Taylor Scion 1855


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There are several issues being raised about Scion that need to be discussed and I will try to cover the points as I see them a) the history of the wine b) the question of topping up and refreshing c) the evaporation rates d) the technical specifications of Scion and e) aging potential.

We purchased the Ports that went into Scion from a family who have owned and operated in the Douro for many generations. The farm where the Port was stored is in Prezegueda, which is alongside the Corgo river valley and therefore in a cooler, wetter part of the Douro.

The family had stored the wine in the same location since it was made. There were two sisters who did divide this old wine a number of years ago and we understand that another Port shipper purchased the other sister’s wine some 8 to 10 years ago and used it in blending their 30 year old.

We were shown family records and we believed this to be a genuine Port from 1855. We had it tested by the IVDP to obtain their opinion as to the age of the wine. The Port was held in 6 casks and had not been moved for over 20 years. The casks were ullaged and we took sufficient to make the 1,100 liters that we purchased. Therefore, Scion is a blend of the same wine held in different casks.

The loading process was accompanied by our head wine maker – David Guimaraens and another of our winemakers Manuel Aranha and a photo record was made – see annex 1.

We cannot say that the wine was not topped up as it is logical that the wines could have been to reduce the ullage. This is a normal process and records may not always be kept. However, we can be fairly certain that the wine was not refreshed – younger Port placed in it – as this would show up on the technical analysis of the residues. Equally, we can be certain that the wine was not moved often as it has a very low lead level – 208 parts per billion. Lead is collected in wine when moved through brass fittings and old ports often have lead levels much higher than this. (Before anyone gets excited we know that this is over the current legal limit but exceptions are made for very old Ports).

The question over evaporation is interesting but the posts that have been made assume that evaporation is a linear function that can simply be compounded. This is not the case. Ports will evaporate more in early years and then will reach a level of stabilization where the evaporation will drop to a very low level. This is particularly so of Ports that are not moved. The level of sugar does increase as does the total acidity – see below. There is an error being made that aging in the Douro will always produce a Douro bake – as in the case of Graham 1952. This is not always so and does depend on the conditions of the storeage. We have made the statement many times that had Scion been aged only a few miles further east, or in a south facing winery, or a windier location it would not be what it is. Indeed, historic buildings often had very good natural temperature control that is now required to be replicated with technology in thin walled buildings.

We very often see old Ports and we buy them for blending. They are normally not suitable to be bottled alone. Our technical area did originally propose the purchase of these Ports for blending. However, I suggested that we make a special bottling because the Port was so balanced and so exceptional. We had never done something like that before and may never do so again.

The second point on evaporation is that people have referred to Madeira. On that island they store their wines in heated lodges to encourage oxidation – by the logic of some contributors to the thread they would quickly have none left if temperature was the only factor.

Finally the analysis of Scion shows it to be a Port of great age and, we believe from 1855 as the family records indicate. We cannot make that age statement on the bottle because to sell a colheita the Port must be registered with the IVDP. The fact that the IVDP did not exist in 1855 would have made that hard but the requirement to register was even later. That is why it is sold as ‘over 40’ from the formal special category registrations within the IVDP but they allow it to be labeled as ‘very old’.

Scion has 189 grams per liter of residual sugar, 8.76 grams per liter acidity expressed in Tartaric acid and a Baume of 8.9. the compares with Taylor 40 year old that has 134 grams per liter of residual sugar, 5.2 grams per liter acidity expressed in Tartaric acid and a Baume of 5.2. The high acidity is achieved over time and is what provides the balance to the relatively high residual sugar in Scion.

Taylor’s Scion is an extraordinary Port that has been aged in cask in the Douro since 1855 until we bought it and bottled it. As such the bottling process will have had an impact on Scion. For this reason we cannot be certain how long it will last in the bottle and what it will be like in 10 or 20 years. Our experience does suggest that, like any Aged Tawny, it will not improve greatly in a bottle. Once it has been opened it will certainly last for a number of weeks if not months.

Scion is a remarkable Port and although we did not make it the team at Taylor’s is very proud to have brought it to the market. We have done so based on a very thorough due diligence. For those people who want to taste it, and were not able to buy a bottle, they can purchase it by the glass at the Taylor visitors’ centre in Vila Nova de Gaia or at Dick’s Bar at The Yeatman.

Adrian Bridge, 4th July 2012

Parker 100 points

We finished with a very unique tawny, one of those jaw-dropping moment when you thank God you quit that insurance job all those years ago. Adrian Bridge set the scene. He explained how head winemaker David Guimaraens had become aware that a distinguished family living in the lower Douro Valley had a private reserve of port that had remained undisturbed and rarely racked since 1855. In 2009, the line of the distinguished family came to an end and without any children; her nephews consulted lawyers and agreed to sell the four remaining pipes to Taylors (a thirsty Winston Churchill allegedly stole one pipe away, though that has never been proven.) On 13th January 2010, two casks were transferred to Taylors and due to its price and rarity they opted not to back blend this ancient port into the 40-Year Old. Instead they chose to release it as a one-off, 155-year old, pre-phylloxera tawny port christened “Scion”, chosen due to its dual meaning both viticultural and familial. It is being released as 1,400 hand-blown, crystal decanters housed in a period wooden box and retailing for a cool £2,500. It looked the business. But what does it taste like?

It is an astonishing tawny, although that word does not do justice to the panoply of aromas and flavours that entranced the entire room. It was remarkably deep in colour with thick tears coating the glass. The oxidative elements of the nose with far more diminished than I expected, especially when juxtaposed against the 40-Year Old Tawny. It was a symphony of heavenly Sauternes-like aromas, dark honey, allspice and molasses intertwined with fig and mint. It was so fresh and vibrant, evolving with each passing moment and I wished I could have stayed to longer to see how it would develop. The palate offers intense honeyed fruits with a thick, mellifluous texture cut through with razor-sharp acidity, hints of hazelnut and smoke towards the finish that contained awe-inspiring persistency, such that my mouth was still tingling when I was apologizing to my dinner date.

Scion is undoubtedly an incredible tawny port in the loosest definition of the word. It is a sui generis that threatens to overwhelm the senses…but considered it ‘un-gentlemanly’ to do so. I must confess, I am not a great fan of the current vogue for ultra-expensive cuvées released to appease the whims of millionaires and PR companies. However given its age and the fact that this can never be repeated, the four-figure price tag does offer a unique experience.

It was time to leave – my lunch date was waiting. I placed my order for a case of Scion and departed the Westbury Hotel. I’ll savour a tawny port of Christmas and dream about the Scion.

Tasting Note

A clear dark brown colour that looks like a mature Tokaji, with thick tears in the glass. It has a very intense, almost honeyed bouquet with allspice, singed leather, pressed rose petals, molasses, mint and a touch of dried fig. The oxidation is minimal, which is quite remarkable for its age, a sense of ebullience and joie-de-vivre bursting forth. The palate is full-bodied with intense honeyed fruits, touches of fig, date and liquorice vying for attention, biting acidity that cuts through the intense fruit. This is unbelievably fresh and vibrant with an almost Sauternes-like quality on the honey-glazed, hazelnut-tinged finish. It has unbelievable length. Simply stunning. Tasted October 2010.