A pack of 10, 20, 30 and 40-year-old Taylor’s Tawny ports arrived for review recently offering a chance to compare the merits of some fairly old wines.
Tawny ports are a classic example of a premium blended wine. For a start, they are a blend of up to six different varieties: touriga nacional, tinta roriz, tinto cao, tinto amarela, tinta barroca and touriga francesco. Tawny ports are also a blend of different vintages. A 10-year-old Tawny port is unlikely to have been made from a blend of wines averaging ten years, it must simply taste like a 10-year-old tawny.
Blending wines of different ages comes with a bonus. If you blend one-year-old wine with an equal amount of a nine-year-old wine it tastes older than its mathematical average of five years because the older wine has more influence on the outcome. It might, for example, taste like a six or seven-year-old wine, giving a one or two-year bonus.
After vintage wines with the potential to become aged tawnies are aged in small neutral casks of around 600 litres. The wine loses 2.5% of its volume by evaporation every year, which increases concentration. As the wines age in barrel, they develop a true tawny colour and later a distinctly green rim. Older wines develop a pronounced nutty “rancio” character (literally “rancid”).
When tawny ports are blended and bottled they are as good as they are going to be – the wine does not develop further in bottle. Once opened they can be enjoyed for 6-8 weeks. They are great with blue cheese, preferably stilton.
One curious feature of every one of the 375 ml bottles opened was a sludgy sediment on the cork. I’ve never noticed this in tawny port. It suggests that the wine may have been in bottle for a reasonably long time, allowing the colour (anthocyanin) to precipitate out.
Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port (375ml – tasting) at NZD $40 was the freshest of the four wines, but still deliciously mellow and very appealing, while Taylor’s 20 Year Old (375ml – tasting) at NZD $60 was clearly older but not as well-balanced, with a little heat and hardness from alcohol. It made up for its imbalance with seductive nut and dried fruit peel flavours and a very lengthy finish.
Taylor’s 30 Year Old Tawny Port (375ml – tasting) at NZD $82 shows some serious aged character with Christmas cake and caramel flavours, plus a mellow texture and warming finish. Taylor’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port (375ml – tasting) at NZD $137 was a real treat with crème brûlée and butterscotch flavours, plus a host of subtle spicy notes. Absolutely delicious!
As far as I can tell only the 10 and 20 Year Old Taylor’s Tawny Ports are available in this country.