Among the world’s most esteemed producers of fortified wine is Taylor Port. With its rich history dating back to the 17thcentury, Taylor Port has consistently upheld its reputation for making exceptional Portuguese ports that remain synonymous with quality, tradition, and timeless elegance.

A Legacy Of Excellence

The story of Taylor’s begins way back in 1692, when a merchant by the name of Job Bearsley established the company in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. Over the centuries, the Taylor family maintained its steadfast commitment to upholding Bearley’s aim of producing high-quality port wines using sustainable practices. Today, Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman—or Taylor’s for short—is one of the world’s oldest, most prestigious port wine houses in the world, and the company now owns numerous brands, including Fonseca-Guimaraens, Fonseca, Krohn, and Croft.

Taylor's Port Wine Cellar
Taylor’s Port Wine Cellar | Source

What sets Taylor’s Port apart from other port producers globally is its unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and the use of traditional winemaking techniques. Producing port wine is a meticulous process requiring expertise, a deep understanding of the art of blending, and a lot of time and patience. Taylor’s gets this right by employing a team of skilled winemakers who carefully select and blend grapes from the finest vineyards in Portugal’s Douro Valley. This selection process ensures that every bottle made reflects the region’s distinct characteristics and has the same distinctive color and taste.

The Journey From Vineyard To End Product

Taylor’s signature port wines are made using a blend of indigenous grape varieties. The most well-known of the approximately 30 types used in the port-making include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinto Cão, and Tinta Barroca. These local grape varieties all contribute to the complexity and depth of flavor that Taylor’s are famous for.

Taylor’s handpicks their grapes around mid-September and then transports them to the winery in small trays to keep them in perfect condition. Most of the grapes are small with thick skins, and this creates the dense concentrated juice required for making premium port. When the grapes arrive at the winery, the winemaker evaluates them and sends the ones that made the cut for sorting and de-stemming. To this day, the company still uses the traditional (and rather messy) method of treading the grapes by foot in thigh-deep tanks called lagares.

The first stage of treading, the corte (cut), involves treading in perfect unison, standing shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure a thorough and even crushing. The next stage, the liberdade (liberty), requires more gentle, solo treading to ensure the skins stay beneath the wine surface. The process of fermentation begins a few hours later, with the heat and alcohol produced slowly releasing the aromas, tannins, and colors into the wine. Although the process is labor-intensive and expensive, it’s purportedly the best method of gently extracting the perfect flavors for Taylor Port.

After approximately 50% of the juice’s natural sugars have been converted into alcohol, the treading of the grapes stops, and the skins float to the top, forming a solid layer. From the tank, the wine runs into a vat, and the winemakers then add a clean, young brandy of around 77% to the mix. The addition of this brandy stops any further fermentation and preserves the grapes’ natural, sweet flavor.

Taylor’s is very particular about the quality of brandy used in their port wines, as the brandy adds an extra flavor that contributes to the complexity of the final product. Once the brandy is added, the Port remains at the winery until the following spring, after which it goes to lagares on the Atlantic coast for maturing, blending, and bottling.

One of the hallmarks of Taylor Port Wine is its extended aging process. All the wines are aged in oak barrels, and this helps them to develop a unique character and complexity over time. Taylor’s makes a range of ports, including Tawny, Ruby, Vintage, and White Ports, each with its own aging and maturation process. The Tawny Ports age in wood for extended periods, acquiring a nutty and caramelized character, while the Vintage Ports age in the bottle, which gives them more intense fruit flavors and robust tannins.

The Taylor Estates

Three of Taylor’s renowned estates, the Quinta de Vargellas, Quinta de Terra Feita, and Junco, play an important role in producing their exceptional ports. These estates are all located in the heart of the Douro Valley, and the vineyards each have diverse terroirs, elevations, and microclimates. The grapes from the estates contribute to the complexity and balance of Taylor’s wines, highlighting the unique characteristics of the Douro region.

These estates are the source of Taylor’s exceptional Vintage Ports. Once bottled on the estates, the wines are left to age until their second spring, when they will be tasted again. When their quality is judged as superb, the winemakers declare it a Vintage Port. Taylor’s has exceptionally high standards in this regard, with only around three vintages declared per decade, making it even more sought-after.

Timeless Elegance In Every Sip

Taylor Port Wine is a timeless classic, not just because of its rich history or the winemaking process but the overall experience every sip offers. From the moment the cork pops, notes of ripe fruits, spices, and subtle hints of oak fill the air. As you taste the port, the layers of flavor begin to unfold, revealing the meticulous craftsmanship and artistry that went into its creation. The velvety texture, balanced sweetness, and lingering finish are all signature Taylor Port Wine sensations. The ports are also suitable for a wide range of occasions, and you can serve them as an aperitif or a delightful companion to cheese, desserts, and rich, robust-flavored main courses.

Of course, Taylor’s commitment to excellence hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it’s scooped numerous awards and accolades over the years, too. The ports consistently earn high scores from critics and have become a favorite of connoisseurs, wine clubs, or anyone with an interest in drinking premium quality liquor.

A Port With Plenty Of Appeal

In the world of port wine, Taylor’s stands out for its tradition, craftsmanship, and timeless appeal. From its humble beginnings in the 17th century to its current iconic status, Taylor Port Wine consistently delivers exceptional quality and a unique sensory experience. With each sip, you’ll be whisked away to the sun-drenched vineyards of the Douro Valley in Portugal, where centuries of winemaking expertise have culminated in a masterpiece in every bottle.

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Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesBy Published On: April 8, 2024Last Updated: May 17, 2024

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