Wine Legends 2013

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wine legends 2013, Taylor's Vintage Port 1927

Taylor’s Vintage Port 1927, Douro, Portugal

A legend because…
Other than the rare Nacional bottling from Quinta do Noval, Taylor’s vintage is the most sought-after and expensive of all vintage Ports, and this wine, from an acclaimed vintage, is the epitome of the style. Ironically, the 1927 vintage was released at the height of the worldwide economic slump. Consequently sales were sluggish for many years.

Looking back

Taylor’s can trace its history back to the end of the 17th century, although it subsequently had numerous owners, of whom the best known were the Bearsley family. By the 1830s John Fladgate and Morgan Yeatman were among the major shareholders, and the business remained in their hands until 1921, when Frank Yeatman became the sole proprietor. It was not until the end of World War II that the company began its expansion by buying Fonseca. In the 1920s Taylor’s was a far more modest concern, though always with an emphasis on quality. It was in 1927 that the Yeatmans planted blocks of individual varieties at Quinta de Vargellas, but the usual custom at the time was to plant field blends, and the 1927 vintage would certainly have been produced from the latter.

The vintage
This is widely accepted as one of the great vintage Port years of the 20th century, declared by about 30 shippers. The climatic conditions allowed a relatively early harvest, well before any threat of inclement weather could materialise. Moreover, the harvest was copious and most Port houses declared a far larger quantity than was usual in vintage years. Despite the large volumes released, quality was extremely high, with admirably concentrated fruit and fine structure, which has allowed the wines to age extremely well. Because the market, hit by economic crisis, could not absorb so much vintage Port, much of the wine ended up being blended with standard ruby Ports.

The terroir

Quinta de Vargellas has long been the company’s flagship estate, and its wines, then as now, form the core of the vintage blend. It was bought in 1893, though its grapes had supplied Taylor’s for many previous decades. Wines from Vargellas are known for their floral aromas, often described as violets, and for concentration allied to great elegance. Vargellas’s top wines would almost certainly have been blended with wines purchased from other quintas, such as Terra Feita. This vineyard had been supplying Taylor’s since the 1890s, and would subsequently be bought by the firm in 1974.

The wine
All the grapes would have been foot-trodden in stone lagares, a method that ensures gentle but complete extraction of colour and tannins. After a few months of ageing in vats, the wine would have been transferred to the Taylor’s lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Oporto. There it would have been kept in wood for about two years before being bottled. The Taylor's style is one of great concentration and depth, and is marked by a long, tannic finish that promises a very long life in bottle.

The reaction
In 1989, US critic James Suckling described the wine as ‘incredibly concentrated yet superbly balanced… with intense raspberry and blackberry aromas, full-bodied, with rich, velvety, ripe raspberry flavours and a long, thick, rich finish’. DWWA Regional Chair for Port, Richard Mayson, tasted the wine in the same year, alongside Niepoort and Fonseca, and found it ‘still incredibly powerful and concentrated, retaining the bitter chocolate and liquorice-like intensity that is the hallmark of a really fine vintage Port’. Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent’s most recent recorded tastings were in 1993 and 1997 – ‘magnificent’ on both occasions. Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s current managing director, recalls: ‘The 1927 is a sublime vintage Port that I rarely get to taste these days, but when I do, I am always amazed by its incredible structure, vigour, and elegance. True hallmarks of a great Taylor’s vintage Port.’

The facts
Number of bottles produced N/A
Composition of blend N/A
Yield (hl/ha) N/A
Alcohol content 21%
Release price £0.20 a bottle (in today's money)
Auction price today £773 a bottle