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Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1991

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1991

It has been a while since I last looked to the Douro on these pages, a little over two years in fact, when I pulled the cork on a 1985 Fonseca. While I have a few other bottles from that decade still lingering in the darker recesses of my cellar, in every case I have just a solitary bottle remaining. So when I reached into the cellar for a little Port to stave off the Caledonian winter chill last week, it was to a slightly younger vintage I turned, one in which I still have a decent stock. By chance it happens to be another from Fonseca, this time their flagship wine in undeclared vintages, Guimaraens.

The name of Guimaraens is a significant one for Fonseca, as it was a young firebrand named Manuel Pedro Guimaraens (1795 – 1858) who established the company. He set up as a trader in the early years of the 19th century, and in 1822 had secured enough wealth to acquire the associated business of Fonseca & Monteiro. And so the modern-day house of Fonseca was born, although for many years it was more properly known as Fonseca, Monteiro & Guimaraens. The business is today associated with Taylor’s and Croft, and all three houses remain under the direction of the Guimaraens family. In recent years this role came to Bruce Guimaraens (1935 – 2002), a high-profile figure in the world of Port, followed by his son David Guimaraens. David trained at Roseworthy Agricultural College, in Australia, and is currently the head winemaker.

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1991

Guimaraens is made from the best fruit in lesser, undeclared years. It is a wine which has given me a lot of pleasure over the years, especially in vintages such as 1986 and 1987. The 1991 is one of the best examples I think I have ever tasted though, and there is a very good reason for that. Both 1991 and 1992 were of a quality level that merited declaration, meaning the production of a top-class vintage Port, but with two vintages to choose from the houses were split. In truth most declared in 1991, the main exceptions being Fonseca, Taylor’s and Delaforce, which all opted for 1992 instead, as well as Smith Woodhouse, one of the Symington houses. Niepoort declared both vintages, arguably the best solution bearing in mind there had not been a generally declared vintage since 1985.

The end result was that some houses, including Fonseca, made superb vintage-quality Ports in 1991. Taylor released a top-notch 1991 Quinta de Vargellas, and as you are already aware Fonseca released a 1991 Guimaraens. At thirty years of age, the cork slid out in a trouble-free manner with the help of a Durand corkscrew; port tongs may be more romantic, but the Durand is a lot quicker (and I don’t actually own any port tongs). It still has a great colour, darkly pigmented, although it is developing and aged translucency in the glass. The nose opens with some rather sweet and lightly baked fruits, perhaps a nod back to the super-high temperatures – over 40ºC at times – the region experienced during the run up to harvest. I also get some fig, grilled damson and cherry, dark liquorice and sweet raspberry, as well as intriguing spices which call to mind star anise, cardamom and menthol. The palate still presents a fine texture, sweet and a touch peppery, and great confidence, with lots of spirity energy and a good grip on the palate. Over the next day or two it developed a little more polish, with sweeter fruit, less of the fig and baked notes, while remaining gripped, energetic and balanced. Rich, long and warm in the finish, in keeping with the nature of the vintage, this is a very good result. There is no rush though; I could leave my next bottle a decade (and more) and I am sure it would be just fine. The declared alcohol is 20.5%. 94/100 (24/1/22)

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