2024: March 26 - 1994s, B&F

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jdaw1
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2024: March 26 - 1994s, B&F

Post by jdaw1 »

On Tuesday 26th March 2024, at The Boot & flogger, we tasted 1994s. To which — spoiler alert — Anthony Symington brought the most magnificent magnum of Vesuvio.
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flash_uk
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by flash_uk »

24-03-26 20-45-11 8dcc.jpg
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winesecretary
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by winesecretary »

Well that's reasonably emphatic.
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flash_uk
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by flash_uk »

Many thanks to Julian and Alex for organisation and to Martin for placemat printing. Great to see everyone, and enjoy your company! The scoring sheet quite correctly shows Vesuvio wiping the floor. Thanks to Anthony Symington for a fabulous magnum of the stuff.

Overall, I was really quite disappointed by many of the ports. Noval should get a mention for turning out well on the night, given previously noted (here) multiple poor showings from Noval. Vesuvio aside, most of those on show had a drop in colour that I wasn't expecting, and a matt dullness to the colour. My notes mentioned the words acidity and tannin once each across 15 ports. Plenty of primary fruit to be had though.

I turned up expecting an array of rich, well-balanced, fruit-filled, chocolately ports with a firm backbone (like the 1994s from this tasting). It wasn't to be. Perhaps as a vintage, they are dipping into a bit of a funk.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by Mike J. W. »

I had a '94 Vesuvio earlier this year and it just blew me away. I had a '94 Graham's shortly after that and while very good, it couldn't touch the Vesuvio. With that being said, I'm still amazed that the Vesuvio ran laps around some very good Ports. Could it just be that certain bottles might not have been at their prime? The Fonseca, Graham's and Taylor's have always been very good...when they're not in a funk.

Separate issue that I could use some help with since you all just tasted through a bunch of '94's. I'm having my annual tasting with college buddies this fall and I'll be breaking out the '94's. I plan on serving 6 bottles one night and then 6 bottles the next night (yeah, lightweights I know). I want the bottles served on any given night to be somewhat harmonious in style, if possible. With the following bottles, could any of you weight in on which would be served on night 1 versus night 2? The bottles are as follows?

Gould Campbell, Croft, Dow, Warre, Ferreira, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Noval, Taylor's, Smith Woodhouse, Quinta do Vesuvio, Fonseca and Graham's.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by Mike J. W. »

Looking at the scores again, I see that the Fonseca didn't receive any points. That is shocking.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by winesecretary »

@Mike J.W. - I'd serve Warre, Dow, Vesuvio, Croft, Crasto, Smith Woodhouse on one night, and Taylor, Fonseca, Graham, Gould Campbell, Ferreira, Noval the next. That way you're pretty much guaranteed to have people holding up two or three wines each night and saying 'now THAT's port'.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by jdaw1 »

Mike J. W. wrote: 16:41 Wed 27 Mar 2024I had a '94 Vesuvio earlier this year and it just blew me away. I had a '94 Graham's shortly after that and while very good, it couldn't touch the Vesuvio. With that being said, I'm still amazed that the Vesuvio ran laps around some very good Ports. Could it just be that certain bottles might not have been at their prime? The Fonseca, Graham's and Taylor's have always been very good...when they're not in a funk.
Funk? Yes, a bit, particularly the Fladgate Ports, which just need more cellar time.
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Alex Bridgeman
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

flash_uk wrote: 14:03 Wed 27 Mar 2024 Many thanks to Julian and Alex for organisation and to Martin for placemat printing. Great to see everyone, and enjoy your company! The scoring sheet quite correctly shows Vesuvio wiping the floor. Thanks to Anthony Symington for a fabulous magnum of the stuff.

Overall, I was really quite disappointed by many of the ports. Noval should get a mention for turning out well on the night, given previously noted (here) multiple poor showings from Noval. Vesuvio aside, most of those on show had a drop in colour that I wasn't expecting, and a matt dullness to the colour. My notes mentioned the words acidity and tannin once each across 15 ports. Plenty of primary fruit to be had though.

