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

UK Wine Forum - Fortified Wines

Port - Sherry - other Old World - New World

This is an archive of older notes.

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12/02 1966 Offley Boa Vista Vintage Port
There were quite a few in our group that really enjoyed this wine. I brought it and have had it a bunch of times. This particular showing was lackluster at best, and the alcohol was so pronounced that it really took away any enjoyment for me. Brickish red color with good flavors including cherry and chocolate but again the VA on the palate's finish, not to mention up front on the nose made me pour my glass in the spit bucket. I was ready to pour out the rest of the bottle and a friend thought I was nuts and asked to have it. Atypical for this wine, although normally there is some…but MUCH less VA present. (Roy Hersh, USA)

12/02 Warre's 1958 Vintage Port
This bottle was gifted to me a year ago. Fill level was lower neck (a good sign) and the cream wax capsule was completely intact. After chipping this off, I extracted the cork, which showed no signs of seepage, and it broke in two (what a surprise!). After double decanting the contents, I allowed it to stand in the bottle for 1 hour. Pausing for thought, I was about to drink a forty four year old fortified wine, much older than me! I was surprised at how light it appeared, being a very light brown colour, and I could see right through it. A semi-sweet faint nose of walnuts, dry dates and cinnamon. A real mix of tastes, including bitter chocolate, marmalade and walnuts. This finish was decent but noticeably drying and tannic. This fine old port was at its optimum drinking in the mid 1970's but has managed to maintain some dignity and deliver pleasure to me and a few others. Not rated. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

12/02 Warre's 1977 Vintage Port - £40 (US$60)
Double decanted 10 hours in advance. Lighter than I imagined, a deep terracotta tile colour with a faint rim. Alcoholic at first, dry figs seem at the fore with a nutty complexity. A sweet and good introduction to the mouth, with figs tasted with a hint of dates. The mid palate is smooth and consistent with a long warming finish. This is drinking beautifully now at 25 years old and will probably hold for at least 5-10 years more. Surprisingly for me, it is about the same price as 2000 Warre's futures. 90/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

12/02 Niepoort 1992 Vintage Port - £32 (US$50)
This Jubilee declaration celebrated the existence of Niepoort from 1842 - 1992. Double decanted 6 hours in advance. A deep plum red colour with a very light rose rim and thick legs, this is still a young port at 10 years old. The nose is smooth with kirsch, aniseed and damp earth dominant at present. The mouthfeel is very silky but closed and I suspect that the abundant level of fruit is disguising the ripe tannins very well. A dash of hot spirit on the 20 second plus finish and I am sure that this port will develop well in the future. Infanticide? Probably. Did we enjoy drinking it? Yes! 90/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Fonseca LBV 1996 - £7.95 (US$12)
More expressive nose than the Fonseca Bin 27 NV that I tried before this. It tasted soft, warm with rich fruit and I also wrote down "yummy", so I must have enjoyed it! 87/100. I was also tipped off to watch out for the LBV's from the 1997 vintage as this was a declared vintage by many port houses. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Vintage port 2000 - £20 (US$30)
I have seen this pop up in vintage port reviews, with mixed results. I was eager to try it and get my own version of what it was like. A very deep morello cherry red. The nose was very distinctly wet earth, with aniseed and treacle-like flavours jumping out of the glass. The wild tannins attacked the palate, with sweetness showing for a few seconds, then settling into"armchair and burning fire in a comfortable living room" warmth that lasts for a good while. Although the sweetness on the finish seems a tad short, the length is impressive. At this price from this vintage from a very decent producer, you cannot go wrong, in my opinion. 92-94/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Niepoort Dry White Port NV - £9 (US$13)
An unusual style and Niepoort is one of the best examples on the market. A light golden colour with a dry, also Madeira like nose. It tasted semi-sweet, rich, slightly oxidised but to me was slightly too warm. This as very drinkable and a bargain for the price. 86/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Niepoort Colheita 1987
Aged for several years in oak barrels, this showed a rose and tawny like colour. The dry dates and Christmas cake nose gave way to liquid walnuts, very soft tannins and a good finish - 88/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Niepoort Vintage Port 1987
It was very interesting to compare the vintage port next to the Colheita of the same year. A much darker brick red, a touch of lighter red at the rim. The nose of rose petals led to a velvet thrust of ripe black fruits with good tannins and a very decent finish. 88/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Cockburns Vintage 2000
An opaque purple, like ink, thick and slow legs. The nose of wet earth and tar gave way to a full-bodied, concentrated, liquorice finish that lasted well. Even though Parker has scored this 95, IMHO I would say that is too generous at present. I would like to revisit this in 15 years time but at present I scored it 90-92. Splitting hairs, maybe, but that's part of the fun of wine. I mentally compared it to the Fonseca 2000 that I had tasted several weeks earlier, which to me appeared in a more superior league altogether, showing considerably more fruit and ripe tannins as well. It may be that I had tasted a number of different wines on the day and that my palate was a little jaded, which could be a factor. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 Cockburns 1960
A light tawny colour, almost a medium rose, with very slow legs. The nose smelt of marzipan, rosewater and aniseed. A medium bodied taste of ripe dates with a dash of spirit and a fantail finish lasting a good while. Although probably over the hill, this grand port was alive and delivering pleasure. Thank you Cockburns for the treat. 89/100 (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

11/02 1963 Taylors
Anyway, the wine had a light ruby hue with a rust colored edge. Decanted only 4 hours and then put back in the bottle recorked. Clearly this bottle's demeanor was more in the realm of a fine Tawny. A huge bowl of cherry and nutty aromas that kept my nose firmly in glass. Sweet berry and cassis flavors with toasted almond flavors on the finish. Showing way too much in the way of tertiary characteristics, yet lacking the tannins and structure I would expect from this wine. I missed the "grip" I have come to love in this Taylor vintage. Still pleasant, mostly well-balanced with an expansive finish possessing a touch of spirit. 89 points (Roy Hersh, USA)

11/02 1985 Graham's Vintage Port
What a difference time in decanter makes for Vintage Port. The spirity-alchohol character that prevailed early on, almost fully integrated by 11 p.m. showing the importance of understanding "decanting time and VP." Very expressive nose of sweet strawberries and blueberries juxtaposed by swirling vanilla extract & a cedary note. Well-stuffed with racy flavors of fig, spicy cinnamon and bittersweet chocolate, and mostly still primary qualities. Very smooth, pinpoint balance with a great long finish, where the alcohol is highlighted even more than on the nose. But, the longer the wine sat in decanter, the less apparent this became. (Roy Hersh, USA)

11/02 1985 Warre Vintage Port
With nearly ten hours of time in decanter, this wine blossomed and the color deepened to a dark ruby with a rim that shows the beginning of an early onset of maturity. It is not there yet though. At 17 years old, this wine is a bit more developed from a structural dynamic then I would expect of a wine from this vintage. But this Warre is in no rush to be opened if cellared well. Nice bouquet of strawberry and essence of grenadine syrup with a bit of subdued spirit that was not overwhelming, but a slight distraction. Soft, medium-bodied and nearly elegant with smoky prune flavors and a hint of raspberry and chocolate. Possessing some round, mostly resolved tannins that kick in on the medium length finish, along with lots of assertive acidity and a touch of spirit. Prognosis: This has shown a faster progression of development than expected and should start to peak in 5-10 years. 90 points. (Roy Hersh, USA)

11/02 Dow's 1977 Vintage port. £40 (US$80)
A deep ruby red, slightly lighter at the rim. Very think legs as you would expect from an excellent vintage port from this legendary vintage. Pure dry dates, dry figs and a hefty dose of alcohol greet the nose as I take a deep sniff. After a few more swirls, a hint of aniseed appears to say hi. Liquid dates with plenty of alcohol explode in the mouth. This continues on the mid-palate, with a dash of bitterness running in the background. It softens to a warming 30 second plus finish. This really could do with another 10-15 years, but its still drinkable now. A big vintage port, 92-94/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

10/02 Niepoort Vintage Port 1985
Young colour still. Crisp, flavoursome, a touch volatile but in a complex rather than unpleasant way. Warming and satisfying, but still a little young - 3 years might mellow it more but alas this is a solitary bottle. VG/E (Paul Armstrong, UK)

