History in a Bottle

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Taylor’s ‘Vargellas Vinha Velha’ Vintage Port 2017

Port from Douro, Portugal


Closure: Cork
Only the 8th Vintage of 'Vargellas Vinha Velha' the last was in 2011!


“The remarkable characteristic of the ‘Vinha Velha’ vintage Ports is their multi-dimensional complexity and their distinctive and subtle personality.  This derives from the rich diversity of traditional grape varieties planted on these old terraces.” David Guimaraens

100+ year old vines, ancient varieties rarely plant in the Duoro. This wine is a slice of history in a bottle!


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Why is this Wine so Yummy?

Take an array of red varieties with different personalities, throw them in a lagare, grab a couple dozen stompers and get them to tread the grapes, ferment it for a bit then pour in some brandy spirit leaving you with high sugar, tannin, acid, and, alcohol backed by rich fruit.

On face value how could it work? Like all the great wine styles in the world the top echelon, the best houses of Portugal have found a way.

The searing acidity of the best vintage ports and exceptional tannins balances the sweetness of the sugar, alcohol and of course fruit. Despite the strength of these superb wines they have amazing finesse, elegance, and, restraint. The complexity of these wines offers such intrigue!

Thoughts on the 2017 VP

Adrian Bridge, Managing Director

“The 2017 displays the fine focused fruit and floral dimension typical of Taylor’s but with the scale and depth which are hallmarks of the year. An exceptional wine showing great promise for the future.”

“Rare wine enthusiasts and collectors will be excited to hear that Taylor’s will release a 2017 Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port. This will be only the eighth Vargellas Vinha Velha ever to be released and quantities are very limited. As usual, it is an extraordinary wine, a showcase of the old vines’ ability to deliver multiple layers and dimensions of aroma.”

David Guimaraens, Head Wine Maker

“The thick skinned, beautifully ripened grapes have produced dense, firmly structured wines, quite reserved at this early stage but with impressive depth and reserves of aroma. The 2017 is classic Taylor’s, with fine, linear fruit and the signature floral scent.”

“I think 2017 Vargellas Vinha Velha is a superb example of what the old vineyards are capable of achieving. The wine has all the density and depth of the 2017 vintage but is wonderfully multidimensional, the diversity of vines varieties in the five historic vineyard plots contributing to its aromatic complexity.”

The Vinha Velha

The old walled terraces of the Vinha Velha represent the original part of the Vargellas estate and contain its oldest vines.  They have been classified as World Heritage and constitute one of the Douro Valley’s most impressive historic vineyards as well as the source of one of the rarest and most sought-after of all Vintage Ports.

The Vinha Velha (pronounced ‘vin-ya velya’), meaning Old Vineyard, is made up of five individual and distinct plots located above and to the west of the estate buildings. They are Polverinho, Gricha, Renova do Depósito, Renova do Armazém and Vinha Grande.  These old terraced vineyards, some of whose dry stone walls were built two centuries ago, contain very old vines many of which are now over 100 years old.  With the exception of Polverinho, which contains the single variety terraces planted by Dick Yeatman in 1927, the Vinha Velha contains mixed plantings of many different traditional grape varieties, some of which are seldom planted today.

In this sense, the Vinha Velha represents a piece of viticultural history, its idiosyncratic and seemingly random mix of different indigenous vine types contrasting with the ordered and controlled character of modern vineyards. Occasionally, these old vineyards produce the very rare Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port.  The grapes used to make the Vinha Velha Vintage Port represent a very restricted selection of fruit from the very oldest vines.  Whereas the Vinha Velha plots together represent more than 15 percent of the total production of the estate, the grapes used for the Vinha Velha Vintage Port usually represent between 1 and 2 percent.

The Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Ports are the ultimate collector’s wines, the expression of an ancient terroir whose characteristics are unlikely ever to be reproduced. As Taylor’s technical director and head wine maker David Guimaraens put it, “The remarkable characteristic of the ‘Vinha Velha’ vintage Ports is their multi-dimensional complexity and their distinctive and subtle personality.  This derives from the rich diversity of traditional grape varieties planted on these old terraces.”

The Importance of Blending

At Yarra Yering we made a VP style, the Port Sorts, renamed Pot Sorts for export after naming rights for the use of Port were granted solely to the Portuguese.

Made from the traditional Port varieties, Touriga Nacional provides structural tannin backbone, earthiness, and a core of fruit. Tinta Cão fruit richness. Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Tinta Amarela the acid component.

