Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003
Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003, Bottled 2008, “Unfiltered” 87.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on March 27, 2012
The subject of this review, is a bottle of Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) Port Wine which I purchased in 2009, Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003, Bottled 2008, “Unfiltered”. I was told when I purchased this wine that it was a solid LBV Port which would age well in my cold room, and should be opened four or five years after it was bottled for maximum enjoyment. This Port wine is of course from the Douro Region of Portugal. It was bottled in 2008, after approximately five years of maturation in oak vats.
This is my first “Wine Review”, and I approached the review in the same manner as I have all of my reviews, which is to say that I wrote primarily about the enjoyment which the spirit gave me and where I found that enjoyment. As always, my enjoyment for any spirit begins with the bottle it arrives in, and that is where my review shall begin.
In the Bottle 4/5
My bottle of Fonseca LBV 2003 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, 2003; who bottled the wine, Mis En Bouteille Par Vinhuis; and when it was bottled, 2008. 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 22/25
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 much higher than I would if I were reviewing a distilled spirit.
As an aside, there are many schools of thought regarding the proper amount of time to decant an unfiltered LBV Port Wine properly. 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 four hours before I poured it into my decanter. (I will normally pour an 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.
When I poured my Fonseca LBV Port into my wine glass, I noticed the spirit 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. At first, the Port was rather restrained in the glass with light scents of red cherries and impressions of dried plums and dates. It took some time for the scents to deepen; but as I waited, the aroma became more intensely fruity with an especially rich ripe cherry note growing and growing. When I repeated my nosing with a second glass, about an hour later, the wine fairly gushed ripe fruit and berries. Instead of dry plums and cherries, the second pour brought forward ripe field berries, rich prune juice, and echoes of polished oak to the nose.
I believe that my initial decanting time of 4 hours was probably insufficient; however based upon the great flavour of the wine in that second glass, my feeling was that my wine was properly decanted after six hours. To keep the wine as close to this level as possible, I poured the wine from my decanter back into the original bottle and re-corked it.
At this point, I am very impressed with the Fonseca LBV Port Wine. The three years in my cold room/wine cellar were not wasted.
In the Mouth 44/50
As it was upon the nose, the Port Wine was quite restrained when I sipped my first glass (4 hours of decanting). I tasted ripened cherries and plums initially with the wine showing an ability to pucker my mouth with tannins and a sort of fresh acidity. As the glass breathed, the mouth feel became softer and more enjoyable although that fresh acidity seemed to linger. Along with the taste of ripe cherries, darker dry fruit appeared (dates and prunes) as well hints of oak and bittersweet chocolate.
It was with my second glass (after 6 hours of decanting) that the Port really came to life, bringing a sweeter, riper flavour profile forward. As well as the dry fruit, I tasted field berries (black raspberries in particular) and the Port wine began to ooze subtle hints of bittersweet baking chocolate and coffee.
I decided to sip one or two small glasses each night over the next several days to discover the staying power of the Fonseca Port. It seemed to me that the flavour held steady right up until day seven, and then it ever so slowly diminished over the next week until the bottle was empty. My feeling is that the initial oxidation from decanting the bottle for five to six hours on the first day allowed the wine to reach a good level of flavour and complexity.The spirit then was able to hold this more complex structure for a full seven days until the bottle was about half emptied. At this point, even though the wine was corked, further oxidation in the bottle began to slowly diminish the Port.
In The Throat 13/15
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.
My Final Impressions 4.5/5
The Fonseca Porto Late Bottle Vintage 2003 was for me a great bottle. Perhaps I should have allowed it one more year in my cold room such that it reached that five-year maturation in the bottle which was originally recommended to me, but my curiosity was driving me a little crazy, and I just had to see how it tasted. What I found when I opened my bottle was a Port Wine with a robust character which grew in the glass as it breathed. The opened bottle seemed to have a longer shelf life than other Port wines I have tried, although I admit my experiences with aged LBV Port Wine is rather limited.
If you are interested in some comparative reviews, here is a link to all of my Port Wine Reviews!
My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:
0-25 A spirit 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 Now we have a fair spirit. You may accept a glass graciously.
75-79 This is a wine of sufficient quality that you may begin to serve it to friends.
80-84 This is a quality wine which will bring you compliments.
85-89 Excellent for special friends and special occasions.
90-94 Definitely a premium quality spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)
Note: I wish to make it clear that I am not a sommelier. I have taken no classes in wine tasting, nor have I ever studied the subject to any degree. This review reflects an untrained opinion, and my scores are based solely upon my enjoyment of the spirit, and not upon some quantitative measurement of quality. However I hope that some will find this examination worthwhile.