10/02 1987 Quinta do Panascal, Fonseca Guimaraens £19.95
Deep youngish purple. Curiously minerally nose - almost flinty. V odd nose. Good attack with bags of fruit. Then some spirit kicks in on middle. But finishes well. Lots of character. Not overly distinguished, but still pretty good all the same. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Graham's Fine Ruby €7.35
Light fruity nose with lots of spirity alcohol. Good, fruity, quite forward. Alcohol to fore esp on finish. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Graham's Fine Tawny €7.35
Much rounder nose, more evolved with Christmas spice and nuttiness. Rounder, more fruit on the palate, less obvious alcohol, but alcohol still showing on finish. Fine isn't a word I'd use to describe either of those, and I have to wonder why they bother offering them for tasting for a bunch of wine-lovers. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Graham's Late Bottles Vintage 1996 €13.75
Much deeper colour. Rather subdued nose. No spiritiness on nose, just lots of dark fruit. Good. V rounded. Nice character. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Graham's Six Grapes Ruby €15.50
Big dark colour. Not particularly fruity and has some alcohol on nose, which is a bit subdued. VG, but v clearly just a ruby. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Graham's 10 Year Old Tawny €18.30
Much paler, more wood colour. Fair nose. Plenty of fruit and christmas spice. Lightish fruit on attack, but alcohol takes over and overwhelms. V spirity on finish. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny €36.20
Quite pale. V raisined nose with rancio tones. Nice attack. Good, clean, rounded and very well balanced. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Quinta dos Malvedos 1996 €30.50
Dark and young. Quite a straightforward fruitcake nose. Big full attack with lots of fruit. Full & fruity in the mouth. Long and very full. Massive finish with great length. Not entirely knitted together - needs at the very minimum 5-10 years. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Ferreira 6 year old tawny
Spirity nose with heavy black fruit. Nice and fruity on attack, but big kick of spirits on middle. Finishes well though, with decent length and good fruit after. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Vasconcellos Reserve Superior (30 year old tawny)
V pale brickish. Light attack - v attractive. Fills nicely. Full and rich. Clean & rather good. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Vasconcellos Special Reserve (40 year old tawny)
V pale tan colour. Quite spirity on nose & quite raisiny. V. v. long. But rather spirituous. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Vasconcellos House Reserve
Mid tan. Raisined nose, but oddly lively. very elegant and restrained. Enormous length, just goes on and on. Excellent. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

10/02 Calem 1977
Don't have a proper note on this. It was bought from Calem's hi-tech porta-cabin cafe and drunk there about 1 a.m. in the morning with some gorgeous cheese. Cost about €180 IIRC. Memory tells me that it was really rather gorgeous. Very balanced, nicely mature but still with good fruit. (Andrew Stevenson, UK)

09/02 Fonseca 1977
Once again, this port was in fine form. Still quite dark, concentrated nose, rich and fat but with excellent structure. Long finish. Could I fault it? I wouldn't dare! Excellent. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

09/02 Graham's 1977
Super sweet and super fine. This was lovely and ripe on the nose, mature but robust, and had for all its sweetness, a fine balance and depth. Very good plus. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

08/02 Dow's LBV 1994
Very enjoyable, almost purple colour and lovely fragrant nose. Sweet, but firm, with good structure. Not got the class of the Warre's LBV 1992, but if I chose to drink port regularly, this would be it. Good plus. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

07/02 Barros & Almeida Colheita 1989
Colour is transparent but still quite vivid ruby-red. A beautifully sweet palate with notes of candied cherries and raisins, rounded off by a supremely focused fresh walnut nuance. Lacking some complexity and length to be really outstanding but shows the innate harmony that a blended tawny is IMO almost never capable of achieving. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Barros & Almeida Vintage Character
Slightly sweaty but elegant and not too heavy young Port nose with hints of nuts and almonds. Soft attack, more tannic later, finish is less convincing and loses fruit. Good in its type. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Barros & Almeida LBV 1996
Nose gives hints of rum-soaked raisins as of Málaga ice-cream and macerated dark grapes. Interesting fruit pie notes at mid-palate, juicy, not tannic at all, ready to drink and very attractive. Very good. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Barros & Almeida Quinta Dona Matilde 1996
Opaque in the glass. Nose is almondy, less defined than the LBV at this stage, more concentrated but with the sweaty extraction still a bit dominant. Slightly woody (drying out?) on the palate at first, medium length. Too young. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Barros & Almeida Vintage 1997
Lots of almonds on the dark, nocturnal and very tight nose here, with hints of licorice emerging. Good mouthfeel, a touch of stemmy tannins on the finish. A promising 1997. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Quinta do Noval 1980
Really thin and disappointing. Lacked depth, fruit, grip and flavour. Given that I'd had Fonseca 1977 the night before, this may have suffered from comparison, but so it should have done! Disappointing, rather than faulty. Moderate. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

