These notes accompany our feature article profiling The Fladgate Partnership, owners of the Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft Port houses.
Founded in 1588, Croft is the oldest firm still active as a Port producer. Founded by Yorkshire wine merchant Henry Thompson, the Thompson and the Croft families became connected through marriage in 1681, and in 1736 John Croft become the first Croft to join the business, being followed by a string of Crofts who managed the business until 1824. Since 2001 Croft has been part of the Fladgate Partnership, its home the beautiful Quinta da Roêda which it acquired in 1889 along with some of the oldest vineyards in the Douro Valley. Alongside tradition is innovation and a keen commercial sense, including the launch of their successful ‘Croft Pink’, first produced over a decade ago and creating a whole new category of Port wines.
(2020) Pink Port is all strawberries and cream, hint of Parma violet and a touch of red liquorice. Full sweetness again, with the spirit sitting under the creamy summer berry flavours. An innovation from Croft a few years ago, works as a long drink/cocktail base too. Quite widely available, price for a 75cl bottle, but also comes in 50cl size.
(2020) Nutty and interesting nose, not so much fruitiness as the Pink, but the palate shines through, the spirit perhaps a little obvious, but lots of dry, floral-touched, sweet fruit flavour.
(2020) This is just a touch weedy and less expressive compared to the singing Taylor's and Fonseca LBVs, not so charming for me. The palate is much better, crispness to the tannin and acid structure, the fruit dry with mouth-coating extract. Quite a big mouthful of robust Port in the end.
(2020) Gorgeous lift to this single quinta Port, all violet an floral perfume, just becoming complex and the rim touching on tawny colour, raspberry and keen red fruit. The palate juicy and vital, again raspberry or red liquorice, lovely sweetness and concentration into a long finish. No UK retailers listed at time of review.
(2020) Nutty and smoky notes over the solid fruits, with great concentration, an earthiness here that seems very terroir-driven, the energy here is excellent again, these Fladgate 2017s showing structure and a certain brilliance. Many merchants are offering this en primeur by the half dozen.
(2020) Quite meaty, quite a tarry and umami character, nuttiness too over the plummy fruit. Mouth-coating, full, creamy fruitiness and sweetness, a slick of cocoa, spice and quite long. Very lovely and resolved.
1840 saw Fonseca’s first Vintage Port release, immediately marking the house as a leading producer of Vintage wines, with no fewer than four ‘perfect 100’ scores from Robert Parker among their accolades. The firm’s three quintas, Cruzeiro, Panascal and Santo António, are the heart of the distinctive character of Fonseca’s Vintage Ports, and today they are leading advocates of sustainable and organic viticulture – the first house to offer a Port made entirely from organically produced grapes. The Guimaraens family led the firm of Fonseca Guimaraiens for over a century, so it is fitting that today David Guimaraens is the sixth generation to be involved, in his role as the Fladgate Partnership’s group head winemaker.
(2020) Light pinky-gold and basically dry, a little meaty character, dry figgy notes, a touch smoky. The palate dry and intense, searing acidity, a lovely bracing lick of saltiness in a quite complex and fascinating white Port.
(2020) Unusual to find an organic Port, and this has a very pure and fruit-driven nose, a nice lift and higher set of aromas, floral and ashy. Very silky and pure on the palate, a sheen of mellow old oak and shellac over pure and vibrant fruit. Tangy and ripe, lots of lip-smacking tannin and acidity in the long finish. A really terrific ruby.
(2020) Bottled 2015, there’s a lovely vinous vintage character to this, a richness and rounded, solid fruit concentration, but the freshness flows through on the palate. Lightened by the acidity and dry tannin structure, this has fruit and generosity but balance too. A lovely style.
(2020) Not so fruit forward or plush as the Taylor's, a savoury character with more black fruit, ash, and the palate dry and savoury despite the lovely and slightly more tart character of the blackcurrant sweetness. Long and elegantly juicy in the finish and very fine.
(2020) Lovely plump creamy fruit here, more red fruits and a touch of vanilla or toffee. Beautifully fresh and fruity on the palate, The purity of the fruit glides across the mid-palate, fine cocoa and cherry acids to balance.
(2020) Beautiful developed nose, all sorts of tarry and floral tertiary aromas, an ethereal lightness. Vanilla and anise wrap the red fruits on the palate, a harmonious and long wine, the grip of the tannins and spirit, balanced acidity, and purity of fruit all really charming.
(2020) A youthful solidity to this, pure, vinous plum and cherry black fruits, gorgeous silkiness and the sheer concentration of the components - fruit, tannin and acid - are going to give this terrific longevity surely. Price quoted is per bottle, but most retailers are offering in-bond, and by the six-bottle case at time of review.
