Founded in 1692 by Job Bearsley, Taylor Fladgate (more commonly known as Taylor’s) is one of the oldest and most respected Houses of Port, a symbol of ancestral craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation. Since its inception over three centuries ago, Taylor’s has never left the family and has maintained its independence. This icon of Portuguese winemaking has truly mastered the process of Port production, from the vineyard to the cellar. Particularly famous for its exceptional vintages and its limited edition bottlings, the estate has forged a solid reputation for its Vintage Ports.
The vineyards of Taylor's are situated in the Douro Valley of Portugal, along the banks of the Douro River. Today, the estate boasts three quintas (vineyard estates), considered some of the best in the region: Quinta de Vargellas, Quita de Terra Feita and Quinta do Junco.
Today, Taylor's keeps a priceless reserve of very old Port wines in their historic cellars in Oporto, from which the House decides - on very special occasions - to release bottles as Limited Editions. To celebrate 125 years of aging in hand-crafted oak casks, the Taylor's Single Harvest Crystal Carafe Limited Edition 1896 has been released in very low quantities of just 1,700 bottles in total.
The vinification and ageing
To produce this wine, a band of pickers would have manually harvested the grapes out in the steep, terraced vineyards of Douro River Valley. The fruit would have undergone treading by foot in granite lagares, with the spirit added to stop fermentation. The wine would have travelled down the Douro River in an open boat to the Taylor's cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia, where it would have been filled into 18 pipes (oak casks). Over the decades, this wine has continued to develop tremendous complexity. Losing roughly 2% of its volume (the so-called "angel share") by evaporation each year has further concentrated its flavors. By 2021, after 125 years of age, the original 18 pipes had been concentrated down to only 2, which have been filled into bottle and released on the market.
Each precious dose of Taylor's Single Harvest Crystal Carafe Limited Edition 1896 comes in a very special bespoke decanter made of hand-blown Scottish crystal, housed inside a luxurious cherrywood case. Each case also contains a beautiful book, recounting the history of the Taylor's and the 1896 vintage, as well as a certificate personally signed by Adrian Bridge, Taylor's CEO. “It is by its nature, a historic event in its own right, which Taylor’s is proud to share with wine collectors and connoisseurs of rare wines," says Bridge. “Savoring such a wine is a once in a lifetime experience.”
The 1896 vintage was documented as being one of the very best of the 19th century, following shortly after the renewal of the Douro Valley vineyards after the scourge of phylloxera. The harvest was preceded by a very hot summer season, especially during the month of August. Because of this heatwave, the harvest began much earlier than usual, at the beginning of September. Records state that the crop was of excellent quality and that the wines continued to gain complexity over the time spent aging.
This very old Single Harvest Port wine displays a mahogany color at its core, with olive green reflections along the rim.
The Taylor's Single Harvest Crystal Carafe Limited Edition 1896 exudes on the nose very rich aromas of black coffee and licorice at first, followed by notes of cedarwood, fennel, eucalyptus and dried rose petals. Nuances of black pepper, vanilla and spices complete the bouquet.
On the palate, this Limited Edition Port wine is very dense and round, with a velvety texture and magnificent concentration. The sweetness is masterfully balanced by a surprisingly fresh acidity. Flavors of butterscotch and coffee round out a core of orange peel and citrus. The finish is seemingly infinite, exuding dense yet very mellow flavors, which remain on the palate long after the wine has been swallowed.