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FIFTY WAYS TO LOVE YOUR PORTO:
Musings From A Portuguese Trade Commission Tasting

© copyright 2002 by Roy Hersh

Those familiar with Porto know that the regulatory organization in Oporto is called the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Institute). The IVP and the NY based, Portuguese Trade Commission held an extensive tasting of over 100 assorted Port wines with various styles and Shippers represented. The tasting was held in PORTland, Oregon on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002, and I attended the local tasting here in Seattle, the following day at The Four Seasons Olympic Hotel. There was a trade tasting for the first couple of hours that was lively but not overly crowded followed by another session open to the public. I stayed for both sessions so that I could try as many of the wines as possible and take thorough notes too. The session open to the public was very crowded even though the space was quite large. That was a not a big surprise to me as Seattle is a very significant market for Porto, especially given the moderate size of the population base here.

What impressed me most about the tasting format was that there were some very well-known brands, some lesser known producers, as well as a few Shippers that are not currently distributed in the US. There were even a couple of producer's wines that I had never tried before, so that made for an even more enjoyable experience. In addition to tasting some of these little known producers, it was great to have the opPORTunity to try such a vast array of styles and vintages.

I have yet to figure out why only two Pacific northwest cities were slated to be a part of this "tour" but maybe it was to expose these markets to some new Shippers and at the same time gauge the interest level that this type of event would garner in these venues. Most of the Shipper's were represented by West Coast distributor reps or in some cases (i.e., Allied Domecq, Frederick Wildman, Kobrand , etc.) by representatives of large beverage conglomerates. I was happy to see that there were a few independent importers as well as a handful of folks who came all the way from Portugal to show their Porto products.

As mentioned there was a diversity of Porto styles represented and my tasting notes on 50 of the wines I tried over the four hours, are only a "snap shot" of their character and should be read with that in mind. It is very different making quick assessments of the quality of a particular wine in this type of dynamic, rather than sitting down at a table and evaluating each glass, or bottle of wine over a number of hours. In addition to the tasting notes, there is a brief description of each type of Porto that was poured. So, without further ado, on to the tasting notes.

TAWNY PORTO (with indication of age) is a popular style of Porto that is aged in large wooden casks for many years. The 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old designations represent the average age of the Tawny blend. The actual year that the wine was bottled, must appear on the front or back label of the wine. There is a "house style" that has been maintained throughout the generations by the *Shippers* and the Master Blender is responsible for the distinct personality of each Tawny.

1. J. H. Anderson 10 year old Tawny "Century" - Impressive effort for a ten year old. Apricot color, soft texture yet overt fruit that shows more complexity than most 10 yr. old tawnies. A subtle hint of nuttiness but not as toasty as most on the long finish. 90 pts.

2. Noval 10 year old Tawny - Light ruby not showing true tawny color, yet brimming with almonds, walnuts and dried apricot on the nose that follows though to the rich palate. A solid effort bolstered by a fine finish...but only in the middle of the pack here. 86 pts.

3. Cockburn 20 year old Tawny - I thoroughly enjoyed this tawny. The light brown color showed the enhancements of long term wood aging. Tasty toasty hazelnut presence was warm and welcoming. The harmony of the nutty and vanilla flavors on the long and sumptuous finish are memorable. Would be a great accompaniment for those who enjoy Porto with an occasional cigar. 93 pts.

4. Quinta do Castelinho 20 year old Tawny - Light pinkish color with a brown edge. A high-toned whiff of alcohol shows up on the nose. Simple elderberry fruit and nutty nuances with a soft and spirity finish. Dull flavors, lacks depth or a compelling reason to drink. Vigor mortis in the glass. 74 pts.

5. Quinta do Portal 20 year old Tawny - Admittedly my first taste of wine from this producer, albeit I have read about their rise from grape farmers to Shippers in Portugal. The Branco family has been producing table wines since 1986 and Porto since 1994. Worthy of noting that the bottle/label design used for the various styles of Quinta do Portal are anything but traditional and will shock purists. In fact, they are nothing short of avant-garde, yet quite attractive. More important is what is inside the bottle of this 20 year old Tawny, which is de rigeur if not a progressive version of the classic. The Portal has a light caramel color, unique flavors of tangerine, walnuts and an excellent, lingering nutty finish. I went back for a second taste of this seamlessly seductive wine. 91 pts.