04/02 Martinez Master's Reserve Vintage Character
We warmed up with some simpler styles before attacking the vintages. This spent 4 years in cask. Slightly tawnying ruby. Soft fruity nose with the tell-tale young port almond character, showing quite serious and concentrated on the nose with hints of dark grapes. Easy to enjoy, perhaps a bit too chewy and meaty for the moment, with a slightly short, dusty finish. Good. This retails for L8.99. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Late Bottled Vintage 1994
Bottled in 1999. Consistent medium purple with a watery rim. This smells like the currant soup we cook in Poland in hot summers, with some vanilla and mature scents of mixed spices beginning to creep in. Also a whiff of burnt rubber. Dry, slightly austere in mouth, vague on the finish. The acidity shows a bit aggressive and there is a dark burnt flavour which might indicate maturation in the Douro. Not as complex as the following wine. Pleasant but nothing more. L9.99. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Late Bottled Vintage Unfiltered 1996
Bottled 2001. Nice deep purple hue. Showing very young and still rather volatile, but fresher and denser than the standard LBV, with a black grape profile and hints of baked bread crust. Much on the dry side in mouth, with a slightly vegetal character still unresolved on the finish. An LBV for keeping three to four years to see it open up. L11.99. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Vintage 1985
Medium faded ruby-purple, quite dark for its age, but I had the impression it lightened quickly in the glass. Starts with very attractive aromas of rose petals, dried currant and minor leather, later to soften up into vanilla and whiffs of flowery air freshener. On the palate it shows soft and resolved, aromatically a bit vague perhaps, and much in the watery register with what could seem a lack of concentration (but isn't). Attractive and not the least volatile as too many 1985s are today. Also the only vintage tasted here that showed any custardy vanilla notes. The vintage wines retail for between L25 and 35 depending on vintage. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Vintage 1991
Same colour as the 1985, rose hues at rim. This is much denser and younger on the nose with hints of leather and fruit soup, roasted coffee, fresh orange, with fresh glue also springing to mind. A bit different on the palate: crisp but slightly woody, fails to deliver the concentration it promises on the nose. Very elegant style of port. Medium sweetness. Finishes with a touch of walnuts but also dilution. Retasted later this showed a bit varnishy and chocolatey but evolving towards the fresh dark grape element I call 'Burgundian'. Among the densest Martinez ports on this tasting. Very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Quinta da Eira Velha 1992
This ancient quinta is located in Pinhao and hosts one of the famous azulejo tile collection. This again shows the nose of a young Bordeaux with its cassis syrup profile, fresh and fruity but starting to show some sceondary aromas of smoke and fried chcicken here and there. Harmonious, elegant and juicy, quite compact for its age I thought; in mouth there is juicy cassis and blueberry jam, with the juicy-watery texture of Martinez, not thick nor viscous in any way. This seems to lack some lushness and complexity to promise any outstanding evolution, later showing some less enticing nail polish scents. But fresher and more consistent than the 1991 and hence marginally preferable today. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Vintage 1994
Very dark but transparent colour which gives away the vintage immediately. A more typical young port here: roasted coffee and bitter chocolate, minor whiffs of almonds which I found rather insignificant in all the Martinez wines, juicy but perhaps lacking some focus, showing to an extent jammier than other vintages. The palate brings those familiar Burgundian notes, showing more concentration in the appearance of some soy sauce flavours and in the generally drier nature of the fruit. Drier in style than most 1994 vintage ports, longer than other wines today, although it seemed less focused and integrated than the 1994 Eira Velha. Spicy, slightly bready finish. Has future. Very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Quinta da Eira Velha 1994
Tasted from half-bottle. Very dark purple but not black, and a shade lighter than the 1994 Vintage. Licorice, bitter chocolate and old wood on the nose, some dried mushrooms, again showing very juicy on the palate, with only moderate sweetness. Dark fruit character is given great elegance by an airy citrus feel. Showing fresh, young and attractive, though difficult to graps in terms of structure and substance, as evasive as these Martinez wines get. I left some wine in the glass for about half an hour and that meaty, vinous Burgundian profile appeared. If forced to pronounce a judgment I would think this is perhaps more solid and harmonious than the 1994 Vintage but next year I might say the opposite. Arguing which of the two is the better port is a favourite pastime among aficionados but to me they are both on the same level. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Quinta da Eira Velha 1995
A shade lighter than the 1994s, with a wider rim. This starts a bit reductive with some mushroomy scents, gradually opening up with plum liqueur and, dare I say, fresh sharon fruit, showing altogether much more evolved than either of the 1994s. Palate is juicy and watery-textured, with good fruit showing from underneath the still not perfectly integrated alcohol. Slightly rough finish. Getting more vegetal and slighly vaguer with time in the glass. Dry in style, again with that citrusy freshness, and surprisingly long: the strongly flavoured, dark finish is the wine's best part. The concentration is not on the levels of the 1994s. Going through a dormant phase today but could emerge as somethig interesting. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Vintage 1997
Bready and almondy scents on the nose which I find quite green, relatively elegant, not volatile, though with a bit of reductive character as of fresh fish or calamari. On the palate shows cakebread and other kitcheny scents, integrated and quite seamless for its age, not hot, if with a slightly vodka-reminiscent character (in flavour, not heat) on the finish. Again one would like more density and content packed into this but perhaps I am showing signs of Parkerization. The finish seems a bit weak and papery in comparison to the Eira Velha 1997. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Quinta da Eira Velha 1997
This is drier in style and also more rustic, showing quite a bit of old wood and barnyard on top of the dark cherry and chocolate profile. Masculine and muscular, showing good acidity and concentration, if the texture stays the same. Long, austere and slightly woody - though not tannic at all - on the finish. Softer already than the 1998, juicy-watery but showing good character, especially on the finish. Compared to the 1997 Vintage this seems altogether the more serious and long-haul-directed of the two, astonishingly, and convinces where the Vintage shows weak: in texture, structure and on the finish. Very good, though IMO not on the level of the 1994 or 1992. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Quinta da Eira Velha 1998
Not too dark. Rather closed and not showing much apart from almonds on the nose, with perhaps some fresh and mulled orange appearing with time. Juicy and intense on the palate but not the most impressive of the tasting. Lacks complexity at this stage and shows too bready-almondy for proper judgment about its future to be made. Might have some interest but needs revisiting in two years' time. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Martinez Vintage 1999
A barrel sample, as the wine was just being bottled at the time of tasting. Note that both the 2000 Vintage and Eira Velha have now been declared. Very dark colour. This shows extremely young in being papery, slightly volatile and rather green on the nose. In mouth the juicy texture seems even leaner than in other vintages, reminiscent of caffe lungo or whatever is the Anglo-American term. Fruit is soft, the finish is soupy, intense, if slightly hot. Not to drink now, obviously, but seems interesting and promising, perhaps on the level of the 1997 Eira Velha. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Churchill's 1982
This was the first vintage declared by this shipper and I tasted it a couple of years ago and liked it. Now: Colour, deep red, but going tawny and brown at the rim. Attractive, spicy nose, quite nicely concentrated. On the palate, retained a pleasing prickly spiciness to counterbalance its sweetness, but there was little fruit in evidence. Quite good with food, but not great to sip on its own. Moderate plus. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Extra Dry White
About three years old, a blend of Viosinho, Gouveio and Malvasia. Quite attractive nose of vanilla biscuits, shrimps, with the damp, humid character of white port. Less convincing on the palate, showing some heat. Decent. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Ruby
A not very perfumed wine with nice, elegant, soft palate which is not too aggressive, apart from some highly marked acids on the finish. Good. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Sottovoce Reserve
A vintage character of 5 years average age, made from the five classic Douro varieties. Mildly almondy nose with some humid touches. Juicy on the palate, with very good intensity of blackcurrant and prune. Round fruit, fine balance, not the longest of finishes, but has personality. Very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Late Bottled Vintage 1997
Foot-trodden, unfiltered and bottled in 2001. Very dark. Humid, meaty, with dark berries and perfumed soap. Concentrated cassis and blueberry jam character, quite Bordeaux-like in profile. Quite drinkable in style. Very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Vintage 1997
A serious nose here, not volatile at all, perhaps slightly milky; very powerful in mouth, with incisive acidity, cocoa powder flavours; not too complex at present, but seems to approach a period of drinkability. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Vintage 2000
Barrel sample of a freshly declared vintage. Almondy and doughy, not as concentrated as the 1997, with bramble fruit but much alcohol showing. I am not very experienced in drinking port barrel samples, but this struck me as less complete than the 1997. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester 10 Year Old Tawny
Rich tawny - orange - brown colour. Nose is mildly nutty, with hints of fried noodles but overall rather neutral. On the palate slightly hot, soft and much doce in style, vaguely nutty; has some appeal but rather disappointing for a house which bases its reputation on tawnies. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 J. W. Burmester Colheita 1991
Bottled in 2000. Very dark brown, surprising saturated concentrated colour. Again slightly vague on the nose, with hints of chicken borth and soy sauce, walnuts, carrot cake, dried currants. Sweet, powerful, caramelly on palate, with the alcohol showing quite a bit. Rather austere in style; very long aftertaste. Very juicy, slightly clumsy, syrupy in texture but on the dry side. Certainly interesting, but lacking the usual refinement of good colheitas. (Nerval, UK)

02/02 Sandeman Vau Vintage Port 97
Colour: young vigorous purple. Nose: rich young blackberry fruit. Palate: plummy, rich, hint of backbone/astringency, but already mellow and approachable. VG (Paul Armstrong, UK)

02/02 1963 Grahams Vintage Port
Ruby red. Very high toned alcoholic, spirity nose, and lots of raisins. Lovely palate - very sweet style, nice texture. The finish a bit too alcoholic for my taste, but a lovely mature port. V.good! (Stephan Muller, UK)

02/02 Warres Trad. LBV 1992
Dense, grapey fruit yet developing nicely good mouthfeel: smooth with background alcohol. Terrific alternative to the real thing. (Nick Alabaster, UK)

01/02 Fonseca 1977
Magnificent: this was a super-concentrated wine, its colour still pretty dark ruby, a fine nose with cherries and raspberries singing through, and a rich palate of extraordinary concentration. A finish that lasted for EVER! I read later that WS had scored this a 100, which I can believe despite my misgivings about such scores, a most memorable wine which I score Outstanding. (Matthew Mellor, UK)

01/02 Taylors 1966
A very badly stored example, unfortunately (stored in an attic!!). Very pale plum and looking its age. The fading fruit is still holding on - just - with its delicate nose of plumy and almost mineral fruit. The palate was reasonably good with red and black fading fruit, very soft tannins but the brandy spirit wasn't at all hot. Only OK, but pity about the storage. (Phil Wilkins, UK)

01/02 Grahams Vintage Port 1997
From a cask sample. Fantastic raisin, black plummy nose. Lovely pure black fruits on the palate with good acidity. Not overly tannic compared to the ripeness. Plums, Xmas cake. Good length. I know port should be left x number of years, including this, but I still enjoyed it now. (22/25) (Neal Martin)

01/02 Taylors 1967
Tea like, nutty development, but then sweet liquoricy alcohol comes to the rescue, mixing it with raisins, stewed prunes and a long warning finish. (Nick Alabaster, UK)