In addition to the above the best known red varieties for Port production include the Touriga Francesa, and, Tinta Barroca but in total there are around thirty types of Port grape. Most of these varieties have relatively small thick-skinned berries which produce the dense concentrated must (grape juice) needed to make Port.

Although they may be planted separately, the varieties are normally harvested and fermented together. Each grape variety contributes its own particular character – such as the intense flavours of woodland fruit, delicate floral scents, exotic spicy notes or the wild resiny aromas of gumcistus – to the nose of the wine. The grape varieties work together like instruments in an orchestra to create a subtle, complex and multi-dimensional harmony.

Making Port

Port is a fortified wine. Fortified wines are made by adding a proportion of grape spirit, or brandy, to the wine at some point during the production process. Port is arguably the greatest of all fortified wines and its paramount expression, Vintage Port, ranks alongside the finest produce of Bordeaux or Burgundy as one of the great iconic wines of the world.

In the case of Port, the addition of the brandy takes place before the wine has finished fermenting. This means that the wine retains some of the natural sweetness of the grape, making it rich, round and smooth on the palate.

One of the fascinating aspects of Port wine is its variety of different styles, each with its own characteristic flavours, from the intense berry fruit flavours of a Reserve or a Late Bottled Vintage to the rich mellowness of an Aged Tawny or the sublime complexity of a Vintage Port.

About Taylor’s

Taylor’s, along with Fronseca are both owned and made by the Guimarens family under the guidance of David. These are two of the great Port estates.

In 1692, an important chapter in the history of Port began. Job Bearsley, an English merchant, travelled to Portugal to venture into the wine business, founding the company we now know as Taylor’s. Today, it is one of the oldest and most renowned Port producers, and its Ports are considered amongst the finest in the world.

After each harvest, the tasting panel selects the finest Port wines from the three properties and these are then left to age for two winters in oak vats.

In their second Spring, they are tasted again. If they are judged to be of exceptional quality, the Port wines of the three estates are blended together, Vargellas bringing structure, elegance and complexity to the wine and Terra Feita and Junco body, depth and powerful, concentrated fruit.

At this stage it must be decided whether a Vintage Port is to be ‘declared’. For a declaration to be made, the Vintage Port blend must be of outstanding quality: austere in its youth, with tremendous depth of flavour and massive structure, capable of evolving over years, or decades into that quintessence of great Port, a mature Taylor’s Vintage.

Historically Taylor’s has only declared about three Vintage years per decade.

Where in the World is the Duoro Valley?

The 2017 Vintage

Following a wet 2016, the year started with cold and dry winter conditions, with a fifth less rainfall than the thirty-year average. Bud burst occurred relatively early, around 10th March.

The dry conditions continued into Spring and the warm weather in April and May encouraged the rapid growth of the vines.

The first three weeks of June were extremely hot, causing damage to the new bunches in some areas of the Douro. The early cycle continued with véraison around 18th June, one month earlier than the previous year. Apart from some thunderstorms and rainfall early in July, conditions remained dry until the end of September although temperatures for much of the ripening season were moderate.

As expected, the crop ripened very early, showing high sugar levels which led to longer fermentations and very effective colour extraction. Picking started at Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas on 1st September, the earliest in a generation. The last time picking was recorded as having started this early was in 1945 – one of the greatest of the 20th century vintages – when the first fruit was picked on 3rd September.

Temperatures at harvest time were mild, with cool nights, leading to balanced fermentations and excellent extraction. The musts were dense and marked by exceptional depth of colour and impressive phenolics.

Drinking Vintage Port

🍷DECANTING – Vintage Port forms a natural deposit in the bottle and should be decanted. Stand the bottle upright a few hours before decanting to allow the sediment to fall to the bottom of the bottle.

🌡SERVING TEMPERATURE – Serve at 16ºC to 18ºC. Vintage Port is best drunk one to two days after opening.

🍑🧀PAIRING SUGGESTIONS – Walnuts, blue veined and other richly flavoured cheeses are excellent accompaniments to Vintage Port; so too are dried fruits such as apricots or figs.

Where in the World does Vintage Port Come From!

98 Points

Aromas of dark berries, wet earth and dried flowers follow through to a full body, medium sweet and lots of intense and powerful tannins that are extremely fine-grained. Goes on for minutes. Polished and sophisticated young vintage Port. Lovely old vine Port. Try after 2027.

James Suckling

Where in the world does the magic happen?

Taylor's Port, Rua do Choupelo, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal