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Wine of the Week for week ending 6 November 2011
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Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 1978 Vintage Port
Douro, Portugal

I've changed the rules for my Wine of the Week because the most amazing wine that passed my lips this week was not Kiwi, it was Portuguese and even though I bought the wine, it was one I never expected to taste.

I gave the wine to my nephew, a birth year wine on the occasion of his 21st. His graduation came and went. So did his engagement and wedding. Then his 30th birthday passed while he and his wife were on their OE.

But they returned to New Zealand to raise a family and last weekend was the christening of their first born.

"I've been waiting for a special occasion," announced my nephew as he took the bottle from the cupboard and removed the protective sheath.

The bottle of Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 1978 Vintage Port looked as pristine as the day he received it. But I had to admit I was fretting as to what the condition the wine would be. I was praying it wouldn't be 'corked', that is if they could get the cork out at all.

It's quite hilarious watching a couple of 30-somethings who normally drink wines closed with screwcaps, trying to open a bottle with a cork in it. There's no screwcap under that capsule, you know. Nor is there a T-Top.

Once they realised the cork was firmly inserted, discovered after removing the upper part of the capsule, as I had suggested, the tactics changed. With the corkscrew the cork was gently eased out but it broke near the base. The crumbly bits were picked out and with a thankful sigh from those of us watching, the bottom of the cork was prised out intact. I smelt the wine in the bottle and another sigh of relief - it smelt okay.

In the glass the colour was lighter than we expected, a tawny-edge pale browny red, translucent rather than opaque, the sediment dancing as the glass was swirled and twirled. The bouquet, while gently spiritous, was also quite smooth and mellow with a salted raisin nuance coming through. Warm and heady tasting, yet mellow and harmonious with macerated raisin, orange liqueur and typical porty liquorice tastes, and the sediment was like gold flake - it was tasteless and non-resistant and in the mouth it just seemed to dissolve.

The port was the perfect accompaniment to the christening cake and the cake was special too, having once been the top layer of the wedding cake, but so beautifully preserved by my sister-in-law, it tasted as fresh as the day it was made.

Quinta de Vargellas is a single estate wine made from grapes grown in the vineyard of the same name. A Quinta de Vargellas vintage is made only in the years that Taylor's do not 'declare' a vintage to which these grapes, together with grapes from Taylor's other vineyard sources, would normally be a part of. 1978 was a year when the best of the Vargellas was made as a Quinta vintage port.

We were intrigued by the white paint on the bottle, near the bottom underneath the label (slightly visible in the photo, on the bottom right). But the answer was on the Taylor's website It's to indicate which way up the bottle was during cellaring in Taylor's cellars, before release.

I really think this wine was ready to drink and it was good to share with family and close friends. It was a wine to share because it was 33-year-old vintage port and should be consumed within one or two days of opening. And with 21% alcohol you feel it warming the blood after just a couple of sips best to share the glow and the love.

© Sue Courtney
2 November 2011

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