6. Taylor Fladgate 20 year old Tawny - rich brick red color with a robust style that is not concerned with nuance as much as straightforward fruit. Scent of hazelnuts, creme caramel and a hint of brown sugar. Delicious flavor that is anything but subtle. It possesses a long finish and the 20 year old by Taylor is far superior, comparatively to their 10 year old Tawny, in my opinion. 90 pts.

7. Ramos-Pinto 20 year old Tawny "Bom Retiro" - I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jose Ramos-Pinto Rosas and others at Quinta do Bomfim (Dow) in May of 1994. He was a guest there that evening and was an excellent raconteur It would take another two years before I would get to try my first bottle of a Ramos-Pinto Porto. This Bom Retiro 20 year old Tawny had a very light pinkish color, with soft and elegant fruit and a nice nutty nuance on the smooth, medium length finish. A lighter style than I generally appreciate in 20 year tawnies. Pleasant, yet simple. 84 pts.

8. Ramos-Pinto 30 year old Tawny - More evolved than the 20 year-old as would be expected from an additional ten years spent in cask. An even lighter color and delicate body as well, but with a far more interesting mid-palate character and a graceful, lingering finish. 89 pts.

9. Royal Oporto 40 year old Tawny - Very light orange/pecan color with toasted almonds and ethereal caramel aromatics that extend to the palate. Too thin and delicate, even for a 40 year old tawny, but the tapestry of tastes and elegant finish result in a pleasing drink nonetheless. I had a hard time taking my nose out of the glass but wished the palate delivered the same exuberance. 88 pts.

10. Sandeman 40 year old Tawny - Eye appealing amber waves of grape and a sublime mouthfeel that lingers for minutes on the intricate finish. Well-developed, with excellent balance and a wealth of peripherals. To be perfectly honest, I have never bought into the 30 or 40 year old Tawny Port marketing scheme. That said, I have enjoyed many 30 and 40 year old Tawny Portos but feel that for the QPR they are simply not good values. The difference between a 20 year old tawny and the two older versions is almost never worth the additional price of admission to me. This clearly is an exception to the rule. 93 pts.

WHITE PORTO is produced from a blend of white grapes rather than the red grapes used in all other Porto. Malvasia is the best known white grape used in this style of Porto (and is found in some Madeira's too). Like the other styles of Porto, the WHITE also has a high alcohol content which is normally 20%. Lastly, White Portos can differ dramatically, as some are extremely dry, others off-dry and some can even be quite sweet. I prefer the off-dry style but appreciate all three.

11. Churchill White Port - Churchill is as good as white Port gets. Aging in cask for at least ten years is only the beginning of the story here. Excellent acidity, off-dry but with just enough residual sugar to make this a top aperitif or an enjoyable first-course food accompaniment. Speaking of which, in another recent tasting this vinho showed beautifully when accompanying a cream of asparagus soup...no easy feat! 91 pts.

12. Quinta do Portal White Port - Floral aromas of rose petals and lush white peaches. Acrobatic balancing act of fruit and acidity. Somewhat monolithic but saved by the nose. 86 pts.

COLHEITA PORTO simply put, Colheita (pronounced, coal-YAYT-a), is a Tawny Porto with all grapes coming from one single vintage. The vintage date must appear on the bottle along with the term Colheita. These vintage dated tawnies must age in wood for at least seven years but can continue to mature in cask for many decades. Like the aforementioned Tawny category, the actual year that the wine was bottled must appear on the front or back label of the wine. These wines are exceptionally rare and less Colheita is produced than even Vintage Porto. Some collectors specialize in this unique category of Porto, as the mature nuances that are derived from extended wood aging can rival the greatest of the world's dessert wines. I will never forget an experience with a 1912 Niepoort that made me a believer.

