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Delaforce Vintage Port 1977

Delaforce Vintage Port 1977

This week another seasonal cellar-raid brings us back to the Douro, and following on from the Graham’s 1977 written up very recently we have a return to the same vintage with this wine, from Delaforce. I have already given some indication of where this vintage stands when lined up against other broadly declared vintages of the late 20th century when discussing the Graham’s, so I shall not go into great detail here, suffice to say it is not considered in the top tier of declared vintages. Most would rank it behind the likes of 1963, 1970, 1994 and so on. That is not to say some great wines were not made, however, and the Graham’s mentioned above certainly gave much pleasure.

But what of Delaforce’s efforts this vintage? There is certainly good reason to be circumspect with this wine; it was not a good period for the house in question, and I will turn once again to Douro guru Richard Mayson for some words on why that might be. Writing in Port and the Douro (Faber & Faber, 1999) he describes how the Delaforce family, descendants of Huguenots from France, were forced to sell the family business in 1968. This was the result of the Lei do Terço, a newly introduced law on stock-ratio which demanded that for every pipe of port sold the vendor must hold at least another two in the cellar. Many firms struggled under such onerous legislation, including the Delaforce family, who were forced to sell to International Distillers & Vintners. Mayson describes the 1970 vintage as “a big, concentrated wine in the classic mould“, with nothing positive to say about subsequent wines through to the 1980s, although the wines then “improved substantially in the 1990s“.

Delaforce Vintage Port 1977

Roger Voss, writing on Delaforce’s underperformance during this era in Fortified and Dessert Wines (Mitchell Beazley, 1989) narrows it down somewhat, stating that “The best vintage since 1966 is the 1982“, suggesting that the problem lies more in the 1970s than the 1980s. That would certainly fit with my experience of 1985 Delaforce, which had a very nice, fresh, fruit-rich style back in 2005, and which also showed quite nicely – although certainly not so fresh or impressive – when lined up against the likes of Warre’s, Taylor’s, Fonseca and Dow’s in a tasting of 1985 vintage Port earlier this year.

Anyway, what of the 1977 Delaforce today? Under the capsule I discovered a very soft cork, although one that was at least extracted in one piece. Well, almost one piece, there were a few errant cork-crumbs needing rescuing as always. The colour is a slightly disconcerting and rather pale walnut brown – a worrying start – although with the light behind it the wine reveals some more reassuring red tones. The nose has a slightly tawny, baked-earth edge to it, with aromas of spiced cedar wood, parma violets and sweet roasted meats. It is fresher than the wine’s appearance would suggest. And the palate certainly has flesh at the beginning, and continuing through the middle, with a fair amount of structure still evident as well. In truth there are some attractive, perfumed elements to the flavour here, but also a lot of grip, and a slightly hot aspect to it as well. The finish is long, but a touch hot and fierce again. This is certainly a wine worth experiencing, but there are some elements to this wine that detract from the pleasure, a harshness to its composition being the major issue. Nevertheless, this is certainly a very drinkable Vintage Port. 15.5/20 (28/12/09)

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