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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’