13. J. H. Andresen 1991 Colheita - A dark orange/yellow tinge that would hint at more age than eleven years, but the sweet almond flavors were enticing. More like a 10 year old Tawny in character. Lacking some backbone and depth, but otherwise quite tasty and has an appealing long finish. 86 pts.

14. Krohn 1960 Colheita - Wiese & Krohn is best known for their Colheitas and I can't remember ever tasting one of their vintage Portos. If it were not for the slight medicinal qualities of the aroma, I would have liked this wine even more. The fruit and nut cake flavors were complex, well-integrated and the wine had a velvety smooth texture. 89 pts.

15. Krohn 1965 Colheita - Displaying a dark hue of honey, candied walnut flavors with some rock candy notes that are smooth on the palate and show great complexity. Unfortunately, a hot and spirity finish spoiled the initial pleasure. I have enjoyed this Krohn more at other tastings and know Colheita lovers who speak very highly of this particular wine. 87 pts.

16. Krohn 1978 Colheita - Showing a light tawny color, this wine possessed a great caramel and toffee scent. A touch of chocolate covered raisins and almonds balanced off the delicious, intricately woven flavors. Smooth finish, again marred by too much raw alcohol. What a shame, as I really liked this wine but could not get past the heat at the end. I have had this before and loved it. 88 pts.

17. Krohn 1989 Colheita - From the aged appearance I would never have thought it was such a young wine, but the flavors were quite youthful and powerful. Big fruit here but there was a subtle off note, as if it were "cooked." Looking past this flaw (could just be this bottle) was not easy. 82 pts.

18. Quinta do Castelinho 1982 Colheita - Why is it that I find more spirity character on the finish of Colheitas than other styles of Porto? A shade of fawn, think Bambi. Vapid, with varnish nuance on the nose that is hard to get past. Decent fruit but the hot finish destroys any possible pleasure. 78 pts.

19. Rocha 1938 Colheita - Seattle (WA) is a big Porto market in the USA, especially given its relatively mid-sized urban population. Rocha is a brand that has done an excellent job of gaining lots of placements in the restaurants here. The '38 shows a dark brown color and is a lightweight with a sweet flavor profile. Oxidized and on the nose acetone and spirity unpleasantness mar the subtle chestnut aroma. This wine lacks balance and has a very spirity edge as well. 79 pts.

20. Kopke 1940 Colheita - Kopke is not widely distributed in the USA, but for Porto aficionados it is an important house as Kopke is the first known Port Shipper, dating back to 1638. They've never been reputed for their vintage Porto (try the '85!), as their specialty is Colheita. This is an outstanding example of how well Colheitas can age, and more importantly...the care that Kopke puts into these wines. The only thing light about this 1940 was its light amber tinge. Complex and powerful 62 years later, with brown sugar, toasty sweet hazelnuts and a slight Sherry like note. Vibrant acidity balances the sweet unctuous juice here and there is a superlative lingering finish. ***Ranked as my 3rd favorite wine of the entire tasting. 94 pts.

21. Kopke 1977 Colheita - Oddly, this wine is darker than the 1940. It is still a very youthful wine exhibiting spicy & smoky notes, dense caramel and candied hazelnuts. Not yet evolved and has not had time to gain some of the layers and secondary nuances of an older Colheita. 89 pts.

22. Rocha 1952 Colheita - Intriguing nose of dried fruits and caramelized sugar with toasty almond flavors and a spirity note as well. Over my six years of tasting their wine and again here, the Rocha Coleheitas tend to have LOTS of heat on the nose, palate and finish. This 1952 Rocha falls into that category but although it is hard to overlook the alcohol, there are some very pleasant characters as well. 88 pts.

23. Rocha 1963 Colheita - Well shut my mouth...this is the real deal! Everything you could ask for in a Colheita, soft and elegant, delicious, and it's seamless in its attack. Dark amber color, with walnuts and hints of sweet cassis on the nose with potent nutty flavors that are powerful and focused. No signs of age on this baby and it will last for many decades. Excellent harmony, decadent, ultra-rich and alluring with great length on the finish. *Ranked as my favorite wine of the evening...and by far, the BEST Rocha I have ever tasted. 95 pts.

