Fonseca Porto Late Bottled Vintage 2008 “Unfiltered”
Review: Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008, Bottled 2013, “Unfiltered” 91.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on July 14, 2015
Fonseca traces its origins to an entry dated 8th April, 1815, found in the ledgers of the Real Companhia Velha, the royal monopoly company. This entry records the purchase of 32 pipes of Port by the firm’s founder, João dos Santos Fonseca. His first documented sale occurred on 14th September, 1815, followed in 1816 by his first overseas shipment. The earliest known Vintage Port shipped under the Fonseca brand was the 1840. The second Fonseca vintage, the 1844, was more successful as were the 1846 and the 1847. The latter was often regarded as the greatest Port vintage of the mid-19th century. The exceptional 1851 helped to seal the house’s reputation. Today the house is owned by The Fladgate Partnership, who also own Taylor’s Port (Taylor Fladgate), and Croft’s.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port wine is (as the name implies) a style of Port which is bottled later than the more prestigious Vintage Port. LBV Port wine remains in neutral wood between four to six years, rather than the 2 years which would be typical for a Vintage Port. Since Port wine matures more quickly in oak vats than it would in the bottle, it is ready to be served when it is bottled. However, Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port, (unlike many other LBV Ports) is not filtered before it is bottled, as a result the Fonseca will continue to age and should continue to improve if stored properly.
The wines used to produce Fonseca LBV were drawn from a reserve of some of the best full-bodied red ports produced during the 2008 harvest. These grapes were grown both on Fonseca’s own vineyards as well as on other properties in the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior areas of the Douro Valley. The wines are aged in wood vats of 50 pipes (27,500 litres) capacity and then bottled after five years.
In the Bottle 4/5
A bottle of Fonseca LBV 2008 is pictured to the left. I have to admit a bit of disappointment always creeps in when I look at the Port wine bottles on my wine rack in my cold room. They are all rather plain-looking. This particular bottle is dark green with a solid corked closure (as you would expect), and a plain beige label. The label does tell me a lot about this particular bottle. It tells me the vintage of the wine, 2008; who bottled the wine, Mis En Bouteille Par Vinhuis; and when it was bottled, 2013. The back label tells a nice story indicating the wine was matured in oak vats and bottled without filtering. I think, for Wine Connoisseurs, this is quite satisfactory. For myself, however, I would like to see more colour and pizzazz on the label.
In the Glass 22.5/25
When I drink wine, it is (for me) a rather aromatic experience. I enjoy nosing a glass of wine much more than I do the other spirits I review. To reflect my increased enjoyment during this part of the process I am scoring this portion of the review higher than I would if I were reviewing a distilled spirit.
Although the LBV Port will benefit from further aging in the bottle, it is considered ready to drink because it has already aged five years in wood. Because it is unfiltered, it will benefit from decanting prior to serving. There are many schools of thought regarding the proper amount of time to decant an unfiltered LBV Port Wine. My tendency is to use a rather experimental approach to search out the proper breathing time, as I have found different vintages and different brands seem to behave differently each time I open a bottle. I opened this particular bottle and let it stand upright for three hours before I poured it into my decanter. (I always pour an unfiltered LBV Port Wine through one piece of cheese cloth directly into my wine decanter to filter out any sediment.) I left the decanter open while I was sampling the Port for the first time with the intention of closing it up once I felt the wine was tasting as it should. In the case of this particular Port, I found that it tasted very good almost immediately and therefore I would recommend if you were to serve it to do as I did and open it three to four hours prior to serving.
I serve Port wine in a simple wine goblet. I noticed the Fonseca LBV was very rich with a deep ruby-red colour at the top of the crest which deepened to a lush dark purple plum colour near the center of the glass. The nose was retrained initially (as wine usually is immediately after pouring) but soon I began to notice sherry-like aromas of dried raisins and dates and some very nice underlying bittersweet chocolate. There was a touch of woody spiciness in the air and hints of fresh green wood sap. As the glass sits I soon received lush fruity smells of fresh dark BC cherries and fresh ripe plums. I really enjoyed the evolution of aromas as the smells above the glass began with dry fruity aromas and moved slowly to a fuller fresher aroma of ripe succulent fruit.
In the Mouth 46.5/50
The Fonseca LBV 2008 Port Wine begins by puckering the mouth slightly with a light but firm acidity. I taste feeble impressions of raisins and dates and a tannic flavour which reminds me of grape stems and skins. As the glass breathes things change and I begin to taste the fruity flavours ripe BC cherries and fresh plums. The wine continues to open and stronger sherry-like flavours of raisin and dark fruit advance across the palate along with hints of oak and bittersweet chocolate. When I pour myself a second glass, the fresh fruit practically leaps onto the palate this time. The Port tastes sweeter, and now along with impressions of cherries and plums, I taste blackberries and raspberries along with strong hints of bittersweet baking chocolate and black licorice.
In my opinion, the Fonseca Port is behaving just the way a really good Port wine should. It keeps growing in the glass, becoming fresher and fruitier as time allows it to evolve. I am also excited about the light acidity and tannins I taste which to me indicate that the spirit may actually evolve further in my cold room.
In The Throat 13.5/15
The Fonseca Port Wine displays a freshness in the finish with tannins and a light acidity that makes you want to take another sip. At the spirit’s peak on day five, it was very soft in the throat, with a moderately gentle finish that left long lingering flavours of ripe cherries, dry fruit, and chocolate behind.
Final Impressions 5/5
I like Port Wine, and in particular, I like LBV Port Wine with its bevy of fresh fruity flavours. Unfortunately, in my particular local we have a rather limited selection of LBV Port and so my reviews of this style of wine are rather scant. However, I can say without a doubt that the Fonseca Late Bottle Vintage 2008 is a spectacular example of how great LBV Port can be. I plan to grab a couple more bottles for my cold room, and if you are a lover of Port, I suggest that you do the same.
If you are interested in some comparative reviews, here is a link to all of my Port Wine Reviews!
Note: My Wine Scores are computed in the same manner as my scores for distilled spirits. This means that my total score out of 100 is generally lower than what you would see in popular wine rating magazines. (Those magazines appear to have a system which scores almost all wines at 85 points or more.)
My system which is described below and you may (loosely) interpret my scores as follows:
0-25 A wine with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 A mediocre wine which will excite no one.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, still rather unexciting.
80-84 Enjoyment begins here.
85-89 Very good to excellent!
90-94 You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this one yet…but I want to.