Tasting old fortifieds from legends such as Blandy’s, Niepoort and Graham’s

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 19th September saw me board a plane to London for the Institute of Masters of Wine 60th Anniversary Fortified tasting at Trinity House. According to the tasting booklet received on arrival the “aim has been to draw together a wide selection of the great fortified wines of the world, many of which share the Institute’s long history.” Sarah Jane Evans MW and Susan Hulme MW organised the tasting which to their credit exceeded expectations and made the trip across the water very worthwhile!

With just 41 wines from around the world, the pleasure and enjoyment allowed was more than adequate. You could see from the impressive calibre of tasters present that this was certainly a tasting not to be missed!

There were old fortifieds from around the world. Representing countries included Australia (Rutherglen, Barossa & McLaren Vale), France (Rivesaltes, Banyuls, Maury & Madiran), Greece (Samos), Italy (Marsala), Portugal (Madeira, Douro & Setubal), South Africa & Spain (Jerez, Sanlucar, Cadiz & Emporda).

Ages of the wines varied from a Blandy’s Verdelho made in 1887 to modern day high quality NV styles such as the Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado.

The low murmurings of approval around the room increased as the afternoon went on. Comments such as “you can’t mark such wines”, “which do you prefer, the aged tawny or the vintage port?”and “Hope you’re not driving!” could be heard over the clink of glasses and ‘swish, swoosh’ of the wines on taster’s palates.

I have listed below a mere snapshot of some of the wines which stuck out to me. Having the opportunity to try such wines, on one occasion and in one room is really rather humbling. Having to leave, climb aboard Ryanair and not savour these wines for longer was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do this year!


Orlando, 1947 Tawny, Barossa Valley – An orangey brown hue gives way to rich liquorice and prune notes. Surprisingly rich and exciting on the palate with a spicey raisined richness lingering forever on the finish. Exceptionally complex and impressive.

Morris, Premium Liqueur Muscat, Rutherglen – Rich yellowing brown colour with toasty charred notes on the nose. Immense richness on the palate, with tobacco hints and orange liqueur vibrant and evolving to the end.


Domaine de la Rectorie, Banyuls L’Oublée (Solera aged for at least a decade) – Rich chestnut with a vanilla toast note on the high toned nose. Layers of sweet spice and dried fruit with a warming finish and long intense melt in the mouth end.


Union of Winemaking Co-operatives of Samos, Nectar 1980 (merely included because it’s not often in wine that my own vintage is shown at all!) – Deep brown core with very sweet raisined notes on the nose. Unctuous mouth filling richness with oodles of caramel and a very long exit.


Blandy’s, Verdelho 1887, Madeira (Identified in 2011 and bottled from demi-john in 2013) – Mid chesnut brown. A woody slightly rubbery nose with volatile wafts. Surprising richness on the palate with a full body and apple and caramel notes still alive and interesting. Sugar levels though high (91g/L) are seamlessly integrated and complete this wine that has aged so gracefully.

Taylor’s, Quinta de Vargellas 1970, Douro (From a single pipe, made to commemorate the drowning of the vines when the dam was built below the Valeira gorge. Never sold.) – Mid garnet colour with rich prunes and figs evident on the very inviting nose. Floral notes lift the palate which displays a feminine side. Lingering cloves on the finish. Very enticing!

Graham’s, Colheita 1935, Douro – Mid tawny brown with sweet apple notes and cinnamon wafts floating through. Spicy and rich this wine was incredibly complex. Faultlessly balanced and exceptionally long in the finish. A fine argument for aged Tawnies against the early bottled Vintage styles.


Barbadillo, Reliquia Amontillado ‘Manuel y Aurora’, Sanlúcar (Aged around 100 years, a single cask, from a set of family heirlooms.) – Mid gold almost bronze appearance. Rich honied, nutty notes on the nose. Rich and weighty palate, very full. Clear acid structure with a broad rich saline finish. Overall reminiscent of antiques, old hazelnut. Incredibly complex.




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