Taylor’s is one of the dominant port wine brands in Portugal, not least because of its amazing luxury Yeatman Hotel, overlooking the city of Porto.
Taylor’s Port is one of several brands owned by The Fladgate Partnership. The company also makes Croft and Fonseca wines. Its origins, though, are in the wool trade.
In the 1600s, Englishman Job Bearsley was a wool trader whose sheep and wool bore the 4XX symbol that is still a feature of the Taylor’s Port logo today. Bearsley moved into wine production, playing a pivotal role in what became the port wine industry.
He was joined by the Taylor family, who became the dominant family in the business. They were joined by the Fladgate family. The Yeatman family joined later, and they are the dominant family in the business today - hence the name of the luxury hotel up on the hill in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Try the different Taylor’s Port wines
When you visit the cellars in Gaia, or when you stay at The Yeatman, sample the different types of Port made by the company.
Taylor’s is respected as a producer of wood aged ports and holds one of the largest reserves of rare cask aged wines from which its distinguished aged tawny ports are drawn. The house is also known as the originator of Late Bottled Vintage, a style which the firm pioneered and of which it remains the leading producer.
How port wine is made
Port is a fortified wine - made by adding a proportion of grape spirit, or brandy, to the wine at some point during the production process.
In mid-September, the grapes are harvested by hand around the Douro valley. Various grape varieties are used, but these are generally indigenous to the Douro valley.
Taylor’s grapes are still mostly trodden by foot, because the company believes this is still the most effective way to produce the best wine. After several hours of this activity, fermentation gets under way. Once around 50% of the sugar has turned into alcohol, the fortification process starts.
For this, the treaders allow the grape skins to rise to the surface, where they form a solid layer. The clean fermenting liquid is then siphoned off into a large VAT, and at the same time brandy is added to the liquid.
The brandy is around 77% proof and it is added to the wine at a ratio of around 1:4. This stronger alcohol level kills off the yeast that would continue to ferment - this retains a level of sugar in the wine.
The wine then stays at the vineyard winery until the spring, where it is then taken to the winery in Vila Nova de Gaia to be matured, blended and bottled.
The different types of port come from the different methods of aging. Some wine is aged in large vats, some in small casks, and some is bottled early and allowed to age in the bottle.
Here’s a guide to the different types of Port wine produced by Taylor’s
A full vintage wine is the king of wines. It is made from a single harvest, kept for two years in the vat and then bottled unfiltered. The sediment left in the bottle allows the wine to age in the bottle - where it can be kept for 10 to 50 years before drinking.
Only a very good harvest can create a full vintage, so you don’t get one every year. Taylor’s last vintage year was 2011.
Like a vintage port, a single quinta comes from one harvest and only one estate. It can be aged in the bottle or aged in the Gaia cellars for 8-10 years before being bottled. A single quinta wine is one that will be from a very good harvest, but the wine wasn’t judged to be full vintage quality.
Late bottled vintage
One of Taylor’s specialities, the LBV comes from a specific harvest (the year of the harvest will be on the label), but the wine is aged in the vat for 4-6 years - double the normal time.
The LBV is not intended to have the same aging potential as a full vintage - it can be drunk sooner. You can buy LBVs that have been filtered and some that have not - the latter needs to be decantered before serving.
Vintage Character or Reserve
This wine blend is designed to replicate the taste of a vintage wine. It’s not really a vintage wine, but a blend of different harvests to create the required taste. It’s held in the vat for 3-4 years before being bottled, but it is then ready to drink.
The tawny is so-called because it adopts a more tawny brown colour. While the vintage wines are bottled while young, they retain their redness while aging in the bottle. Tawny port is produced by keeping the wine in oak casks for much longer, generally - up to 40 years. It adopts a woody, nutty, berry flavour.
Ruby can be a little spicy on the tongue. The port is a blend of different wines, stored in vats for up to three years before being bottled ready to drink. Made like a tawny, the main difference is that ruby is generally left for a shorter time in the cask, so it retains its dark red appearance.