A Clash song, for those querying the title. Yes, 1977, the year when I made the fateful decision to study O Level Geography – why, oh why? Our teacher, unfortunately a distant relative, would tell us useful things like ‘it rains most in the wet season’. He was one of those pople who was really a sports teacher but got drafted in to teach other subjects – I use the word ‘teach’ loosely. But the music made up for it. Fond memories of being a Part Time Punk and pogoing in the bedroom to too many bands to mention, including the aforementioned Clash, but the bittersweet Buzzcocks were also close to my heart.
In the world of wine, Europe had a pretty dismal vintage, except in Portugal, where many of the producers trotted out vintage ports that were initially considered to be among the finest of the 20th century. Hmmm. I’ve done reasonably extensive tastings a few times, and the most recent line-up this week only confirmed my suspicions that this isn’t a great year. These are wines that for the most part are already ready (and in some instance past it), and which offer little of the passion I’ve found in great port.
Taylor – 2 off bottles
Fonseca – clean, supple, figgy, very mature, nice honest flavours but hardly complex
Croft – solid, spirity, has depth and fruit but again rather simple, has length but hints of bandage on finish – brett?
Delaforce – dense, gutsy fruit, still feel young and lively, spicy with potential to improve further. Close to best of the day.
Niepoort – sweetest so far, lots of juicy berry fruit feels young, promising but not huge complexity.
Niepoort Garrafeira (as above but taken out of wood early and stored in demi-johns, apparently) – solid, iron-rich tinges to buxom berry and herb flavours, hints of minerals, v tasty oddity.
Sandeman – feels rather dank (two bottles the same), fruit still alive but again sweet and too simple
Dow – gutsy, very solid, has lots of poke and grip, fragrant spicy finish. Star of the tasting
Warre – rather overblown, bretty, not very enjoyable, nor well balanced, sweet jammy finish.
Graham – lively, tangy, still lots of development ahead, juicy fig, slightly jammy berry, would like a little more complexity but this is still good kit
Gould Campbell – soft, tender, spicy style, plenty of fruit still, now at its peak, but no sign of fading. Surpisingly good
Quarles Harris – rich, sweet, simple but still with a spirity bite, lacks complexity but easy honest drink
Smith Woodhouse – juicy and fresh still, long and balanced, but again I expect more complexity of a supposedly great vintage.
Look on winesearcher for stockists. While the wines still haven’t reached silly prices, there’s better wine available for the money. Those looking for affordable mature vintage port for this Christmas should look at Marks & Spencer own label 1991 at just £22.99, a gently mature figgy delight – the corks reveal that it’s from Morgan, a label from Croft.