Fonseca Vintage Port – A Vertical Tasting

The Winetasters Society of Toronto did it again with another fabulous tasting – this time a vertical tasting of Fonseca Vintage Port.  We sampled 8 wines spanning 4 decades.  The two oldest wines were both from 1966.  One was bottled by Fonseca in Portugal and the other was bottled in England.  The youngest wine was from the 2007 vintage.

Fonseca Guimaraens was established in 1822 by Manuel Pedro Guimaraens after he acquired control of the Fonseca & Monteiro Company.  It was in the contract that the name Fonseca should always appear as long as the company was in existence.  The Guimaraens family retained control of the port shipping company until 1948 when it was sold to Taylor’s.  Fonseca is now part of the powerful Fladgate Partnership, along with Taylor’s and Croft.

Fonseca Ports are wines of consistently fine quality and its Vintage Ports are usually ranked among the top wines in each declared vintage.  A member of the Guimaraens family, David Guimaraens, is still the winemaker.  David happens to be the great-great-great-grandson of the founder.  He ensures that all the wines in the Fonseca portfolio are made to the highest standards.  The grapes for Fonseca’s wines are mainly come from 3 company owned quintas: Quinta do Cruzeiro, Quinta do Panascal, and Quinta do Santo Antonio, all purchased in the 1970s.  The grapes for all the Vintage Ports are still crushed by human feet, but the non-vintage grapes are crushed using a system of robotic feet.

By far the biggest selling Fonseca Port is Bin No.27, a delicious Reserve Ruby Port full of dark berry aromas, plum, and raisins.  It’s also a great value at only $15.95 at the LCBO.  Currently there are a few bottles of the 2003 Fonseca Vintage Port still available at the LCBO, at around $127, but not many.  There is, however, quite a large quantity of the relatively unusual Fonseca White Port on LCBO shelves at $14.95.  For information about white Port, read my article “What is White Port?” on Suite101.com.  Fonseca also makes a nice Late Bottle Vintage, but currently there’s only one bottle left in the LCBO system right now – the 2003.

Fonseca Vintage Port Tasting Notes: with a rating of the overall vintage in general for Vintage Port.

1966 English bottled: The 1966 vintage has been rated as an excellent, or Classic, vintage, characterized by power and elegance.  It was customary until 1971 for Port to be shipped to places, such as the UK, in barrel and then be bottled at their destination.  1970 was the last year this practice was allowed.  This wine is showing beautifully right now, but still has enough stuff to help it last quite a bit longer.  The colour is a medium tawny with a very light rim.  It’s overflowing with aromas of caramel, dried cherries, dried figs, and potpourri.  Sensually silky on the palate with a long and luxurious finish.  This was without a doubt my favourite of the tasting.  The rest of the group seemed to agree with me because it ranked number 1 by the whole group.

1966 Fonseca bottled:  A slightly deeper colour than the English bottled version with a touch more of a ruby hue to it.  Similar complex aromas as the English bottled, but not quite as pronounced.  Dried flowers and dried berries dominate.  Silky on the palate with flavours of dark chocolate caramels and baking spice.  Drinking very well now, but can also age quite a bit longer.  This was the overall 3rd favourite of the everyone in attendance.  Another beauty.

1980: 1980 has been rated as a good vintage, characterized by attractive fresh fruit flavours.  A pale tawny colour – lighter than the two 1966 Ports.  Aromas of dried red fruit and caramel dominate.  On the palate it has a silky texture but seemed less concentrated than the other wines of the tasting with a slightly astringent finish.  I had this ranked as my 7th favourite, but the group disagreed with me, making it the 2nd overall favourite of the night.

1985: The 1985 vintage was ranked overall as a very good vintage, characterized by a few outstanding wines, but some not very good at all.  The Fonseca Vintage Port happens to be one of the very good wines of the vintage.  Still showing a deep ruby colour with a garnet rim.  Lots of fig, and dark fruit aromas of prune and black plum, with a pretty floral note.  A lovely round texture on the palate with flavours of ripe cherry, blackberry, and baking spice.  I had this ranked as my 3rd favourite, however the rest of the group disagreed with me again as it was the overall 6th favourite of the tasting.

1992: This vintage has been rated overall as very good to excellent, characterized by rich, concentrated wines.  The Fonseca 1992 has a medium-deep garnet colour and aromas that seemed a bit muddy to me, but showing some dried fig, prune, and black licorice aromas.  A velvety texture, and slightly fuzzy tannins lead to flavours of chocolate and dark fruit.

1994: This vintage has been rated as outstanding (or Classic), characterized by very fleshy wines with firm structure.  This wine has a stewed dark fruit character along with aromas of suede and caramel.  On the palate there is a round texture with flavours of baking spices, Christmas cake, and prunes.

2003: This vintage has been rated as a very good, some say Classic vintage, characterized by a hot summer – some areas were even too hot.  An opaque ruby colour with stained tears.  This wine shows generous, ripe dark fruit flavours of blackberry, blueberry, and plum, with a touch of spice.  A very lush, velvety texture with ripe dark fruit and spice.  Needs time.

2007: This vintage has been rated as excellent, but the wines still need several years before drinking.  A very deep purple colour with stained tears.  This wine is brimming with black fruit, such as blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry and plum, with an attractive floral note (roses?).  The tannins are still quite aggressive and need several more years in the bottle to soften up.  Rich dark fruit, cherry, and violet flavours lead to a long finish.  This wine should be beautiful in about 20 years.  I ranked this as my second favourite of the tasting.

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