(2020) More solid colour than the Taylor's 10-year-old, lots of caramel and luscious richness here, the rich red fruits enlivened by good acidity, lovely tang and juiciness.
(2020) Lovely hint of ruby to the soft tawny colour. Gorgeous fudge and walnut character, hints of a pleasing shellac. Beautifully sweet and pure red fruit, coffee and lovely bitter orange and cocoa. Long and beautifully balanced.
Another of the great historic Port houses, founded in 1692, Taylor’s sits at the heart of the Fladgate Partnership, renowned for Vintage and aged Tawny Ports, and originator of the Late-Bottled Vintage category – created first in 1970 by current chairman, Alistair Robertson. Based around the quintas and vineyards of Vargellas, Terra Feita and Junco, Taylor’s wines today retain their prominence and quality, from the delicious Chip Dry white (which make a terrific cocktail base) to the 1855 Scion, one of the rarest and most expensive Port wines ever to appear on the market. The single barrel harvested from pre-Phyloxerra vines was released in 2010 and may still appear at auction, but with a £5,000+ price tag.
(2020) Great sipped with ice or made into a long drink with tonic and lemon. Tasted on its own, the mose is all about creamy orchard fruit and waxy citrus. Sweetness is full and the spirit gentle on the palate, nice texture and finishing with good acidity.
(2020) Aged five to six years in wood before bottling, this has a crushed red fruit softness to, a gentle woody tone hinting at truffle. Lovely dry extract against the sweetness, pure fruit and beautifully balanced, long and so gentle in the finish.
(2020) A much creamier character than the LBV, vinous too, black as well as red fruits. Nice earthiness. The sweetness and purity is excellent. So much pretty floral aroma and flavour here. The acidity and tannin starts to grip and play against the fruit into a long, poised finish.
(2020) A meatier, more umami nose than the Vargellas, the fruit less obvious, but with a lovely dark chocolate quality on the palate, real sweetness again, a tarry depth, and the dry, tannic finish suggesting this needs several more years.
(2020) Instantly more closed than the older Ports obviously, a taut and slightly impenetrable character at this young stage, but beyond that the fruit is juicy and ripe, cherry and red plum juiciness. Yes, swingeing tannins at this stage, but this has excellent concentration and suggests it will be an superb vintage with time. Long, plenty of extract and substance in the finish. This very young wine is being offered by many independent merchants at time of writing, by the six or 12-bottle case.
(2020) A lovely ashy note to this, dry with a lifted floral character and that lovely hint of volatility that sits so well. Sweet and so juicy on the palate, the rush of sweet cherry fruit and acidity, backed up by the more chocolate and earthy notes, long and spicy tobacco-like, the fruity extract persisting. An approximate bottle price is given: most retailers at time of review are offering this by the case.
(2020) Delightful red fruit driving this, a gentle spirit here, also a gentle coffeeish and nutty savoury character, the red fruit softness is there, but it is taut on the palate, with such an edge: structured, 'iron fist in a velvet glove' stuff with a long, long finish of chocolate, woodsmoke and spice. Many merchants offer this by the case at time of review.
(2020) Simple compared to the older wines of course, but developing the nutty and toffee character over the still vibrant fruit. Really very elegant, relatively light, and delicious. Regular price is round £22, but stocked by several supermarkets so look out for a deal.
(2020) Slightly more lift to the nose, a fine shellac and walnut note over red fruits. The palate has a delicious freshness and a nicely nutty, savoury character against the sweetness. Delicious length here, smoky tobacco and creaminess into a long, mellow finish. Many independent merchants stock this at between £32.50 and £36, but Costco members can buy for under £30.
(2020) Gorgeous orange peel and spice, those delightful walnut husk and shellac notes, all so intriguing and savoury. Fabulous caramel and toast on the palate, the sweetness subsumed by the tremendously concentrate nutty dryness. Long - super long - in the finish, with perfect balance. Lots of independent retailers again at £65 - £70, with half bottles around £37.
(2020) Meaty, dark, not quite as expressive and open as the 30-year-old, the palate a hugely concentrated but comparatively monolithic wine, chocolate and caramel, that tang of Seville orange marmalade, shellac and immense length and concentration. Magnificent and profound stuff without any doubt, though the 30-year-old has more accommodating charms. Several merchants offer this in-bond, by the six-bottle case
(2020) With an average age of 12 years, this is a limited edition presented in a facsimile historic bottle. Not so expressive on the nose as the 10-year-old perhaps, a sweet, clean spirit but relatively straightforward with tangy dry acids and soft tannins.
Back to feature article on the Fladgate Partnership.