The Douro Valley existed long before English merchants arrived in Porto after England and Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty in 1703. English merchants changed the style of port wine to what most wine drinkers know as port wine – a fortified sweet red wine (Approximately 19 – 21 per cent ABV).
Port was the favourite tipple of the English nobility for a long time, but now its consumption dropped significantly. The Douro Valley contains three distinct sub-appellations Lower-, Middle- and Upper Douro. Lower Douro is closer to the Atlantic Ocean and cooler.
Due to declining consumption many quintas (wine farms) in Lower- and Middle Douro now produce still white and red wines, some of which taste remarkable. Douro table wines are called Douro as opposed to Port.
Port wines come in several types i.e white or red, ruby, tawny, and vintage. At the top of the quality pyramid are very distinctive styles – vintage and tawny. Vintage port is a fortified wine bottled after two years of aging in tank or barrel.
Tawny port is completely different style and much more difficulty as well as time-consuming to make. Tawny ports are aged 10, 20, 30 or 40 years in barrels of various sizes, and exposed to varying degrees of oxygen and acquire a “tawny” colour (due to several decanting and aging) tasting more delicate, nuanced, and nutty, reflecting flavours of dried fruits and spices.
All tawnies are blended from different sources and vintages. The art of blending and large inventories makes and breaks quality. Taylor Fladgate and Symington are the largest producers of port and Douro wines. Taylor Fladgate still produces port wine only whereas the Symington group makes and markets both.
Recently port and Douro wine producers visited Toronto to pour their wines to an eager trade and public. Once again the tasting proved that Taylor Fladgate and Symington produce outstanding tawny ports.
I tasted 24 wines (12 Douro and 12 port), and scored as follows.
Special Reserve, Cockburn
Otima 10 –Year-Old-Tawny
LBV , 2009, Graham
Available as a general List at the L C B O
10-year-Old-Tawny Taylor Fladgate
20-Year-Old-Tawny Taylor Fladgate
30 –Year-Old-Tawny Taylor Fladgate
40-year-Old-Tawny, Taylor Fladgate
Quinta Dos Murcos Reserva, Esporao
Quinta Do Crasto, 2012
Quinta Do Crasto Superior 2011
Note: 10 -Year – Old-Tawny and 20 Year-Old-Tawny Taylor Fladgate are Vintages Essentials.
All others are consignment or special import products