24. Souza 1967 Colheita - Light tawny color, with a touch of caramel and hint of orange peel essence. Expressive nutty flavors with a very soft textured, enjoyable mouthfeel. Heat on the finish detracts from overall experience though. 85 pts.

25. Souza 1981 Colheita - Light mahogany color, simple with a significant dose of heat on the nose and palate that overwhelmed all other components. 78 pts.

LBV PORTO Don't let the acronym confuse you, LBV means Late Bottled Vintage and comes from the grapes of one harvest. It is a vinho easy to enjoy and is usually bottled ready to drink. Like Tawny Porto, LBV is a wood-aged wine, typically stored in cask for four to six years and then filtered prior to bottling. Only those bottles designated "Traditional" or "Tradicional" can actually improve with more time in the bottle. This style of LBV develops sediment that will require decanting since they are not fined or filtered prior to bottling. LBV's time in wood promotes a more rapid flavor development and maturation. This is one reason they are less complex than Vintage Portos that evolve in bottle over many years. Therefore, LBV is less expensive and a good alternative to drink while your fine Vintage Porto (VP) ages (preferably for decades) in the cellar. One thing to be aware of is that the LBV producer must clearly specify both the vintage and year of bottling on the label.

26. Vista Alegre 1988 LBV - Light ruby color, strawberry and earthy plum notes emerge with mouth-filling viscous waves of flavor. High-toned alcohol on the smooth finish detracts from an overall very good effort. 88 pts.

27. Vista Alegre 1994 LBV - Garnet colored, intriguing aromatics of grandmas berry pie with gentle strawberry and raspberry flavors. Somewhat thin with mild-mannered tannins and way too much alcohol on the finish for me to really enjoy this LBV. 83 pts.

28. J. H. Andresen 1995 LBV - This LBvinho exhibits a dark garnet-purple color. Plenty of depth and dense, chewy dark berry fruit here. I like it every bit as much as my first tasting of this wine almost a year ago. This is a gentle giant with an appealing if not decadent mouthfeel with well-integrated tannins and in possession of a finish worth talking about. 90 pts.

29. Quinta do Castelinho 1995 LBV - After the disappointment with their 20 year Tawny, I was pleasantly surprised by the class and quality of this LBV. Deeply extracted purple color with a vibrant fragrance of strawberry jam. Concentrated flavors of plump elderberries and cinnamon spice with fantastic length on the smooth finish. A refined LBV with obvious charm. Sadly, I do not believe this wine is currently imported into the US; so those reading this in other countries...find some and send me a bottle. 92 pts.

30. Quinta do Noval 1996 LBV - Although not designated as "traditional" this LBV confuses consumers since it does declare itself to be "unfiltered", and therefore, should continue to develop in the bottle. This is a wine produced by foot treading and fermentation in lagare. Old and traditional methods frequently yield great results. Dark ruby color, blackberry and anise aromas, medium-bodied with a soft fleshy mouthfeel and ripe tannins. Plenty of dense plummy fruit to keep it all in synch. Tasty juice! 91 pts.

31. Quinta do Portal 1996 "Traditional" LBV - Dark and brooding with a viscous, smooth mouthfeel. Easy to enjoy the cassis and blackberry fruit here as well as the focused structure. Quinta do Portal is new to me and I like this wine very much. If the finish is this great now, I can only imagine the drinking pleasure and bright future of this wine and Shipper. 93 pts.

32. Ramos-Pinto 1996 LBV - Juicy, jammy, youthful, with notes of very cherry and elderberry. Compact and all upfront, it lacks complexity but is otherwise pleasant. 86 pts.

