For the first time since 2003, Portugal has declared a vintage Port year: 2007, which was characterized by relatively cool weather, followed by some heat near harvest time, just enough (they say) to ripen the grapes.
I had the chance to sample the 2007 vintage from 12 different producers this week (total production of all of these wines together equals a scant 65,000 cases) — and while I’m not prepared to say, as some might have you believe, that this is “the best vintage of all time” (a phrase one hears a lot when dealing with winemakers no matter what year it is), it’s certainly a solid year that will offer wines with plenty of longevity and diversity.
Styles were quite different from producer to producer, and I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific that might define 2007 uniquely. Best bottles were poured by Graham, Taylor Fladgate, and Dow, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d give the slight edge to Fonseca’s immense and flavorful Vintage Port.
Also on hand were a sampling of older ports dating back to the 1970s, and its here where some of the event’s most amazing treasures were found. Specifically: Dow’s 1980 Vintage Port, just perfect for drinking right now with a wonderful balance of fruit and alcohol, earth and sun, and definitely a good deal for $110 if you can find bottles still laying about.
2007, as it was explained to me at the show, also marks an interesting legal change for Port producers: Previously they were forced to buy the brandy used in the production of the wine from the Portuguese government. (For the novice: 15 to 20 percent of a bottle of Port is actually brandy, which is used to arrest the fermentation process midstream by killing the yeast with alcohol and leaving the sugar in the wine, which is why Port has that characteristic sweetness.) The new rules let Port makers use a higher quality of brandy that’s not sold by the feds — which should lead to better quality wines, and more divergent styles.
Complete notes and ratings follow.
2007 Vintage Port
2007 Croft / B+ / heady and herbal
2007 Dow / A- / very dry in style, easier-drinking than most
2007 Fonseca / A / really packed with fruit; this one has great longevity
2007 Graham / A- / flowery, easygoing. moderate sweetness
2007 Noval / B / spicy and racy
2007 Quinta da Romaneira / B- / too woody, some astringency
2007 Silval / B+
2007 Smith Woodhouse / B+ / very traditional, raisin notes
2007 Taylor Fladgate / A- / solid, well-behaved and balanced
2007 Vargellas Vinha Velha / B+ / cocoa-infused, lighter in style
2007 Vesuvio / B+ / rich, generally fair
2007 Warre / B+
Older Vintages Sampled
1980 Dow / A+ / just about a perfect Port, ready to drink right now, gorgeous and rich, but not overpowering
1985 Fonseca / A- / definitely ready for 20 more years in the bottle, full of strong cherry notes
1970 Graham / A- / quite pale and light, fading
1977 Smith Woodhouse / B+ / fading, some off green notes
1977 Taylor Fladgate / A- / well-aged, though filled with sediment
1983 Warre / B+ / heavily alcoholic, dry and light