I turned up expecting an array of rich, well-balanced, fruit-filled, chocolately ports with a firm backbone (like the 1994s from this tasting). It wasn't to be. Perhaps as a vintage, they are dipping into a bit of a funk.
I think my expectations were very different from Mike's. I've been drinking quite a few 1994s in the last couple of years and have found them to be very consistent with the way they showed on Tuesday - starting to mature, mellowed and a little more secondary than they were 10 years ago when they were still primary and chocolatey. My experience of the 1994 vintage is that it took two decades before they shut down. Some are still a little closed although most have now started to open up again. The Fonseca was disappointing but was, perhaps, under-decanted. The sample I took home and am sipping while I write this is better, but still pretty tightly wound and out of balance, but it is hinting at the wonderful spiciness that mature Fonseca always delivers.

Royal Oporto tasted as though it was fortified with dirty spirit; sweet, simple and rather earthy. Nothing else disappointed me. Only Vesuvio blew me away. But this is a Vintage I absolutely adore at the moment and Tuesday night did not change my mind. There are great wines from great vintages which are better than the best of the wines at this tasting, but most of them have at least 2-3 decades of additional bottle age.

Is there a better modern Vintage than 1994? Perhaps 2011?

So let me ask a question. If I were to give you a bottle of Port to drink this weekend, with the producer chosen at random, which vintage would you prefer me to select from if I limit your choice to the 1980s or 1990s?
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by Glenn E. »

Alex Bridgeman wrote: 17:46 Thu 28 Mar 2024 Is there a better modern Vintage than 1994? Perhaps 2011?

So let me ask a question. If I were to give you a bottle of Port to drink this weekend, with the producer chosen at random, which vintage would you prefer me to select from if I limit your choice to the 1980s or 1990s?
It's hard to say for sure at this stage, but my guess is that 2011 is going to ultimately be held in higher regard than 1994.

That's in no way a criticism of 1994. When asked to list the best vintages for Port, ever, my top 5 is usually 1927, 1948, 1970, 1994, and 2011. Sometimes I list 1945 instead of 1948. We need to do a head-to-head horizontal to be sure. I am available that night.

But to your question... that's hardly a question. The 1980s were generally relatively disappointing years for Port, particularly for the Fladgate Partnership suite of brands. Certainly there were truly exceptional standouts along the way, but those can likely be listed on one set of fingers out of an entire decade of Port wine.

The 1990s were better, but even in that decade there was a split declaration.

So what choice does one really have besides 1994? One could certainly argue for 1997 instead, and for probably the top half of the Ports you'd have a good argument, but I do not believe that 1997 has the breadth of quality that 1994 has. I've heard it said about 2 vintages - 1994 and 1970 - that if you could not make a good Port in 1994 then you should switch to selling shoes for a living.

So if you're going to give me a random bottle of Port to drink this weekend, and it has to be from the 1980s or 1990s, I am absolutely going to choose 1994. My odds of receiving something special are much higher from that vintage.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by jdaw1 »

Alex Bridgeman wrote: 17:46 Thu 28 Mar 2024So let me ask a question. If I were to give you a bottle of Port to drink this weekend, with the producer chosen at random, which vintage would you prefer me to select from if I limit your choice to the 1980s or 1990s?
• 1980 is part great, part absolutely not.

• I’m not a fan of ’83.

• 1985 has some obvious gems, big names with good volume, and a tail of dross. This makes the statistics interesting: if the bottle is picked at random, so the producer is chosen with volume-weighted probability, then ’85 is a good candidate. But if the producers are equi-probable, then definitely not ’85.

• ’87, ’88: no. But a side-by-wide would be interesting.

• ’91 not as good as ’92.

• ’92 dominated by one shipper, though others also produced fine Port. A candidate.

• ’94: not old bones, and maybe ina slight funk right now, but yes, solid choice.

• ’97: some good, too many farm-yardy.

• ’99: those who made, made well.

I choose 1999.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by jdaw1 »

From the 1994 horizontal in 2019:
Alex Bridgeman wrote: 15:57 Thu 20 Jun 2019I have a couple of cases of the Martinez. I think I'll pull one out next year for drinking over the next few years.
Did you?
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by Alex Bridgeman »

jdaw1 wrote: 17:26 Fri 29 Mar 2024 From the 1994 horizontal in 2019:
Alex Bridgeman wrote: 15:57 Thu 20 Jun 2019I have a couple of cases of the Martinez. I think I'll pull one out next year for drinking over the next few years.
Did you?
No, I never got round to it. I did pull the SW94 halves though.
Top Ports in 2023: Taylor 1896 Colheita, b. 2021. A perfect Port.