33. Taylor Fladgate 1994 LBV - There is a wide disparity of opinion on this wine. Folks on AOL boards dis it and on the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, they seem to really love it. This is certainly not in the same league with the Noval or Niepoort '94 LBVs which are both outstanding. The flavors here are pleasant enough but this wine is restrained if not simple and with an unpleasant spirity character which is atypical for Taylor. To quote a friend in regard to this vinho, "I would imagine it would be perfect for poaching pears, using as a sauce with duck breast or for any other cooking need." 86 pts.

VINTAGE PORTO has been my passion for the past 18 years. The 360+ years of history in Oporto, Vila Nova de Gaia and the environs of the Douro River Valley have captivated me and led me down the long road of exploration, tasting and study. First brought to the British empire in the 17th century, now VP is enjoyed around the world. Its style is emulated in many countries, but only the real Portuguese version can be called Porto and rightfully so, as in no other appellation does it reach the pinnacle it achieves from the legendary Douro grape varieties and terroir. In a phrase, Vintage Porto ... is the KING of Port wine and certainly one of the rarest. I respect those that prefer the aged Tawny Portos for their complexity and mature qualities. For me, vintage Porto is more intriguing as it is similar to the development of a human being; starting with infancy and then shedding baby fat, inquisitive in its early years, rounding out yet somewhat confused as a teenager, gaining a sense of self as a young adult, and finally showing maturity and then gentle charm as it gets older still. I could wax poetic but will get right to the point. Take the very best blend of grapes from only the finest vineyard sites, picked at their peak of ripeness (from ONE harvest) and you have the basis for VP. Take those grapes and ferment them and prematurely arrest the process by adding about 20% pure grape brandy. This process called "fortification" stops the fermentation early, thereby leaving a higher level of alcohol and lots of residual sugar. The finished wine then spends between 2-3 years in wooden casks prior to bottling. VPs are not fined or filtered as the sediment is desirable for long term bottle aging. Once removed from the cellar, VP must be decanted to remove particulate prior to drinking, but also to provide time for the complex nuances to bloom in the decanter. How long depends on many factors (please see my email information at the end of this article, should you have specific questions). Each Porto Shipper (a "shipper" is actually what the trade calls the producers of Porto) makes an independent decision on whether to "declare" their Porto a Vintage Porto after submitting samples for approval to the Instituto do Vinho do Porto (my visit to this Port Wine Institute in Oporto, was a day I will never forget)! Once approved, a declaration can be made and the Vintage Porto is born. Historically the grapes were foot trodden in large granite lagares at the Quintas in the demarcated Douro region and today much of the production has moved to huge stainless steel autovinification methods and recently robotics have been employed in the process as well. Going strong in its fourth century, VP may seem pricey to some, but when compared to many of the world's greatest wines, it is clearly a bargain. Vintage Porto passion....

34. J. H. Andresen 1985 VP - I need to open another bottle of this just to make sure I am not delusional as I did not expect such a fine VP here. A pretty and vibrant shade of garnet with some age showing on the rim. Snappy, spice-laced, cinnamon and cassis notes and just a touch of sweet raisin nuance on the expressive bouquet. Andresen '85 displays a great purity of elegant raspberry fruit, along with clove and herbal notes. Harmonious balance here with smooth interwoven tannins, but the great mid-palate complexity steals the spotlight. Extra points are given for the sexy mouthfeel and length of the velvety finish. Drinking beautifully today although it is not too many years from its peak. A very pleasant surprise...my compliments to the chef! *Ranked as my 2nd favorite wine of the tasting. 94 pts.

35. Champalimaud 1995 VP - My first tasting of this Vintage Porto. Purplish/ruby tone, ripe jammy plums and other black fruits. Medium-bodied with nice mid-palate depth, lacks some "grip" as this is definitely a BIG fruit-forward style of VP. I have heard people rave about this wine, but on this day, I just don't believe the hype. 87 pts.

36. Churchill 1994 VP - I have only had the opportunity to meet Johnny Graham and his wife one time. They are both charming and extremely well versed in the history of the trade. Johnny is one of the three Graham brothers who had to sell Graham to the Symingtons in 1970. Now, he is bent on finding and growing exceptional grapes for his own house. I wish Johnny and the Churchill group much success. The 1994 has a fairly light ruby color, with plum and blueberry fruit that is chewy yet lacking brightness and intensity, especially considering the vintage. Its redeeming value is the exotic aromatics here. Otherwise, simply simple. 84 pts.

