Fonseca and Croft
Visiting the one of the leading Port companies in the beautiful
Douro region of Portugal, part 1
company of Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman is one of the most
significant of all Port producers. They own a number of Port houses,
including Taylorís, Fonseca and Croft. I was thrilled to be
visiting during September, as an early harvest was just finishing.
been to the Douro lots of times, but this was the first visit where
Iíd concentrated solely on Port. Indeed, Taylor, Fladgate and
Yeatman donít really make table wines (they produce insignificant
quantities on a largely experimental basis). Theyíre one of the
few of the Port producers left doing solely to what they are good at
Ė making great Port.
to be based for a pleasant few days at Taylorís Quinta de
Vargellas, a spectacularly beautiful estate high in the Douro
Superior, but the visit began in Porto, with dinner at the Factory
House with Adrian and Natasha Bridge. Adrian is the managing
director of the group, and heís a dynamic, energetic, focused guy.
Think senior rank in the British army, and youíre getting close.
The Port bins at the Factory House
Factory House reeks of history. It's a huge building in Porto that
used to be the hub of the English Port Trade, liberated from the
French in 1811. It is still owned and used by the English Port
shippers, but there are now just three of these companies left
because of mergers and consolidation: the Symingtons, the Taylor-Fladgate
group, and newcomer Churchill.
still decorated as it would have been 100 years ago. Every Wednesday
the shippers would gather for lunch, drinking Port together, and
play guess the vintage. Wednesday was chosen because this was the
day when no post arrived, so there wasn't much work to be done. With
our dinner, we drank Fonseca 1970 from magnum, which was superb.
following day our work began in earnest, with a tasting at the
Taylor lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia (the town facing Porto over the
Douro). Like all the Port houses, the Taylor group split their
operations between the Douro (the vineyards) and Vila Nova de Gaia
(the warehouses for maturing the Port, and the administrative centre).
In the past, most of the attention was focused on Vila Nova, and the
senior Port people would rarely take the inconvenient journey to the
in recent decades this has been changing. Vila Nova de Gaia has a
real sense of history, but the old Port lodges arenít really the
ideal place to operate from. Shifting young wines down river to Gaia
(originally by boat, but latterly by road) used to be a necessity,
because the Douro was a remote place, and far too hot in summer for
storing Port. Now in the age of air conditioning, itís feasible to
have a winery, storage area and administrative centre near where the
vineyards are. Indeed, Adrian Bridge explained that the plan is by
2016 to have moved most of the operations to the Douro.
Vila Nova de Gaia, smartened up a bit, could have a promising future
as a tourist destination. Bridge has recently invested a lot of
money in developing a new luxury hotel, the Yeatman, in a prime
location in Gaia just above the Taylor lodge, looking across to
Porto, and we had a look at progress with the building works (since
the visit, the Yeatman has been completed and is open for business).
it was off to the Douro. The journey there was a fun one, by train.
Vargellas has its own station (with the variant spelling ĎVargelasí),
and the ride from Pinh„o to Vargelas is highly recommended, with
some lovely views as the track follows the course of the river, and
crosses the Douro just before it reaches its destination over a
scenic iron bridge.
writing up this visit in a number of parts, each one focusing on one
of the Port houses owned by the group. Thereís also a part
dedicated to the main winemaking centre for the group, and also
sections devoted to pictures of the Douro and our sneak preview of
the Yeatman hotel.