Monday, September 02, 2013

A pair of ports

The other day, when I opened my credit card bill I unexpectedly found a £20 off voucher for Waitrose wine, but the catch was that I had to spend £100. Seconds later I was on their website to see if they had any decent madeira left. Sadly, they didn't - no great surprise - but then I saw they had some Taylors 40 year old which reminded me of the period a couple of years ago when I got into 20 year old tawny port. As this is the big year, I thought "now or never", and went for it. A few days later, this arrived.

Imagine my surprise when I mentioned this self-indulgent splurge to G and he informed me that he was in possession of a bottle of Taylor's Crusted Port bottled in 1973, which he got at auction. A sort-of-horizontal port tasting ensued!

We tried the 40 year old tawny first, pouring it straight from the bottle. It looked glossy and clear. On the nose, we got fruit cake, with a hint of ginger. I also found a vanilla custard thing going on which G pointed out was due to the use of oak casks. I loved the palate, which was very smooth, with a creamy texture, and not too sweet. It was very crowd-pleasing and reminded me slightly of Woodford Reserve bourbon - easy drinking. I was very happy with it and might even buy it again, as I think I know some people who'd enjoy it.

Then it was on to the crusted port. Here's the cork, which came out whole, more or less, thanks to G's expertise with the corkscrew.

And here's a delightful photo of the sediment in the sink. Ew!

I had to ask G exactly what a crusted port is. Apparently it's made from a mixture of vintages that weren't declared and is bottled early so that it will throw a crust. It's a style that isn't made any more. G thought that this one was probably mainly from the 1971 vintage which wasn't declared. As the 40 year old tawny is a solera, you'd expect there to be quite an overlap between the two wines, but the tawny was aged in barrel, while the crusted port matured mostly in bottle.

We decanted it, and it looked murky in the glass (on the left in the photo below). On the nose, it was frankly offputting. G said it smelled of burnt rubber, and there were also some sharp chemical notes and a sort of over-ripe tropical fruit thing going on. Let's just say expectations were low!

But the palate wasn't congruent with the nose, which was good news. It was more powerful than the tawny, with figs, panforte and cocoa. It had more depth and intensity and was altogether more interesting, with a marvellous finish.

We continued to drink them side by side on a subsequent evening but found that the crusted port was starting to fade, so at that point we polished it off by itself. The tawny is still going strong and claims to last 7 weeks after it's been opened. Somehow I doubt it'll last that long...

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