07/02 Príncipe Alfonso de Hohenlohe VdM Blanco 2001
11.5% alc. Crunchy nose with aggressive cat pee notes; varnishy on the palate, soft, almost flabby but actually not so bad. Based on Palomino? (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Príncipe Alfonso de Hohenlohe VdM Tinto 2000
A bit meaty nose here with notes of varnish and almonds, in mouth the acidity and tannins showing showing on the quite long finish. Decent wine but nothing more. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Herederos de Argüeso Manzanilla Las Medallas de Argüeso
Starts wild and dusty from the albariza soil, the becomes quite appley, slightly hard in mouth but with a good, rustic manzanilla personality. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Herederos de Argüeso Manzanilla Pasada San León
Riper nose with shades of butter and apple peelings; quite vegetal in mouth, much stronger, slightly chemical, as of lanolin of varnish. Very traditional, uncompromising style. Lacks some fruit seemingly, although there's an attractive touch of apple. Different but not superior to the Medallas. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez Manzanilla
Dark colour with some green. Interesting salted butter nose with only vague hints of apple; quite fresh, powerful, slightly varnishy in mouth. Pleasantly intense. Quite good. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez Fino Alameda
More lettucey-green on the nose than the Manzanilla, with a bitter note; very varnishy in mouth, showing quite evolved as if the botas were only rarely refreshed. A bit aggressive. Big personality. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez Amontillado Solera Reservada 1855
Dark amber verging on brown, red at rim. Nose is very buttery with ripe peach, quince and squash, very fruity for its age. Extremely intense in mouth, with a high dose of volatile varnish. Perhaps there's an aggressivity not entirely balanced by opulence of fruit, but also a buttermilky touch towards the finish which is quite remarkable. Very dry, albariza-like and herbal. Not extremely pleasant finish which however shows great noblesse. A truly royal sherry. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez Amontillado Medium Dry
Darker, towards dark amber and medium brown. Nose of caramel and candied fruit here, not as vulgar as most medium dry sherries; smooth but not sweet at all in mouth, with a herbal, mildly animal touch common with the above wines. Slightly watery perhaps. Very long, intense, dry-dusty and varnishy finish. Brilliant in its type. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez Oloroso Seco Mentidero
Medium brown. Elegant nose of walnuts, old cupboard yet quite fruity and perfumed with caramel notes. A fine sherry. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez Cream La Señora
A colour slightly lighter than the above but with red at rim. This is less interesting, with aromas of boiled sweets and molasses, quite volatile, but the caramelly sweetness on the palate is not obtrusive, even elegant, integrated in the wine, without unpleasant edges. But less exciting than the dry styles. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Gómez PX Solera Reservada Triple Dulce
Very dark core, medium beige rim. Nose of raisins and syrup, quite elegant for a PX, with medium sweetness on the palate and a mildly cooked or burnt character. Very good PX because of its elegance. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Osborne Fino Amontillado Coquinero
Starts with a heavily earthy, bricky nose, then opens up with some apple. Rather austere, more fino- than amontillado-like IMO, quite varnishy in mouth, with high acidity. A rather traditional style with a yeasty flor finish which is intense, aggressive and long. Not too friendly style but certainly very good. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Osborne Palo Cortado
Huge caramel on the greatly intense nose, subsided by a buttery elegance as well. Just a bit off-dry on the palate, brothy and meaty in texture; good length. Austere of style. Good, interesting wine. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Osborne PX Viejo
Fabulous colour, dark as a moonless night, with a heavily browning rim. Nose is very intense and dried-raisiny, rather chewy and lacking elegance. Great length, with a suggestion of orange on the finish. Not overtly sweet, the venerable age seemingly conceding some balance. But perhaps not as interesting as expected, if still a superior PX. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Marqués del Real Tesoro Fino Tío Mateo
Nose of freshly cut apples, pleasant and elegant, with good intensity in mouth if slightly hollow if very juicy and soft. Weak finish. Fades rather quickly and clearly a wine to drink in quantities, which isn't too difficult at £3.99 a half. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear C.B. Fino Pale Dry
Quite stinky on the nose, with a bottom note of cool green apple. Slightly fried-foody in mouth, showing good freshness without much complexity or refinement. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear C.B. Medium Dry
Medium brown, saturated colour. This has more varnish and old wood on the nose, very vulgar if compared to the supreme elegance of the Carlos VII; again a bit of Chinese fried food. Sadly sweetened and blurred on the palate, slightly unpleasant despite a good initial moment of intensity. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear C.B. Pale Cream
Rather light. Some boiled asparagus on a nose which is otherwise quite marked by its fino parent, apart from a round moment of intensity on attack. Again this is showing quite OK for the dreaded style it represents, sweet in mouth but with a vinous, sherry-like element which is by no means to be taken for granted in pale creams. Great (relative) elegance and refinement for its style. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear Montilla Fino Capataz
This and all the following are 100% Pedro Ximénez. Very yeasty on the nose with notes of green apple, immediately likeable with good persistence in mouth and slightly bitter vegetabley character on the finish. Very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear Amontillado Carlos VII
19% natural alcohol; 20 years of average age. Medium brown to light golden. Wonderfully fruity nose with notes of caramel, quince and ripe peach, followed by more oxidative scents of dried nuts, nut cake and marzipan. Has an elegance which few wines can equal. Great complexity. Buttery notes on the palate, still that impression of refinement and elegance. Perhaps slightly soupy in mouth, with notes of soy sauce, but seems even more authentic thanks to this. A big animal. Great. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear Oloroso Asunción
19% alc. This is around 10 years old. A bit darker than the above but not too much so. This is much nuttier in style, with similar notes of caramel and dried fruit only present in the background. Quite juicy in mouth really, though still showing lots of raisin and walnut old solera character. Very fine. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear Pedro Ximénez de Añada 2000
This is from grapes dried on the sun which are pressed and instantly transferred into steel tanks where the wine stays for several months before being bottled without any contact with wood. Medium brown with some blood red. Good varietal character with notes of raisins, not much finesse but good purity of fruit. Sticky-honeyed of course, but by no means heavy, with a dominating note of fig. Very attractive despite the rather extreme style. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear Pedro Ximénez Solera 1927
This, unlike the 1910, comes from a dynamic one with an average age of 5-6 years. Much darker than the above, verging on mahogany, with some yellow at rim. This is thicker and smoother in texture, almost creamy, less elegant than the vintage version, and also much sweeter in mouth. Great texture and above-average length. Very honeyed finish. Good, pleasurable wine. (Nerval, UK)

