Wine leg­ends

Douro, Por­tu­gal

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

Fon­seca 1963 Vin­tage Port

a leg­end be­cause…

This ex­cel­lent and abun­dant vin­tage pro­duced wines that im­me­di­ately at­tracted the in­ter­est of Port lovers world­wide, and Fon­seca was soon recog­nised as one of the finest wines of the vin­tage. Al­most all ship­pers de­clared the vin­tage. Michael Broad­bent de­scribes the 1963 as ‘con­sis­tently beau­ti­ful... one of the top ’63s, and one of the best-ever Fon­se­cas’.

Look­ing back

Fon­seca was founded in 1815 and de­clared its first vin­tage in 1840. There fol­lowed a stream of mag­nif­i­cent vin­tage Ports such as the 1868 and the 1927, one of the finest ports ever made. In 1949 Tay­lor, Fladgate & Yeat­man bought Fon­seca. The stylis­tic con­sis­tency of Fon­seca Ports is of­ten at­trib­uted to the fact that they have been made by six suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of the Guimaraens fam­ily, cur­rently rep­re­sented by winemaker David Guimaraens. His father, Bruce Guimaraens, a much re­spected, larger-than-life per­son­al­ity, was the winemaker from 1960 on­wards.

The vin­tage

A frigid win­ter pre­ceded a very dry sum­mer, with light rain re­fresh­ing the crop in September. All this guar­an­teed an ex­cel­lent har­vest, and a co­pi­ous one too. Sum­mer was rel­a­tively cool, de­liv­er­ing a late-flow­er­ing and slow-ripen­ing sea­son that gave the wines an ex­cep­tional el­e­gance, al­though they are less con­spic­u­ously fruity than the 1970s. Har­vest was late, tak­ing place in the sec­ond week of Oc­to­ber, when hot weather had re­turned.

The ter­roir

In the 1960s grapes would have been sourced from prop­er­ties with a long as­so­ci­a­tion with Fon­seca. The most im­por­tant was Quinta do Cruzeiro on the east bank of the Pin­hão river, which has sup­plied the firm since the late 19th cen­tury; it was sub­se­quently pur­chased by the house in 1973. Quinta Santo An­tônio, also in the Pin­hão val­ley, of­ten pro­vided more aro­matic and vi­brant wines to bal­ance the richly fruity char­ac­ter of the Cruzeiro grapes.

The wine

Fon­seca vin­tage Ports are made in much the same way as all other vin­tage Ports, the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­ing the source of the grapes. Fruit is foot-trod­den in la­gares in the tra­di­tional way, for­ti­fied, and then aged in large old vats in the lodges in Gaia, across from Oporto, be­fore a rel­a­tively early bot­tling and re­lease the sec­ond year af­ter the har­vest.

The re­ac­tion

In 1989 James Suck­ling ac­claimed the wine: ‘A grand slam. Masses of fruit, full tan­nins and an ex­tremely long fin­ish.’ In the same year Robert Parker wrote: ‘The 1963, one of the great mod­ern-day clas­sics of vin­tage Port, is an in­cred­i­bly aro­matic, sub­lime, ma­jes­tic Port that sim­ply de­fines Fon­seca’s style per­fectly.’ In 1998 Michael Broad­bent found the wine ‘medium-deep, richly coloured, cin­na­mon and cress fra­grance; still sweet, fairly as­sertive, shapely, lis­som.’ Stephen Brook in 2012 noted, ‘Prunes and wood on the nose, which is also or­angey and flo­ral. Very sweet and in­tense, with a silky tex­ture, fine acid­ity... and an evolved char­ac­ter.’ In 2013 Neal Martin as­sessed a bot­tle from the Fon­seca cel­lars and de­clared: ‘This is a sub­lime Fon­seca that will last an­other two or three decades with ease.’ In 2015 Richard Mayson com­pared two bot­tles side by side: ‘The first, brick red, fra­grant and flo­ral, soft, sweet and el­e­gant with gen­tle tan­nic grip, but soft and redo­lent of a nutty tawny on the fin­ish. The sec­ond, seem­ingly iden­ti­cal in colour but with the won­der­ful fo­cus and dark cho­co­late in­ten­sity that I would ex­pect from this great vin­tage. Spell­bind­ing depth, like a black hole, with bit­ter cho­co­late and thick-cut mar­malade in per­fect bal­ance.’

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