Richard Mayson picks his six benchmark Fonseca Ports from the 1963 vintage to the popular Bin No27, after Fonseca recently celebrated its bicentenary. Take a look below and find a bottle to enjoy this festive season.

Since David Guimaraens joined the Fonseca Port family business in 1990 there has been a minor revolution in the winemaking.

  • See Richard Mayson’s benchmark Fonseca Ports below

In the 1990s, the company bought Quinta da Nogueira, a winery located south of the Douro river at 640m altitude, and invested in new technology including robotic plungers, used mainly for the production of reserves and LBVs.

Taking advantage of the altitude, and aided in the summer months by air conditioning and computer-controlled humidifiers, a great proportion of Fonseca Ports (especially aged tawnies) are now matured in the Douro valley, rather than historic but congested Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Oporto.

Fonseca celebrated its bicentenary with a dinner at the Wallace Collection in London in June, at which both the 1985 and 1963 were served. Then in September, just as vintage was starting, I travelled to Oporto to reacquaint myself with the company’s range, perhaps the most accomplished of any Port shipper.

Walking back along the quayside at Vila Nova de Gaia, I was alarmed to see a black and white banner hanging from the front of the Fonseca wine lodge with the words ‘vende-se’. Surely, after exactly 200 years of glorious history, the company cannot be up for sale?

It turns out on enquiry that only the buildings are on the market. In May 2016 Fonseca will move lock, stock and barrel to the old Real Companhia Velha lodge nearby, bought by The Fladgate Partnership in 2011. In 200 years Fonseca seems to have gone full circle.

Among all the Port houses, my instinct is that Fonseca has the most dedicated following among those in the know. Looking back over many years of my own tasting notes, the only vintages I registered as being something of a disappointment were 1980 and 1983. ‘Not at the level you would expect’, agrees Bridge. However, in 1963, 1966, 1970, 1977, 1985 and 1994 (all widely declared years) Fonseca is indisputably at the very top of the game.

Fonseca Port: Six benchmark bottlings