07/02 Alvear Pedro Ximénez 1910
1,200 bottles are the total allocation of this rare wine for the UK and US. Very dark core, brown rim. Dark, very soleado character with mulled orange-like hints of Moscatel, followed by a note of old dry wood. Sweeter than the 1927, has more elegance but without the completeness of the Toro Albalá 1972, which I reviewed recently. This seems more concentrated and more stable than the 1927 version, less vivace than the latter. This is very fine but the best could in a way be the Añada. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate Fino Marismeno
16% alc., from a freshly opened bottle. Medium gold. Nose of Cox apples and gentle flor tones vaguely reminiscent of foul egg and lanolin, with a touch of herbiness. Good initial fruity impact on the palate, quite rustic and chewy, with hints of oxidation. Also showing a bit chemical and appley-eggy in mouth. Mouth-drying, slightly tannic finish. Traditional style. Good fino. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Gutiérrez Colosía Fino
15% alc., from a freshly opened bottle. Much paler than the Romate. Fresher nose of white apple flesh and a whiff of sea breeze, altogether an evanescent nose with some albariza chalkiness and boiled egg white apparent. Very soft on the palate, though showing serious mouthfilling body with hints of roasted hazelnuts, better acidity than the Romate and a citrusy, if slightly glassy, finish. Retasted later, this shows altogether more intense and dusty than the Romate, although both could use more character and definition. But very good indeed, again much in the traditional style. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Gutiérrez Colosía Amontillado Viejo y Seco
18% alc., from a freshly opened bottle. Dark amber verging on slightly faded orange at rim. Rich citrusy nose with hints of sweetness, smooth, slightly eggy, with minor old wood and spice notes. Wonderfully rich and luscious fruit on the palate, although fading rather quickly in the glass, leaving behind a perfumed soap note. Soft, but getting more powerful on the finish with a varnishy old wood thing, plus notes of fresh orange and mulled wine. Very much a Puerto style of amontillado, quite soft and fruity, with noble whiffs of smoke and roasted coffee. Lacks some body perhaps. More tangy than any wine at this tasting, clearly the longest and most intense of the three amontillados. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate Amontillado N.P.U.
18% alc., from a freshly opened bottle. The warmest sherry of the tasting in colour: very much dark amber-pale brown. Very dusty nose at first, opening up with some old wood, varnish and remnants of the green apple of the Marismeno above. Less defined than the Colosía, with some foul egg aromas again, dry-woody and herbal. The herbiness evolves towards a mulled wine character with time, the palate showing a lot of albariza but altogether rather neutral. Some calvados and lemon peel notes at mid-palate, if again with that feeling of neutrality. Minor green apple note. Pleasant but rather unconvincing. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate La Sacristía Amontillado Vinas Viejas
19% alc., from a freshly opened bottle. Darker than the Colosía, but surprisingly lighter than the N.P.U. in colour: medium amber verging on brown. More perfumed than the N.P.U., quite caramelly with hints of walnuts and walnut ice-cream, followed by some old cupboard and poached raisins. Elegant on the palate, showing some vanilla and wood, not as fruity and defined as the Colosía perhaps, and also a bit vague on the long finish. Smooth, consistent and long, with an acidic edge and a meat stock or jus intensity; nutty aftertaste. Citric freshness throughout, though showing quite a bit of warm, aged character. Soft style, medium intensity. Lacks any particular distinction for a 30 year-old wine and does not seem that old really. Also lacks a bit of focus and intensity, though it remains an elegant wine, paradoxically more similar to the Colosía than the N.P.U. Good amontillado. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate Palo Cortado Regente
20% alc. Darker than any of the amontillados, and marginally more than the Colosía below: medium beige with slightest hints of red at rim. Shows a sweet edge to the woody nose as of muscovado sugar, slightly soupy-brothy, but with a dry perfume as of marzipan. Candied and roasted walnuts on the palate, some alcohol showing, reminiscent of vodka or sherry brandy. Elegant and showing good palo cortado character. Of course less intense than the Colosía and almost watery in comparison, perhaps slightly vague, with that flavour of walnuts carrying throughout the palate. Good texture and focus, flavours integrated, medium length by sherry standards, quite fresh. A nice glass of wine. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Gutiérrez Colosía Palo Cortado Viejísimo
Lighter brown than the Regente above, hinting at orange, and perhaps more intense in colour than all the above wines. Older and more evolved on the nose, with a volatile-varnishy character and notes of slight egginess, mixed herbs, lanolin and bitter almonds or marzipan reminiscent of fino. Elegant, if not as complex as expected, with hints of woman's bathroom scents. Superb length and consistency on the palate, harmonious mixture of dried fruit and old wood with a varnishy patina and a wonderful citric drive. The finish lasts a good 40 seconds, before leaving place to a dusty but creamy walnut aftertaste! Perhaps just a bit too woody-varnishy, with a bit of heat as well (not surprising!), but that's splitting hairs. Great sherry, although the minor criticism I expressed about it last time remains valid: is this not too powerful and evolved for a palo cortado, i.e., what exactly distinguishes this from a Puerto-style oloroso? (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Gutiérrez Colosía Oloroso Viejo y Inicialmente Seco
18% alc., freshly opened bottle. Slightly faded medium dark brown, a notch darker than the Regente. This is already rather organic and animal, with notes of cow shit and chicken or meat stock, plus an amazing note of green apple which underlines its descendance from a Puerto fino. Lacking a bit of intensity and definition on the nose perhaps, plus with time in the glass this develops a slightly disturbing humid smell as of apple peel. On the palate it is very smooth and shows its Puerto pedigree, with a walnut flavour carrying throughout but also a hint of mulled wine sweetness at mid-palate (although it does not appear to have been sweetened, and if so, rather with Moscatel than with PX). Quite good but nothing too exciting for me. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate Oloroso Don José
18% alc. Slightly darker than the above. Nose showing hints of old sandalwood but mainly lots of sweet and fragrant character, with a note of powdery oriental talc if that makes any sense. Long and quite intense on the palate, with a light roast coffee note. Altogether rather subdued and feminine. Shows a bit more substantial with time in the glass, if still in the yellow fruit liqueur register as of quince or pear, again showing much of a fruity, soft, subdued style with no trace of aged solera character. Good, but lacking distinction. By a minor margin preferable to the Colosía above. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate La Sacristía Oloroso
20% alc., over 30 years old says back label. The darkest of the olorosos with a consistent mahogany hue throughout. Dusty old wood and sweet powdery perfume on the nose, hints of vanilla and minor herbiness. Soupy and concentrated texture on the palate but not heavy, very smooth, with again that mellow and almost sweet (this could have 2-3% of PX) intensity in mouth. Minor pungency from the acids. Too soft a style of oloroso, I thought. Develops a long walnutty aftertaste after some time in the glass, together with notes of vanilla ice-cream, sweet varnish and moderate length. Slightly abrupt on the finish, with an old-woody and dusty finish. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate La Sacristía Cream
18% alc., freshly opened bottle, over 20 years old says back label. Dark mahogany. Slightly dirty-stemmy nose with initial notes of molasses and concentrated grape must or marmalade, followed by treacle, dark chocolate, espresso, but mercifully no signs of boiled sweets which I often hate in blended sherries. This must age a considerable amount of time in the solera after blending. Palate of coffee and dark grapes, showing integrated, elegant and finely balanced, not so sweet and again with relatively little PX character. Perhaps a bit of dilution on the finish. Very good cream which however lacks some complexity and depth to be really outstanding, though clearly among the most exciting of its category. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Gutiérrez Colosía Moscatel Soleado Dulce
15% alc. Dark brown with mahogany hues and no rim. Very muscatey nose with hints of boiled-down grape syrup, dust and raisins. Concentrated but quite smooth, balanced, though not showing much of the orangey acidity of the best sherry Moscatels. Creamy and thick, drinking very well, but lacking sophistication and complexity. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate Moscatel Ambrosia
18% alc. Amazing, impenetrable dark mahogany colour. Brothy, slightly dusty on the nose with hints of dark grapes, meat extract, molasses, old solera, and a whiff of flor? Quite long, if still lacking some refinement. But more interesting than the Colosía, way darker in style but paradoxically not heavier, with quite a juicy texture for what it is. Just slightly overdone on the finish and perhaps more interesting for that, although loses some Moscatel character and becomes quite like a PX. Very good indeed. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Gutiérrez Colosía Pedro Ximénez Muy Dulce
18% alc. Very dark mahogany, if with Burgundy hues at core; medium brown rim. The lightest and most elegant of the three PX tasted, with a slightly musky-animal style of PX here and fine definition of molasses and meat extract notes. It disappoints slightly on the palate when the creamy texture and considerable sweetness are not balanced with enough acidity, tasting almost like liquid chocolate. Very smooth, no alcohol noticeable. Nice touch of intensity on the finish. Very interesting PX. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate Pedro Ximénez Cardenal Cisneros
18% alc. Completely opaque old brown colour, very glass-coating. Dusty, with a more pronounced raisiny character than the Colosía above. Smooth and creamy on the palate, darker than the Colosía and with that boiled sweet character of (relatively) young PX, treacly-chocolatey, with a burnt side to it. Not too elegant, rather a brutish style of PX, wild and elemental. But quite enjoyable. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Sánchez Romate La Sacristía Pedro Ximénez
16% alc, over 35 years old says back label. Very similar in colour to the Cardenal but more rim here. Stemmier and dirtier nose with lots of solera scents, on the palate showing more of a solid fudge texture than syrup. But interesting, much more complex than the two above, with grape confiture, roasted coffee and high-grade tea, raisins, softer and much more refined despite the immense sweetness. Tea and fruity impressions on the finish. Noble and integrated. Very fine, among the best PX tasted this year. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana
Very pale, almost colourless. Nose of freshly cut green apple with flor overtones, very soft in register, with minor chlorine whiffs. On the palate the green apple is mixed with more meaty and bready notes of the traditional Hidalgo style; with time in the glass hints of white chocolate, fried food and even some mushrooms appear. Has some depth. Very minor trace of heat on the finish. Very tasty indeed, if not the most complicated fermented grape juice beverage to pass my lips. A superior manzanilla, and delightful to drink even for someone, like me, who does not favour this type of wine. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Manzanilla Pastrana
This is the celebrated single-vineyard version made jointly by Mr Hidalgo and Cristiano van Zeller of the Douro. Intense pale gold, very dark when compared to the Gitana. This is much more serious: stale butter, pine nut or walnut oil, bits of volatile flor and albariza notes, also quite vegetal-herbal. Has double the depth of the Gitana on the palate, as seriously structured as manzanilla gets, but still recognizable as itself, i.e. a shade softer than any fino from Jérez. A touch of fruit liqueur thickness adds to the interest; the mushroomy notes of the Gitana also appear here. This is not as airy and evasive as most manzanillas, and actually has quite some grip. Medium long, with a roasted cashew nuts aftertaste. Brilliant, and not at all expensive at around L10 per 750 ml bottle. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Amontillado Seco Napoleon
Dark amontillado colour with medium brown hues and some pink at rim. Very soft on the nose, clearly in a Sanlúcar style, but improving substantially with time in the glass and evolving towards a varnishy-caramelly character, while always staying very fruity. Slightly animal and herbal, with some kitcheny aromas. Very soft on attack, but then showing intense and deep towards the finish, with very good acidity and a decent, varnishy, woody finish. Extremely intensely flavoured, with a wonderful balance from the background citric acidity. Smooth Sanlúcar texture but the structure is out of the ordinary here. Impressive for a basic amontillado. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Amontillado Viejo
This is the aged version of the Pastrana. Consistent, beautifully nuanced colour which is not too dark for an amontillado, medium brown with amber at core. Upon opening simply incredible, supremely delicate and elegant nose, with an extra depth of mellowness betraying its age, a rich custardy edge to the slightly volatile-varnishy sherry paradygm (although varnishy this is certainly not). A touch of dust or old wood which in this case is more redolent of granite rock dust; more pungent if swirled, whereas if left in the glass for some time it shows so eminently fruit-pulpy. One of the most sophisticated things I have ever smelt. Mellow and smooth on attack, with lots of beaten custardy egg character on the palate. Acidity on the low side, not so salty and sherry-biting as expected, in fact a bit soupy in texture and very soft, perhaps even a bit too much so, especially to Jérez-accustomed palates. Finishes with a more mature touch of solera. Very mellowed, smooth and étoffé, as the French put it. The length is just superb. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Jérez Cortado
It is not clear to me why this is not be labelled Palo Cortado. 17.5% alc. Pale brown with apricotty, almost rosey hues. A touch of albariza on the light, airy and perfumed nose, with sweet and citrusy notes interspersed. Cool and fleshy in mouth, long, consistent, quite intense, though lacking some definition and difficult to pin down. Has a softness and elegance which are very true to palo cortado. Soft and juicy, very pleasant to drink, with notes of vanilla, old wood, some egg custard, rounded off by a dried herbs character to the finish. Quite good, though one would like more grip. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Oloroso Abocado Napoleon
17.5% alc. Dark brown. Spicy, slightly cooked nose with an orangey Muscat touch, but elegant, not boiled-sweety, in fact aristocratically perfumed and fruity, if slightly sweaty in character perhaps. This actually shows quite some age, but at the same time an almost perfect integration of the oloroso and the abocado characters, so to speak. But all in all showing a bit neutral in mouth, I thought, with some poise on the finish but rather unsubstantial and with a bit of woody hardness as well. Bread crust touches, slightly caramelly also. Has some class but lacks ultimate definition and grip. (Nerval, UK)