2024: Niepoort 1900 Colheita, b.1971. A near perfect Port.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by Mike J. W. »

Alex Bridgeman wrote: 17:46 Thu 28 Mar 2024 So let me ask a question. If I were to give you a bottle of Port to drink this weekend, with the producer chosen at random, which vintage would you prefer me to select from if I limit your choice to the 1980s or 1990s?
If the producer is chosen at random then I'm with Glenn, I'll choose 1994. Some '94 bottles may be in a funk, but even still, my chances are better getting a pleasant drinking Port than any other vintage. Now, if I'm allowed to pick the year and bottle, right now, I'd pick an '85 Fonseca because it's ready and it's excellent.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by idj123 »

Interesting tasting but I’m not sure how instructive with one entrant garnering more points (40 out of 42-take a bow V and from magnum, thank-you Anthony)than I can recall at any tasting. However, for me, the big guns just weren’t firing (F was particularly disappointing), with the exception of N, which as JDAW says is the best bottle of this that I have tasted. In saying that, there was enough in the D, W and certainly the T, not to be put off returning to them. There were also some nice surprises on the night -I really did like the Calem ancd HM’s to the Mz and Burmester which are ready to drink now.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by nac »

Echo MPM's comments - plenty of primary fruit, but very little tannin and acidity, so unlikely to be candidates for long ageing. Some wines were quite pleasant but apart from the Vesuvio nothing really stood out.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by PhilW »

It was a very interesting tasting, but I would echo some of Mike's comments in terms of not meeting expectations.

The Vesuvio was utterly magnificent (and a separate non-magnum bottle I had recently was equally as good); currently wine of the vintage. The Warre was also very good, and my third place went to Calem which was not over-complex and somewhat candy-sweet, but enjoyable.The Fonseca had good flavour, but not as full as expected (perhaps still partly closed?), and the Taylor was closed. The Graham, which seemed early maturing ands delicious about 8yrs ago, was green and stemmy, perhaps just an odd bottle; and after that it got murky.

For me it feels as though 1994 represents a turning point, after the problems through the 80s. Yes there are wines in the 80s we really enjoy, but you really do have to pick both shipper and year (which I think was Alex's point). 1994 seems to be the first year where the quality is starting to be better more generally - though from this tasting not as good as I'd hoped overall; and while not necessarily better years grapes-wise it feels as though production quality then goes on improving through 97, 2000 and 2003, and I suspect that 2003 may be the first vintage since 1970 (1977?) where pretty much everyone made good port - but I need to try 2003 more widely to see if that statement really holds true :)
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by flash_uk »

PhilW wrote: 13:06 Tue 09 Apr 2024…but I need to try 2003 more widely to see if that statement really holds true :)
Wouldn’t hurt to do a 2003 horizontal now that it has reached 21 years of age.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by PhilW »


flash_uk wrote:Wouldn’t hurt to do a 2003 horizontal now that it has reached 21 years of age.
Indeed, though I've only just taken my first 94 case from storage, so if others are in a similar position I suspect we might not have convenient access to many yet.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by flash_uk »

PhilW wrote: 20:14 Tue 09 Apr 2024
flash_uk wrote:Wouldn’t hurt to do a 2003 horizontal now that it has reached 21 years of age.
Indeed, though I've only just taken my first 94 case from storage, so if others are in a similar position I suspect we might not have convenient access to many yet.
Good point! Maybe we pencil something in for 2025 and give ourselves some time to collate some bottles. Obvious candidates being G, D, W, V, T, F, Cr, N, NN, Ni, S, Ch, Ck. and whatever odds and sods that folks have beyond these.
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Re: 1994s, B&F, Tue 26 Mar 2024

Post by nac »

flash_uk wrote: 14:28 Wed 10 Apr 2024
PhilW wrote: 20:14 Tue 09 Apr 2024
flash_uk wrote:Wouldn’t hurt to do a 2003 horizontal now that it has reached 21 years of age.
Indeed, though I've only just taken my first 94 case from storage, so if others are in a similar position I suspect we might not have convenient access to many yet.
Good point! Maybe we pencil something in for 2025 and give ourselves some time to collate some bottles. Obvious candidates being G, D, W, V, T, F, Cr, N, NN, Ni, S, Ch, Ck. and whatever odds and sods that folks have beyond these.
I've added this to the planner for 2025 - now needs someone to take ownership...
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