We were delighted to welcome Chris Forbes from Taylor’s Port, Oporto, Portugal to Ballymaloe Cookery School for a Port masterclasss, on Wednesday 11th November 2015 to the students on the 12 week certificate cookery course.

Chris spoke about the amazing region that is the Douro valley, the great Port wine heritage there, the harvest and the Port making process – followed by a tasting of the following Ports to the students, including the very special Taylors Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2012 which Chris very kindly had sent over specially for the tasting.

A great pleasure as always to welcome Chris back to Ballymaloe and our thanks and appreciation for a great masterclass.


Taylors Fine Tawny Port

Taylor’s Fine Tawny is drawn from wines selected for their smoothness and mellow character. These are aged for up to three years in oak casks in Taylor’s cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. The individual wines are then blended together a few months before bottling for balance and completeness.

Taylor’s Fine Tawny Port is particularly popular in Continental Europe where it is drunk predominantly as an aperitif. For those preferring a lighter style, this versatile port can also be enjoyed after meals.

Bottled when ready to drink and does not require any further ageing in bottle

Pale brick colour with broad amber rim. Mellow nose of succulent ripe berry fruit with aromas of butterscotch, figs and prunes interwoven with attractive nutty and spicy aromas. Smooth and round on the palate, full of rich strawberry jam flavours.


Taylors Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV, is one of the most popular premium Port styles. Vintage Port and LBV both present a selection of very fine full bodied red ports from a single year. The fundamental difference between the two styles lies in the way each is matured. Vintage Port is kept in wood for only twenty months or so before being transferred to the bottle where it will continue to age. 

Late Bottled Vintage, as the name suggests, is bottled later, remaining in wood between four and six years. During this relatively long period of wood ageing, an LBV matures and settles down -  it is ready to drink when bottled, does not need to be decanted and can be served by the glass for several weeks after the cork is drawn.

LBV was developed as a high quality but more affordable and immediately drinkable alternative to Vintage port to be enjoyed by the glass on everyday occasions. It was originally created in 1970 by Taylor’s current Chairman, Alistair Robertson.

Although many other houses now offer this wonderful style of wine, Taylor’s LBV – the original Late Bottled Vintage – remains the benchmark in the category; the first choice of the knowledgeable Port drinker.

Intense purple ruby colour. Pungent aromatic nose with heaps of black woodland fruit, dark cherry and plum. Lovely clean, crisp freshness to the bouquet. The palate is rounded, smooth and perfectly balanced. Flavours of redcurrant, raspberry and blueberry in abundance, with a delicious hint of black liquorice, wonderful purity of fruit. In true Taylor style, the wine is very well structured with big firm tannins that hold the wine nicely together. The finish is wonderfully long.


Taylors Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2012

Quinta de Vargellas is pre-eminent among the wine estates of the Douro. Located in the wild and hilly eastern reaches of the Douro valley, it has been prized as a source of the finest Port wines since the 1820s. Today it ranks among the great vineyards of the world.

The elegant and scented Port wines of Quinta de Vargellas are the most reputed Single Quinta Vintages. Regarded as more prestigious and collectable than many shippers’ declared Vintages, they often appear for sale at auction. Like a declared Vintage, a Quinta de Vargellas Single Quinta Vintage Port is released soon after bottling.

For many, Taylor’s is the archetypal Port house and its wines the quintessential Ports. Established over three centuries ago in 1692, Taylor’s is one of the oldest of the founding Port houses. It is dedicated entirely to the production of Port wine and in particular to its finest styles. 

Above all, Taylor’s is regarded as the benchmark for Vintage Port. Taylor’s is also 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 Bottles Vintage, a style which the firm pioneered and of which it remains the leading producer.

Based in Oporto and the Douro Valley the company is closely involved in all stages of the production of its Ports, from the planting of the vineyard and the cultivation of the grapes to the making, ageing, blending and bottling of the wines.

The Douro Valley, birthplace of Port, is one of the oldest and most beautiful of the historic European wine regions.  Wine has been made there for two thousand years. In 1756 the Douro Valley became the first classic wine region to be legally demarcated.  Its vineyards were comprehensively classified the following year, almost a century before those of Bordeaux.

Cut off from the temperate coastal area by the Marão mountains, which shield it from the rain-laden winds blowing off the Atlantic, the Douro Valley has a climate of hot dry summers and severe winters.  Its wild and mountainous landscape is dramatic in scale and until relatively recently much of the region was remote and inaccessible.

Most of the finest vineyards are planted on the steep hillsides bordering the Douro River and its tributaries, such as the Pinhão, the Távora and the Rio Torto. About two thirds of the vineyard area is planted on slopes with a gradient of over 30% and the Douro Valley is the only significant wine producing area in the world to practice hot climate hillside viticulture.

One of the Douro Valley’s attributes is its wealth of different traditional grape varieties. The reasons are partly historic and partly related to the region’s mountainous topography, a choice of different vine types being required to match the vineyard to a variety of different growing conditions. For example, the Touriga Nacional thrives on shallow, stony soils in full sun. The Touriga Francesa prefers fertile sites and protection from strong winds. The Tinta Barroca, on the other hand, produces its best results on cooler north or east facing slopes and in locations with reduced exposure to sunlight

Among the Port red grape varieties are:


Touriga Nacional

Although seldom found in significant proportions outside the quintas owned by the Port houses, the Touriga Nacional is probably the most famous of the top red varieties. Its small thick skinned berries give low yields and produce dark, concentrated wines with enormous reserves of fruit and massive tannins. They give depth, volume and stamina to the wines.

Touriga Francesa 

The most widely planted variety in the Douro Valley, the Touriga Francesa is a consistent and reliable producer of top quality port, yielding intense fruity wines similar to those of the Touriga Nacional but more subtle in character and more aromatic, often contributing an attractive floral scent. They have a firm tannic backbone and help give the wine its structure.

Tinta Roriz

The Tinta Roriz represents the largest proportion of new plantings after the Touriga Francesa. Its large berries and big bunches produce relatively high yields and the variety gives its best results in dry years. It produces well structured, aromatic wines developing great elegance and complexity with age, often developing distinctive ‘resiny’ fragrances.

Tinta Barroca

This variety produces luscious, fragrant wines, sweet, soft and round on the palate. The grapes are richer in anthocynanins than in tannins and therefore provide more colour than structure, The Tinta Barroca therefore benefits from being associated with more tannic, austere varieties. It is usually grown in cooler or shadier parts of the vineyard to temper its ability to produce a large amount of sugar in hot years.

Tinta Cão (or Tinto Cão)

One of the oldest varieties in the Douro, the Tinta Cão is one of the best adapted to the valley’s hot and dry conditions. It is very reliable, maintaining its vigour even on very poor soils. The tiny compact bunches of small berries produce long lasting wines with crisp acidity and a velvety texture, which can sometimes be tough and austere when young but develop great finesse with age. The Tinta Cão is the least widely planted of the top varieties due to its very low yields but is attracting growing interest as its qualities become better understood.