06/02 Hidalgo Pedro Ximénez Viejo Napoleon
Medium dark mahogany. Classic PX nose of boiled sweets, grape syrup and some smoke, plus mildly obtrusive notes of wet kitchen board funk. Very smooth in mouth, with an espresso-like intensity, hints of old wood and burnt syrup, but all in all not very complex. Raisiny aftertaste, rather medium length. A middle-of-the-range PX, I thought, soft enough to be drunk with pleasure, but lacking any particular character which would elevate it above its IMHO generally unconvincing grape pedigree. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne Manzanilla
Ripe green apple and a bit of sardine funk, on the palate again quite appley, with a strange dry breadcrumb note. Quite good. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne Fino Quinta
Golden green in the glass. Rich nose of apple and flor, followed by a savoury and fruity palate with soft, almost sweet apple and a touch of herbs. Quite refined, if showing some rustic old barrel character. Very good; clearly among the more interesting finos around. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne Premium Dry Oloroso Bailén
Very pale subdued beige. Nose shows some caramelly sweetness coupled with sherry poignancy, vaguely herbal, with more volatile top notes of soy sauce and meat extract. On the palate it shows some walnuts, old wood, altogether in a soft, slightly watery register, with a long finish echoing almost endlessly. A Puerto style wihch I find unappealing, but certainly a superior sherry. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne Palo Cortado Solera
Tasted from bottle no. 00,006; 22% alc. Dark golden hues to a meduim brown colour. Citric and slightly organic nose, showing some varnish and blood, again slightly herbal in character. Unfortunately slightly sweetened with PX, but refined as such, fresh and full-flavoured, rich, with a very fine elegant profile of roasted peach and apricot. Medium long, truly excellent among sweetened sherries. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne Original Ruby
Almonds, vanilla, sponge cake. Rather industrial on the palate, humid, though still quite drinkable. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne 10 Year Old Tawny
Very pale in colour. Nose shows dusty, with hints of cork rind but otherwise not very assertive. Sweet palate as of boiled sweets, caramel and medicinal pills. Rather bland. Not the greatest 10 y.o. around. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Osborne Vintage 1995
The highly acclaimed wine from Osborne. Very dark and opaque. Rather hollow and papery in character, with bready texture on the palate and flavours of Chinese fried food. Long and juicy, with a sweet raspberry liqueur touch, lacking some refinement. Rather disappointing; altogether all ports from Osborne showing rather poor and I much preferred their sherries. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Alvear Fino Capataz
From Montilla, 100% Pedro Ximénez. Dark yellow with orange hues. Well-defined, rich and spicy nose with hints of herbs and a very strong albariza soil component, austere, though rounder and less edgy than a Palomino-based fino. Palate is also rich and round, with a very long finish that shows hints of ripe peach. Some bell-pepper and cucumber green notes on the palate, perhaps slightly hollow in the middle and lacking some intensity, or too broad in its aromatic palette. But seems to hold better than most finos in the glass, still evolving into bread crust, fresh cherry, parsley, fried eggplant and chlorine scents even after three hours from opening. Excellent wine. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Emilio Lustau Oloroso de Jerez 1/16, matured by Angel Zamorano
Half-bottle bought for L8. Never heard of this almacenista before. Colour is light to medium brown with quite a lot of madeira-like green, and hints of pale gold at rim; on the next day it seems a bit lighter than that, with blood red hues now. First nose is extremely sweet, as of caramel and burnt muscovado sugar, almost syrupy, but with some sherry bite; this is followed by extremely well-focused notes of bread crust, roasted almonds, fresh vanilla beans, fruit pulp, followed by Chinese mushroom water and a growing note of malt whisky. Not extremely intense on attack, rather smooth and with that glyceric, treacly-caramelly sweetness (I guess this is what the pata de gallina category is about, although the so-labelled oloroso by Jarana lacks this sweetness almost completely), excellent length and a high acidity which seems a bit raw in its lemon juice-like edge. The finish brings roasted nuts and buckwheat honey. Not the longest of olorosos, but still fabulously persistent. Has personality, and at this stage I judged it great. (Nerval, UK)

other Old World

12/02 1933 Broadbent Malmsey Madeira
Medium amber in color, this is a very good Madeira that shows lots of complexity given its youth (in Madeira terms). There is a good dose of acid here that adds the backbone to the caramel, praline and chocolate covered raisin flavors that are fun to roll around in the mouth. Incredibly moutfilling toasted hazelnut on the finish that lasted until breakfast the next morning. You can tell you finished the night with a great wine when you don't want to brush your teeth. ; ) (Roy Hersh, USA)

12/02 1991 Compania Mata "Gold Sweet" Malaga (Spain)
maple syrup in color and viscosity with a yellow rim. Caramelized sugar essence that closely resembled Madeira in more ways than one. Very extracted raisin and prune flavors. Some chocolate on the delicate and somewhat monolithic, yet velvety finish. (Roy Hersh, USA)

11/02 Florio Marsala Vecchioflorio Vendemmia Superiore 1998
Medium amber. Quite syrupy, cooked-eggy and marmaladey nose. Has a custardy softness plus a lean, madeira-like watery texture. (Nerval, Poland)

11/02 Florio Marsala Superiore Riserva Targa 1840 Riserva 1993
Slightly more brown in the glass than the above. Slightly oxidised with notes of old wood in the sherry style. Quite nutty amontillado-like palate with a relative bite, some oxidation showing, but still has that custardy softness as of beaten egg. Finishes very soft and with no distinction. (Nerval, Poland)

