Terrifically Tasty Taylor Tawny

“Port is like a symphony orchestra, with multiple participants working, hopefully, in harmony for the overall result.”

This observation is Robert Bower’s explanation of the blending process at the heart of good port wine.

Bower is sales manager for Taylor Fladgate Partnership, and his remark was offered in response to my query as to the unique quality of this week’s Wine of the Week, the Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($54).

We were dining at the excellent Rui Paula DOP restaurant in Porto, and the port was served chilled with the dessert, a domo de chocolate com espuma de famboesa. For those of you who missed Portuguese 101, that’s a dome of chocolate mousse topped with raspberry foam.

Most tawny port is amber in color and marked by caramel and hazelnut flavors, but not the Taylor’s 20. Its bright crimson color reflects the fruity high notes that paired so beautifully with the chocolate and the fruit of the dessert.

This atypical tawny is the result of deliberate blending decisions made by Natasha Bridge, the company’s chief blender. Bridge chooses very particular wines for the blend, wines that might be called declassified vintage ports and that exhibit the intense fruitiness she wants in this tawny.

Bower explains that these fruitier wines “came from foot-trodden lots from Quinta Vargellas and Quinta Terra Feita”—two of Taylor’s top vineyards—“that have aged very, very well in a cool spot in the lodge and therefore is holding a lot of its fruit.”

As if to emphasize the importance of these blending decisions, he points out that Bridge uses completely different batches of wine for the Croft 20 Year Old Tawny, another of the company’s labels. That wine shows more of those nutty, rancio notes one traditionally associates with tawny port.

It’s not that one is better than the other, it’s a matter of different styles. But I do know that when there’s chocolate and fruit on offer, the Taylor’s 20 Year Old Tawny is the perfect choice.

To find this wine near you, try Wine Searcher.

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary

Food Pairing: Blue cheeses, desserts, especially chocolate

Grapes: Various

Appellation: Port

Region: Douro Valley

Country: Portugal

Price: $54

Availability: Good

Website: www.taylor.pt

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