Taylor Fladgate’s fine 20-year-old tawny

I don’t drink a lot of port. But a glass of tawny every now and then can be fun, even in the absence of Stilton, a roaring fire or a bearskin rug. In December, I poured some ports at the end of a tasting and they were more popular than I had imagined. One fifty-something participant commented how much he liked them but that he didn’t have the time in the winter to sit around and drink them. So he resolved to try a port in the summer. Indeed, that’s what those in the trade often do in Portugal, putting a 10- or 20-year-old tawny in the fridge and serving it chilled on a summer afternoon.

Last week I had the chance to taste through the lineup of Taylor’s tawny ports, from the 10-year-old to the 40-year-old. I’ll cut to the chase: I thought the 20-year-old was the most complete package, especially considering price.

I tasted them in the company of Adrian Bridge, managing director of Taylor who was in town to show off the new/old Scion, a cask-aged port dating from 1855. Bridge, an affable an eloquent man who was in the Cavalry Regiment (The 1st The Queen’s Dragoon’s Guards) of the British Army, told us that the 20-year-old is the best seller in America while the 10-year-old is the best seller in the UK.

On a winemaking/business note, Bridge said that thanks to evaporation in cask, starting with two liters of port now will yield only one liter of port in twenty years thanks to compounding the effect of three percent a year evaporation. (Tawnies are a blend of vintages and the age on the bottle is an approximation.) Similarly, they need four liters today to have one liter of forty-year-old tawny in 2051. When forecasting for growth in the market, he said the quantity of stock needed to be set aside is actually quite daunting.

All the tawnies are lighter in color than their vintage counterparts. The ten-year-old tawny (under $30), a pleasant wine with aged character, has notes of spice and dried fruits. But to me, the 20-year-old tawny is worth the premium (about $55) since it has enticing nutty, dried fruit, toffee, spice cake notes. The 30-year-old (about $110) has more tertiary notes in the aromas and seems dry by comparison. This is the house style apparently as the 10-year-old has 105 grams of residual sugar while the 20-year-old has 116 g/RS and the 30-year-old is about the same. The 40-year old (hard to find but about $175) has delicious layers with all lots of toffee, hazelnut, caramel complexity and a long finish. (Find these wines at retail.)

A final note: at the tasting we also had a few vintage ports, the first time I had tasted the 2003 and the 2007 side-by-side and, while both very young and excellent, the 2007 is superb. If you know someone born in this year, stashing away a few bottles of this will make an excellent gift many decades hence.

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6 Responses to “Taylor Fladgate’s fine 20-year-old tawny”

  1. So in the US, then, essential accessories for port drinking include “Stilton, a roaring fire or a bearskin rug”.

    Not sure what the bearskin rug is for, but here in London, we favour a decanter…

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wine Lover +, Dr Vino, Ryan&Gabriella Opaz, Robert Whitley, yancharbonneau-wine and others. yancharbonneau-wine said: Taylor Fladgate’s fine 20-year-old tawny http://bit.ly/hAzy8l […]

  3. Hi Sediment Blog,

    Screw the decanter–you haven’t done the Stilton/roaring fire/bearskin rug thing with port? A 100+ point experience awaits you…


  4. Summer and its oppressive heat cannot pass thru’ fast enuff for me to resume enjoying my beloved Port in front of my fireplace (woodburning; not gas!). I could be a billionare and life; at that moment anyway, would not be more sublime.

    I agree on the 20-year being the most rewarding in relation to price. Ramos Pinto tawnies follow along similar lines. Truth be told Warre’s Vintage is my reigning Port wine favorite: always something of a Tawny note intermingled with the flavor dimensions of vintage richness (Niepoort also has this).

    Thank God it’s not spring yet! Where’s my matches??!

  5. I don’t drink much port either, but I love it around the holidays. I’ll never forget my father opening a bottle of 1900 port (and I wish I could remember the name) at midnight of the year 2000, when all of the computers were supposed to be failing.

    Kopke also makes a mean tawny port, my favorite vintages being the 1980 (slight nutiness in the front palate, nice citrusy finish) and the 1957 (layers of almond, walnut, lots of acidity).

    Paul Kalemkiarian
    President, Wine of the Month Club

  6. I had the pleasure of drinking Taylor’s 20 Year Old with Adrian Bridge at Vargellas in the Duoro last year – it was a warm night and the tawny was a welcome “middle course” between white port to start and vintage port to end.


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