11/02 Florio Marsala Vergine Terre Arse 1991
Very stinky rustic amontillado or young oloroso style with old wood and barnyard, foul egg?. Shorter than others but has more grip due to the complete dryness. A bit disappointing as I used to like previous vintages of this much better. (Nerval, Poland)

11/02 Florio Marsala Vergine Baglioflorio 1989
Softness of syrup and custard on the nose, with the dryness of Terre Arse compromised by sweetening here, less interesting. Some bitter herbs, less definition, finishes diluted. Pleasant but rather vague, with a softness not unlike barrique-aged white wines. (Nerval, Poland)

11/02 Florio Marsala Vergine Gold Label 1993
Nice concentrated amber colour. Again slightly stinky foul egg and sulphur on the nose, with thta Florio bitter-herbiness mildly reminiscent of vermouth hovering above. More foody than the two above, with more filling and medium length. Still seems to lack concentration; texture here and in the above wine very much like mid-aged madeira. Nothing too special (Nerval, Poland)

11/02 Florio Vecchio Samperi Ventennale Solera
A de-classified Marsala (the most famous of all, I should add) of 100% Grillo. Rather lightish amber. Nose of amontillado, elegant and understated, with good precision of aromas. Mouthfeel shows the familiar Marsala softness and fruit sweetness which sets it apart from sherry; good definition, though one would like more acidity and grip. Also does not seem very aged in this case (reputed to be over 30 years old). But has a noblesse superior to all Marsalas tasted. (Nerval, Poland)

11/02 Florio Marsala Superiore 1986
Medium amber verging on beige. Rather dense eggy nose with biting sherry overtones, this is again more precise, elegant and noble than comparable wines from other producers, good intensity in mouth but the finish is slightly blurred by excessive sweetness. Good length, dense, very linear, with no hard edges or frills. A successful wine. (Nerval, Poland)

07/02 Duca di Castelmonte Marsala Superiore Riserva Ambra
Over four years of botte ageing.. Colour very light brown, not peachy anymore. Nose of diluted sherry. Not greatly focused on the palate, warm, with a slightly blunt walnutty finish. Good texture and medium sweetness, a valid wine. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Sercial Colheita 1988
The bottling date of this, as in fact of any of the other wines, is unknown but these colheitas are all recent releases. This again shows a captivating colour which is light creamy beige, substantially lighter than any of the following, though much darker than the now watery-seeming 5 y.o. A perfumed nose of fresh fruit (pear?) follows, backed by hints of woman's soap and toasted cashew nuts; quite pungent in character, though highly elegant and seamless, with no hints of cooked character or volatility of any kind. On the palate there are notes of baked bread crust and a searing acidity. Still light and juicy in register, with impressive length. Seems a bit unsubstantial but a fine wine of undoubted noblesse. This again shows that amazing note of fresh physalis fruit I picked up in one of the previous wines. Despite the airiness this has quite a depth of flavour and sheer weight. The most impressive of the colheitas in my book. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Verdelho Colheita 1988
A shade darker than the Sercial, with a medium brown core. Finer and fruitier on the nose than the Sercial, with notes of gooseberry and apple, but seems to lack some substance and certainly is a far cry from the great consistency of the latter wine. Long limey finish but the texture here is too watery and lacks weight. It also shows some dusty hints of bottle sickness. The finish here I found not perticularly convincing despite the fine length. This and the preceding retail for about L23; between 500 and 600 cases were made of each varietal. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Bual Colheita 1982
Slightly darker brown than the Verdelho. Thickier and heavier on the nose with much wood character evident and notes of egg custard appearing again. Light roast coffee and a bit of a green profile add to the picture. This has better substance in mouth than the Verdelho and shows more herbal and masculine in style. Still quite juicy, though the fabric here is of considerable density. But again a Bual not showing great aromatic interest, and not necessarily preferable to the Verdelho above. L30. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Malmsey Colheita 1983
More or less the same colour as the Bual, if perhaps less orange-shaded. Citrusy nose with hints of mulled wine and a very biting, assertive character, almost bitter as of cigar smoke or ash. Warm, eggy, boiled-foody in profile, showing a bit longer and richer than the two intermediate styles, while still balanced by electrifying acidity. Could use some time in the bottle or decanter to integrate its seemingly disjointed sweetness but very good. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Bual 1971
This is the only wine to have a date of bottling on the back label: 1992. Colour is medium brown with some yellow at rim. Very elegant on the nose, with hints of soy sauce, egg custard, dried herbs and mixed spices. Great length, palate reminiscent of citrus fruit, mainly fresh orange, and of roasted fruit. This really never finishes in mouth. High but not obtrusive acidity, medium roast coffee hints after some time in the glass. Near-perfect balance. Seamless, integrated, light on its feet, yet with proper gravity. Safely outstanding. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Bual 1968
More peachy tinges here. This has an amazing walnutty and marzipanny note on the nose, showing slightly denser and more treacly in character to the 1971, but much on the dry side, although with a chocolatey richness. Dense on the palate, with a woody touch rounding off the finish. Because of the richness and relatively covered acids does not seem as long as the previous wine, rather much more 'aged', or even heated in character, as if it underwent estufagem, which it almost certainly did not. As interesting as the 1971, though in a much different style.

