty, strong caramel and coffee flavour with raisins and dried fruit dominant. Raisiny in the mouth, really really thick, very sweet and everything one would expect from a PX, with that raisined finish - pure and long. (Yixing Ong, UK)

other Old World

11/02 Maury Solera 1928 – 16% - £15 – US$23)
This vin doux natural from S.France was made like a sherry using the Solera method. The vintage year refers to the oldest remaining vintage in the barrels. A light red in the middle of the wine with a light orange rim. Classic rancio nose, with bitter orange in a semi-sweet sherry style. Surprisingly, there are tannins still evident, but these eventually melt away to leave a not too sweet yet pleasant warm finish. 86/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

10/01 Leacock's 1971 Verdelho
V dark amber/brown. piercing nose with very rich and thick palate. Has hints of orange on palate with lots of acidity and just enough sweetness to provide balance. V nice but tiring after 1 glass. 15/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

10/01 Barbeito 1910 sercial
Much paler. utterly remarkable, a new frame of reference for me. Nose is very fresh with orange peel and walnuts. Palate is stupendously smooth, very graceful and elegant with the flavour opening in layers. Finish almost endless. 18/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

10/01 Barbeito 1901 Mavasia (Malmsey)
V dark treacle coloured. Mellow smoky caramel nose, not too sweet and extremely elegant, yet mouth filling. Balanced with a remarkable finish and not in the least tiring or tired for that matter. One of the greatest wines its ever been my priviledge to try. Maybe the Duke of Clarence had it right! 19/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

10/01 Barbeito Bual 1960
smooth rich and smoky. Sweeter than the 1901 malmsey, and much superior to the Bual 1957 by the same company. V nice 16/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

10/01 Cossart Gordon Bual Solera 1845 (bottled 1989)
Difficult to judge colour due to sediment. nose has hints of unstruck matches. Palate has coffee bean, treacle toffee and citrus hints. Lively acidity. Very wonderful. 18.5/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

10/01 Bland's Terrantez 1969
apparently made in only 4 vintages this century. Red/amber colour, spicy nose. Palate seems both sweet and dry simultaneously. Has very long finish and lots of acidity. 15/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

12/00 Carchelo Monastrell 1999 by Agapito Rico
Colour - Deep dark black purple
Nose - Ripe black fruits - blueberries and brambles
Palate - Follows nose with ripe brambly flavours and a nice acid touch and light tannins that makes it very more-ish. Medium finish. From the Wine Soc at £4.60 I thought this was great value, good with or without food. It was also ( interestingly ) 14.5% abv from a region famous for - overstrong 18% wines !! So it shows that you can reduce the abv and improve the wines. Really good quality and interest for the price (Stephen Pickles, UK)

New World

07/01 Yalumba Antique 50 yr old Tawny. £18 (half) Bennets/Noel Young
How very bizarre. Still has a slight reddish hue to the amber colour but instead of the usual tea leaf nose I get from Aussie tawnies, this delivers orange peel, walnut skins and that madeirised whiff. Palate is slightly sweet to start with dried fruit, more walnuts and then a searing blast of acidity. In a blind tasting I'd have been sure this was an aged sercial madeira. Maybe they could change it's name to "Strewth, this is madeira- no worries"? marvellous though expensive, just like the real thing. 18/20 (Anthony Taylor, UK)

05/01 Miranda 'The Pioneers' Raisined Muscat 2000
Made from partially dried Muscat grapes, this is fresh, grapey and sweet with nice balancing acidity and some spicy notes. Delicious well chilled. Very good (£4.49/half Majestic) (Jamie Goode, UK)

03/01 N.V. De Bortoli 'Black Noble'
This was actually quite nice, with lots of flavour and managing to survive and hold its own after the PX. It also helped that this was well-chilled, which brought out a clean-ness (for me) that is often lacking in fortifieds, whether New or Old World. Yummy, although I'm not sure I would pay the retail price for this when the PX is cheaper (Yixin Ong, UK)

11/00 Seppelt DP 63 Show Muscat (1998 bottling)
What a stunner! I can see why it picked up an award at the IWC. It's not necessarily complex, but it has intense hazelnut toffee aromas, and a similarly luscious palate, with good balance, which would influence any judge. It's a one glass at a time wine, but that just means the pleasure lasts all week! It is only the second 'experimental purchase' I've tasted this year that has prompted me to buy again. At £7.49 in Oddies it's good value (Chris Kissack, UK)

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