I was thinking about a similar issue to this at the 80s tasting. I think there is a certain tendency amongst Port drinkers to do what is being advocated here, particularly by judging the Port against its age. I think this can lead to the praising of the very slow-maturing black-strap Port without objectively assessing what is nice to drink.
For example, the Fonseca 1970 is often praised because it is so youthful, despite being over 40 years old, and wines such as the Vesuvio 1994 is often praised because it has the potential to mature similarly slowly. But is this a good thing? I’ve often noticed that when tasting blind there is a tendency to guess the slow-maturing Ports as from weaker shippers as well as from younger vintages. At the 80s tasting, I, for example, guessed the Dow 1980 as a Vargellas 1987, and previously guessed a Fonseca 1970 as a Warre 1985 or Warre 1991. Although my palate is pretty poor and I’m not very good at that game, I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this.
Without, I hope, saying anything heretical, I do wonder whether some Ports are simply produced with too much tannin, and too much colour. For example, something like the Quinta da Colmaça 2003--the most dry, tannic and dark 8-year-old Port I have ever tried--looks like it will simply never mature within my lifetime. It may even go the way of some of those South-Amercian malbecs which never mature because by the time the tannins fade, the fruit and bouquet are completely gone. If we judge a wine, not just as a “tasting experience” as DRT’s book seems to suggest that we should, then I do think we lose a certain amount of objectivity. The apparent youthfulness of ancient Port may give it a higher rating than it deserves and defects such as not maturing in an appropriate way may come to be praised.
Whilst this is no problem when drinking and enjoying a bottle for one’s own pleasure, I think it may become an issue when one thinks about Port for the purposes of making informed decisions as to what to buy. Here, I think objectiveness is vital but then I would prefer to have a case of the Royal Oporto Quinta Das Carvahlas 1970
than, say, the Vesuvio 1989 (assuming I was only allowed to drink and not sell nor swap any bottles!
). But perhaps I am alone in this view? What would others do?