04/02 Blandy's Verdelho 1900
Colour is orangey-brownish with some green at rim. This is quite medicinal on the nose, with hints of floor polish or camphora that indicate it has been opened too long, although it occurred to me this 'off' character is more or less a mirror reflection of bottle sickness shown by wines not opened long enough; may be madeira wine simply returns to its unforgiving dormant state after a relatively brief (in relation to its age) drinking window. In any case there is little point analysing this unpleasantly bittersweet nose. On the palate it shows a biting woody touch and a very fine, very long finish with hints of walnuts. A note sadly reminiscent of dog food is also present on the palate and masks the pleasure of drinking this rare relic. Academic interest only. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Terrantez 1899
Dark mahogany colour with a pale orangey rim. This has also been opened for many years but shows just stunning freshness and definition: walnuts, cocoa dust, high-grade paper on the nose which manages to be pungent without being volatile at all; on the palate the sheer chocolatey richness and density are beatifully balanced by incisive acidity. Some dried hawthorn and toasted almonds medinical notes appear, but discrete enough to add to the complexity. Juicy vanilla-like aftertaste, amazing length, though perhaps weakens out a bit on the finish. But a great wine without hesitation. Inspirational. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Terrantez 1862
It is interesting that the two eldest wines should be Terrantez which as far as I am aware was rather rare even in the second half of the 19th century. This shows some of its former caramelly glory on the nose but the volatile, bitterish menthol and camphora note appears again and the wine is clearly past its best. Sweet milk chocolate on the slightly flat palate gives way to a stunning, searing acidity which as Ben aptly puts it almost brings the eyes to tears. Great length, but aromatically clearly fading. Must have been a stunning wine five years ago. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Duke of Sussex Dry
This and the two following 'Duke' wines are an average of 3 years old and have undergone estufagem in tanks. The regime operated by the MWC is to have a series of heatings up to 45o C and coolings down to 30o C, as opposed to keeping a steady temperature through the three-month estufagem period as practiced by most other shippers. These three wines are also the only Blandy's wines to be based exclusively on Tinta Negra Mole. This shows a medium apricot to light amber colour. The nose is a bit dusty at first but then opens up with notes of raisins, boiled sweets and pungent painty aromas. On the palate it is dry and much on the watery side, with a spicy wood finish. A basic madeira of good quality. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Duke of Cumberland Medium Rich
This has a browning colour with some light blood red at core and some green at rim; a nicely shaded and complex colour. The nose starts with some damp soil and soaked raisins, later to show some boiled sweets notes in a cool register that is not as coffee-roasted as expected, and ending with a whiff of soy sauce. Fine balance and integration in mouth, smooth and fruity, if still much in the watery register. Ends with that soy-saucey thing that betrays estufagem, but the finish is long, caramelly and woody. Very clean and almost exciting for a 3 year old madeira. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Duke of Clarence Rich
May be a shade darker than the Medium Rich. This is more raisiny and thick, almost Pedro Ximénez-like in character, with a whiff of whisky and dried muchrooms. Juicy and flavourful, though the sweetness here gives an impression of slight artificiality. But well-made. Retails for L9.49. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Sercial 5 Years Old
From now on all the wines are aged in canteiro. Pale creamy-apricotty colour with some rosey hues. This is caramelly on the nose with hints of canned vegetables. Soft and quite elegant in mouth, with a long, walnutty, dry finish underpinned by citrusy acids. Very good. The 5 y.o. wines retail at L11.99. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Verdelho 5 Years Old
Darker than the Sercial: pale brown with dark peach at core. Stunning fresh fruit perfume here as of lychee and crunchy gooseberry, with hints of old wood that are reminiscent of Moscatel de Setúbal or may be some aged Sanlúcar sherries. Long and consistent in mouth, with a finish of roasted nuts. Very good indeed; by far the most convincing of the 5 y.o. Even when compared with the Cossart Gordon 10 y.o. and Colheita Verdelhos this shows lighter in style, but more complex thanks to the gentle boiled character and astonishingly, longer than both latter wines. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Bual 5 Years Old
Medium brown and redder at core than the above. This starts with soy sauce on the nose, showing elegant but more caramelly and herbal in style than the two drier wines above, with hints of volatility. The palate is denser and more sugary, although the finish is just as biting on the finish, with a soft vanillish aftertaste. Has an attractive silky texture but lacks the complexity of other wines. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Malmsey 5 Years Old
Darker brown but similar in colour to the Bual. Orangey on the nose, slightly medicinal and herbal but fruity, very much Malvasia in style, but not extremely long and lacking the cut of the other wines in this range. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Colheita Malmsey 1995
Much lighter in colour than the 5 y.o. Bual, similar in shade to the Verdelho. The nose here is more papery and herbal, with hints of geranium, parsley and tarragon. The impression on the palate is dark and caramelly, with a slightly blunt finish. Much in a noble medium-dry amontillado style (Montilla?). Ben says he would be in favour of a gradual strengthening of the colheita category and discontinuing the 5 y.o. blends. In this showing the 1995 is not necessarily better than the 5 y.o. Malmsey - a bit different in style may be, lighter and leaner and hence may be easier to appreciate for the uninitiated. This retails for L12.49. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Verdelho 10 Years Old
Identical in colour to the following Bual and very similar to the 1995 Malmsey. Lovely nose of caramelised orange, finely focused physalis notes and hints of palo cortado bite; sweeter in expression to any of the preceding, with just a bit of varnishy VA. This is showing more complete on the palate than the younger wines, with volatility and oxidation adding to the complexity; the texture is however a bit chewy and despite the superior length I would not not say it is necessarily more refined than the 5 y.o. Verdelho from Blandy's. Compared to the Bual it is a bit more caramelly but much longer. Sherry-like in style and texture. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Cossart Gordon Bual 10 Years Old
Colour as above. This initially shows some not-too-enticing signs of bottle sickness with a foul egg and lettuce touch to the nose. With time this blows off, revealing a softer, slightly sweeter style than the Verdelho, more citrusy in expression and leaner and more elegant in texture. But a bit metallic towards the finish and significantly shorter than the Verdelho. Lacks a bit of complexity and I found the finish too soft for a wine of this stature. Malty hints on end. This is surprisingly close to Malvasia in style, and not so convincing today. L16.99. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Malmsey 10 Years Old
Medium dark brown verging on mahogany, lighter at rim than the following wine, very similar to the 5 y.o. Nose is herbal and reminiscent of boiled vegetables, with hints of dustiness and much more soy-saucey aged character than in any of the above. Caramel, dust and herbs mingle on the finish. This also shows a slatey, solid character of bottle sickness, and a vaguely unpleasant finish reminiscent of stale walnuts. Ben says the bottle is not up to par, and replaces it with a new one. It shows considerable fresher in profile but has that denser egg-custardy edge over the other wines in the tasting that still seems odd. In any case slightly disappointing. (Nerval, UK)

04/02 Blandy's Malmsey 15 Years Old
Very similar in colour to the 10 y.o. Elegant and dry on the nose, with a woody character more in evidence than anywhere above, hints of volatility and caramelly sweetness. The palate is still astonishingly light and juicy, elegant, with some caramel and baked bread note betraying the extra ageing, but otherwise not much different from the above. Hence IMO questionable value at L28. But a fine wine. (Nerval, UK)

03/02 Fréderique & Bernard Vaquer vignerons-oenologues (Tresseres) Rivesaltes Vintage 1997
17.5% alc. Medium dark ruby. Stewed, baked and not too clean, rather humid nose. Medium sweetness in mouth, rather neutral, with a chewy matter and low acidity. Chewy tannins on finish. Needs time, but nothing special apparently. (Nerval, UK)

02/02 Domaine Mas Blanc Cuvee St. Martin 1981, Dr. Parce et fils, BanyulsExplosive rich red fruit flavours with a long mineral acidity on a spicy rich finish. 17/20 (Paul Anderson, UK)

01/02 Blandy's vintage Bual, 1964
Orange-brown with a hint of green at the rim. Burnt sugar, glue, medicinal, nutty, rum-raisins, peanuts. Sweet, rum-raisins, glue, lots of power. 94p (tasted in November) (Roderick Hopkins, Sweden)

New World

09/02 Heitz Cellar (California) 1999 Grigolino LBV Port 18.5%
'Wow' was my first response! I enjoyed the deep fruit and the seamless and powerful fruit finish carried by the alcohol. I ended up buying some of this - 93/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Kunde (California) 1999 Zinfandel port
Not as sweet as I thought it would be, but enjoyable. 87/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger (California) 1998 Alyssa dry white port
100% Sauvignon Blanc. Colour: Pleasing light gold. Nose: Sherry-like, a bit spicy. Palate: Fresher than the nose, more acid, nice length. 84/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger California Tawny Summer Port
Colour: Ruby red turning brown, not dark. Nose: Fruity plus some alcohol, not harsh. Palate: Medium sweetness. Enjoyable. 84/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger Noble Companion Tawny
10 years old and a mixture of grape varieties, mostly cabernet sauvignon. Colour: Deepish brown. Nose: Sweet and port like. Palate: Very soft mature black berry fruit, alcoholic, good overall quality and a long length. 88/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger Royal Escort 1998 LBV Port - 20%
Colour: Very dark red to the rim. Nose: Closed but seemingly ripe, sweet. Palate: Initial ripe fruit entry this stays on the mid-palate then becomes drier on the long finish that lasts over 30 seconds. I really enjoyed this and ended up buying a couple of bottles for about $65 each! 94/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger Petite Syrah port - 18%
Short note here. Deep cherry red colour. Tastes of cherries, strawberries and quite creamy. Very nice. 86/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger 1999 Muscat Port
100% Muscat, late harvest. Golden yellow, I enjoyed this quite a bit. 88/100. (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

09/02 Praeger 1999 Aria
Amazing taste of liquid walnuts, this wine was very nutty. A definite style but only if you like a strong taste of nuts. Surprisingly I liked it although matching it with food would be a challenge. No score as it's such a wacky wine! (Nicos Neocleous, UK)

04/02 Seppelt Para-Liqueur 'D.P. 116' 1979
Not clear to me when this was bottled or what kind of grapes were used to make it (Shiraz?). Medium orange-brown. Very reductive and mshroomy but harmonious, with a sweet syrupy character which is both woody and chemical, evolving into caramel, chocolate and some soy sauce. Also notes of soaked brioche and almonds. Not terribly complex but long, has power, and finishes vinous and dry. Interesting and pleasant to drink. (Nerval, UK)

01/02 Chambers Old Vine Muscadelle (Tokay) NV
18%abv. Lovely light toffee oak. Intense nose of light brown sugar, marmalade, honey and coffee. WOW. The palate was exceptional with huge length and elegant intensity. I would be happy sniffing this wine all night. Incredible stuff and I want more of it. The best wine over the holiday. (Phil Wilkins, UK)

01/02 Chambers Grand Muscat NV
19%abv. Almost as good as the Tokay. Much darker toffee brown with a lovely red/orange rim. Much more treacle, raisins and dried fruit with a touch of coffee. Lush intense and sweet palate with huge complexity and a massive length. Amazing stuff indeed. (Phil Wilkins, UK)

01/02 Sandamans Sandalera NV PX
Really raisoned, almost honeyed and tawny port like but the Rutherglen Muscat comparison too was a good call. Lovely stickie, like it a lot. (Nick Alabaster, UK)

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