37. Churchill 1995 "Quinta da Agua Alta" VP - Bright ruby hue showing a nose and palate of blackberries and primary notes of elderberries with some varnish/spirit showing through on the finish. A bit on the simple side but enjoyable for current consumption. 86 pts.

38. Churchill 1997 VP - Deeply extracted purple color with bright elderberry and ripe raspberry fruit. Lots going on here with an expressive mid-palate, and a jammy quality that saturates the tongue. This will be interesting to revisit in another decade or two. Full-throttle flavors that won't quit on the long finish. 90 pts.

39. Churchill 1998 "Quinta da Agua Alta" VP - Inky almost opaque purple complexion strutting its youth. Essence of blackberry, mocha and spice. A palate pleaser with dense, massive elderberry and a touch of chocolate covered cherries. Concentrated fruit with tannins that are up to the challenge. Expansive finish. 89 pts.

40. Churchill 1999 "Quinta da Gricha" VP - To my knowledge, this Quinta is the only one that is owned by the Graham brothers (and partners) and was purchased in 1999. The 500 vine covered acres were all ready to go and new plantings have been added since their purchase. This Quinta came with old lagares dating back to the mid 1850s. In my humble opinion, the '99 Gricha is the best Churchill VP to date and clearly shows the bright future of this vineyard site and Shipper. Mostly plump blueberry notes but an ample touch of blackberry jam as well. The '99 Gricha shows its baby fat and is like a VP on steroids, with lots of chewy tannins and acidity here. Solid balance for a toddler, an excellent expansive finish and great promise overall. Cellar some for your retirement years. 93 pts.

41. Cockburn 1997 VP - Dark ruby color possessing floral fragrances, especially violets and some tasty yet light flavors of boysenberry, ripe plums and chocolate. Surprisingly reticent tannins and short on structural focus. Possibly in a "dumb phase" as this tasted much better a year and a half ago and certainly will evolve and show improvement with more bottle age. 89 pts.

42. Quinta do Castelinho 1997 VP - As this is a new Porto Shipper for my tasting experience, I have learned I like the Castelinho LBV and VP styles. This youthful VP has bold brambly blackberry and boysenberry fruit that is jammy and delicious. Although a well-balanced vinho, the fruit-forward style of this Castelinho seemingly overwhelmed the underlying tannins that were barely noticeable. Not a surprise for an infant. Good upside potential here. 90 pts.

43. Quinta do Portal 1995 VP - Portal is the Shipper that flaunts its "new look", as mentioned above. Personally, I am a Porto traditionalist, but that is just me and change can be good. What concerns me most is what is in the package, not the package itself. That said, the '95 Portal is a wine with a rich burgundy glow in the glass. Aromatics show some green stemmy notes as well as some heat that detracts from the fruit and floral fragrance. Well-endowed with ripe raspberry fruit and a Welch's grape juice thing going on. Overt tannins show up with too much spirit on a rather middling finish. 85 pts.

44. Quinta do Portal 1997 VP - Here the bottle may look different but the juice is a purist pleasing classic. Concentrated complexion of deep purple that is just shy of opacity. Showing a solid core of sublime tastes with a melange of cassis, jammy raspberry and mocha. As intriguing as the flavor profile is, the laser beam is focused on the incredibly balanced structure which kept me sipping slowly (and of course spitting!). The finish is as memorable as will the name Quinta do Portal be indelibly etched in my memory, long after this tasting. A fine effort by this upstart and shows the significant improvement made in just a few short years. 93 pts.

45. Taylor Fladgate 1995 "Quinta de Vargellas" VP - I loved the old vines bottling of this wine and did not know Taylor bottled a "regular" version of the 1995 Vargellas too. Dark purple hue with similar characteristics to the "vinha velha" but not as intense. Jammy dark fruit with ripe tannins, excellent balance and a lengthy finish. 92 pts.

