Paul Jaboulet AînéGreat wines from the grand tasting The first thing that struck me when sitting down to the Croft port masterclass hosted by the charismatic and quintessentially English Adrian Bridge, was that he had opted for us to taste his ports the wrong way round (from grave to cradle, as it were) so as not to over saturate our palates with the powerful young wines. Smart move.
Informative and entertaining, Bridge jumped from port to port with ease, encouraging debates on everything from pink port and re-corking to frisky yeast cells and the importance of grape spirit – he claims to always taste the spirit before buying in Bordeaux (despite it being 70% abv).
We were given a brief overview of the Douro region and the house of Croft, but Bridge launched relatively quickly into tasting the wines, much to the delight of the tasters, who seemed equally keen to get down to experiencing the wines, rather than being bombarded with easily forgotten facts. Being the last masterclass of the weekend, it felt laid back.
Bridge himself, who came close to drenching the front row at one point, swirling the 1960 and 1970 in the same hand, at arm’s length above his head. Miraculously he didn’t spill a drop.
Surprise of the day
How well the 1960 was holding up in comparison with the 1970. The still-youthful and vibrant ‘60 had fascinating layers of complexity, still wonderfully on show.
Most highly debated topic
Pink Port, and whether there is a place for it in the market, and more importantly, whether it could ever be taken seriously as a wine. Bridge talked of getting round the loophole of ‘rosé port’ (which doesn’t legally exist) by calling it ‘Croft pink’. He also explained that it is designed to be treated differently to other ports, showing best when served as a long drink with ice in the summer.
‘We brought back foot treading in 2003 because it allows you to extract huge colour and flavour. We do inspect peoples’ feet before treading, but skin is easier to clean than machinery anyway.’
‘We’re building a hotel on the Croft site where you will be able to sleep in an old port vat, which could be fun. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes’.
‘Adrian Bridge was engaging, informative and entertaining, making the masterclass accessible to port novices and aficionados alike’.
Bright salmon pink in colour, almost luminous, with a confected nose of sweet strawberries, fruit pastels and ripe red cherries. Very sweet and acidic on the palate, with strawberries, red fruit and boiled sweet flavours coming through. A lively wine, but the finish is marred by burning alcohol.
Vivid ruby, with a bouquet of think brambly blackberries and black cherries. Very young, the nose bursts with huge, black fruit. On the palate are deliciously rich plums, blackcurrants and blackberries. Though full-bodied and powerful, the wine is smooth and elegant, with a lovely acidity balancing it out.
Croft 10 Year Old Tawny
Light bright tawny with aromas of prunes, raisins and sultanas. A hint of honey on the palate competes with lots of dried fruit and rich mince pie flavours. Silky smooth, the oxidized flavours lace the finish with nutty toffee. A delightful wine that lingers seductively on the palate.
Bright tawny with orange flecks, there are whacks of dried fruit and sultanas on the nose, with hints of bitter chocolate and Christmas pudding. The palate is sweet but balanced with a lovely acidity. A fascinating multilayered wine, with the oxidization bringing out maple syrup flavours, coupled with leather and cigar box aromas wrapped around rich dried fruit. Complex, captivating and holding up beautifully.
Tawny with flecks of red, the nose is delicate and refined. The fruit is fading and one has to search for it a little in the glass. A subtle wine of faded grandeur with a palate of sultanas, prunes and a wonderful sweet spice.
Quinta da Roeda 1997
Deep ruby red, with intoxicating aromas of dark chocolate, pepper, spice and black forest fruits. This mouth-filling wine has a sweet attack followed by punchy, rich, ripe fruit and sweet spice. Big and bright with a lovely length, this wine has a long life ahead of it.
Bright ruby red with a heady nose of black fruits. There is a hint of sweet spice, but this wine needs time to open up and develop into its full potential.
Purple in colour with luscious black fruits and violets on the nose, it is still very young. Better on the palate, it shows rich ripe black cherries and berries, mixed with warming Christmas flavours and a hint of bitter chocolate.