I have previously explained about my membership of this exalted club and the rules by which we taste here: https://oleudsenwineblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/maynards-new-port-brand-tasting-notes-27-august-2012/
On 19 September 2012 we attended a vey interesting tasting of Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) vs. Vintage (VT) Ports from four vintages, where each vintage was the pair of wines from a single producer. The various merits of LBV vs. VT can of course always be discussed, but I don’t think I’m very controversial in stating that VT is generally held to be the superior category. It is another story, however, when the discussion falls upon the merits of two different schools of thought within the LBV category itself. Some producers, Warre’s being famous for it, hold that LBV is just a VT-quality wine that has spent a bit more time in wood, and thus has been softened, without losing the intrinsic quality and capacity for ageing. Most producers, however, seem to think that LBV is a high-quality, vintage-specified ruby Port, which deliberately does not have quite the original quality of the VT wine from the same year; the LBVs from this latter category tend to age less graciously, but for all that can be lovely, very drinkable wines.
Somewhat unusually, we tasted 8 wines on the day, and equally unusually, we were served two wines first (numbers 7 and 8) and were told that they came from the same house, ensuring that we knew that wines 1 through 6 were equally distributed among LBV and VT. We had also already been told that the wines were the following: Warres LBV and VT 1994. Barão de Vilar LBV and VT 1997. Pocas LBV and VT 2000. And Quinta do Crasto LBV and VT 2004. In other words, the tasting was not even semi-blind, more like 3/8’s blind. But there you go, varying the format is always interesting and keeps us on our toes. Nonetheless, and as usual, it turned out to be exceedingly difficult to guess what was what, and quite as per usual I failed dismally at it.
My tasting notes, in the order served (and my scores out of 20, as per our usual system):
Sweet, fruity, slightly malty nose with dark berries, violets, hint of caramel. Relatively light of body, good sweetness, good acidity, light tannin. OK length, narrowing a bit towards the end, malty berries, walnut skin, aquavit/alcohol. Not quite a great wine, but certainly drinkable. My score: 13. Overall score: 14.1. The wine: Pocas LBV 2000.
Closed but quite deep nose, slightly rubber-reductive, dark berries, a dry/twiggy element, then a juicy, blackcurrant liqueur fruitiness starts emerging. Medium weight, handsome tannins keep sweetness in check, keeping the wine slightly on the dry side. Good length with perfumed dark berries, good intensity of aromas, slightly dry/barky spiciness, violets and cool minerals. Lovely wine. My score: 16. Overall score: 16.1. The wine: Pocas VT 2000.
Quite light on the nose, somewhat high-toned cherries, touch of exotic wood, slightly malty and minerally. Relatively light in the mouth, mild, OK sweetness, light tannin. OK length, narrows towards the end, malty berries, touch of walnut skin, violets. Good wine, very drinkable. My score: 14. Overall score: 14.7. The wine: Quinta do Crasto LBV 2004.
Dark berry nose with good power, minerally perfume, akvavit, dark spices. Medium weight in the mouth, good freshness, good tannins render the wine slightly on the dry side. Good length, cherries, dark fruits, dark spices, minerals and perfume. Lovely balance between fruit intensity and minerality. My score: 16. Overall score: 15.1. I could not understand why this was not scored higher. The wine: Barão de Vilar LBV 1997.
Deep nose, dense and intense, mulberries, exotic wood, violets and minerals. Medium weight, lovely integration between fruit and tannins, good but firm sweetness. Good length, consistent and well-put-together, dark berries, minerals, violets. Lovely wine, delivers consistently from nose to last wisp of aftertaste. My score: 16. Overall score: 14.9. Another incomprehensible overall score for me. The wine: Warre’s LBV 1994. Warre’s are true to their high-quality LBV format; this definitely has a good future.
Slightly aged/volatile red berry nose, dry wood, aquavit. Light and rather loose-knit, slightly alcoholic heat, somewhat dry. Not long, a bit alcoholic, then a bit of red berries, slight exotic wood, walnut. My score: 12. Overall score: 15.0. There was quite heated discussion about this wine, with many members unable to recognise the aged/volatile character I and a few others found in the wine. The wine: Warre’s VT 1994. There is no doubt in my mind that the bottles served on this occasion were faulty. They both tasted the same, and both came from the same case of six, fairly recently acquired. 1994 Warre’s is supposed to be great wine, and this certainly wasn’t. I suspect bad provenance.
Dark, dry, grippy and concentrated nose, dark berries, exotic wood, hint of snail and rubber, minerals. Medium to large, dry, concentrated and grippy in the mouth, good freshness, handsome tannins, slightly on the dry side. Long and intense, dark berries, minerals, exotic wood/walnut, dry spices, leather. Great wine. My score: 17. Overall score: 16.8. The wine of the evening, for me and overall. The wine: Quinta do Crasto VT 2004.
One of the two bottles of this wine was faulty; not corked, but dirty and smelling of dank cellar. That was the bottle I tasted first. My tasting notes reflect the second bottle, but are very basic as a result. Red berries, aquavit, dry spices. Light to medium weight, mild, slightly dry. OK length, malty berry fruit, violets, minerals. Second bottle good wine. My score: 15. Overall score: 16.7. The wine: Barão de Vilar VT 1997. This wine famously won our tasting of all major 1997 Vintage Ports. It doesn’t quite live up to that right now.
The concept of this evening was very interesting, and I would like to redo this type of tasting some time in the future. Specifically, I think the results were somewhat muddied by bottles that did not quite live up to what they ought to have shown. If you look at the scores, mine as well as overall, it is difficult to conclude that one or the other type of Port is superior, even if the highest-scoring wines were VTs. However, the doubtful bottles certainly contributed to the not-so-clear result.