46. Ramos-Pinto 1994 "Quinta da Ervamoira" VP - Drink-me-now style. Displays a medium ruby color with a somewhat reserved nose and a short finish. Lacked density and tannins but to be fair, this bottle may have just been opened as it was almost full. Pleasant flavors are noted, but this wine fell short of reaching full potential given the character of the '94 growing season. 83 pts.

47. Ramos-Pinto 1997 VP - This Shipper's majority partner is Louis Roederer (of Cristal Champagne fame). Ramos-Pinto is best known for their tawny Porto but their VPs are progressively improving. Pretty ruby appearance, with sweet raspberry and grenadine flavors and very mild tannins considering its youth. Given its structure I can't see the '97 in the cellar for the long haul, but it is pleasant enough now. Youthful spirity essence shows up on the finish which was distracting. 86 pts.

48. Royal Oporto 1994 VP - Their simple ruby and tawny Portos sell very well in Portugal and they make a decent 20 year old Tawny; but Royal Oporto has never been known (at least in the past century) for making reliable, quality VPs. The 1994 is no exception to the rule. It delivers fragrant violet and floral aromas with some blackberry fruit that lacks depth and tannic "grip." It doesn't have the structure one would expect from such a heralded vintage. 81 pts.

49. Royal Oporto 1997 VP - In fairness, admittedly I have not appreciated their style of VPs in prior tastings. The 1997 has great extraction providing a youthful, nearly opaque purple color. Before even lifting my glass, that alone got my hopes up that this wine would be the one to change my opinion of Royal Oporto vintage Porto. Unfortunately, it delivers modest fruit, lacks structural components and is void of any raisin d'être. 78 pts.

50. Sandeman 1997 "Vau Vintage" VP - A new change in style by Sandeman himself, who decided to produce a quality VP that was easier to approach sooner rather than later. In this, Sandeman has succeeded. Yet I hope that Sandeman continues to make their "classic" VPs as well. I fondly remember the '63 Sandeman vintage Porto in its prime, (which I cut my teeth on, nearly two decades ago). Vau is named after the Quinta do Vau, which was purchased in 1988. I have had the '97 a few times and it is a light purple, medium-bodied wine, with exquisite fruit and an atypically sweeter style than most drier Sandeman VPs. Good balance between fruit and tannins with a smooth finish. It is quite enjoyable today and will still improve for at least a decade. 90 pts.

Finally...

I would like to thank the Porto Wine Institute (IVP) and the Portuguese Trade Commission for bringing such an extraordinary group of Shippers and diverse wines to PORTland and Seattle. It is apparent from the quantity of wine trade folks and consumers that showed up for this event, there is an enormous appreciation for Porto in this part of the world. Although I was only able to select, taste and take notes on 50 of the wines that were offered, I believe I was able to sample a good representation of many different styles of my favorite beverage.

CAVEAT: The reviews and ratings expressed herein are strictly my own opinion and it should be noted that I am not aware how long bottles were open or if they had been decanted. I stick by my scores but must note again that the results may vary when sitting with a single bottle over an extended period of time, vs. sipping an ounce or two at a tasting.

Please feel free to email me at Portolover@aol.com or OportoRAH@aol.com should you have ANY questions, comments, suggestions or ideas about Porto, this article or wine in general. Should you care to read more on Porto, you'll find some great articles here in the Words About Port pages on WineLoversPage.com.

Also, on Wednesday evenings we have a casual wine discussion group in a chat room forum on WineLoversPage.com, with both novices and aficionados in attendance. You are welcome to join us at http://www.wineloverspage.com/chat. The chat session normally runs for one hour and sometimes longer, from 10-11 p.m. US Eastern Time or 7-8 p.m. Pacific Time, which is 2100 GMT during the winter, 2000 GMT during summer time. I hope you will stop by and join us one of these Wednesday evenings. Newcomers are always welcome!

Roy Hersh

Feb. 15, 2002

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