Port Pointers

From Adrian and Natasha Robertson Bridge.


Published:

Natasha Robertson Bridge, seventh generation of the Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman line, is the head blender for the Taylor Fladgate Partnership, and her husband, Adrian Bridge, is the group’s CEO. Wine Enthusiast caught up with the first couple of Port, who recently opened the Yeatman Hotel in Porto. Here are highlights from the interview:

Vintage Port vs. LBV Port: “Vintage Port is the very best that we make. It comes from a single year, is bottled after two years and is rare—we make it only three or four times per decade. We came up with the idea of late bottled vintage in 1970. This is a Port from a single year, but by aging it in wood for five or six years, it is ready to drink immediately.” —A.B.

Three brands, three styles: “Taylor Fladgate is lean, firm, racy, muscular, but in a sinewy, elegant way. Fonseca’s style is noted for its expressive, luscious fruitiness, opulence and voluptuousness, and velvety, mouth-filling tannins. Croft is defined by an abundance of rich, plump fruit with a delicious exotic quality and a distinctive herbaceous, spicy character.” —N.R.B.

2009 Vintage Ports: “The 2009 vintage Ports are wines of massive scale and density, with tannin levels and an intensity of color that has not been seen for at least two decades. However, in spite of their inky color and thick, muscular tannins, the 2009s also display a magnificent quality of fruit, crisp acidity and extraordinary complexity. In many ways, these wines represent a return to the vigor and stamina of the iconic vintage Ports of the early 20th century.” —A.B.


Here's the complete interview with Port power couple, Adrian and Natasha Robertson Bridge:

Wine Enthusiast: Please tell our readers a little about your family history with Taylor Fladgate and what your role is in the company today.
Natasha Bridge: Port has always been a part of my life. I grew up surrounded by the majesty of the Douro vineyards. Initially, I worked in marketing, but as the older generation moved on, I became involved in the blending. In 2007, I was appointed head blender for the group.

WE: What is the difference between a winemaker and a Port blender?
NB:
Making great Port requires a number of different skills. A winemaker is responsible for the complex process in which grapes are transformed into wine. A blender takes those base wines and categorizes them into how they will be aged, for example, for late bottled vintage or aged tawny. After that, the blender becomes the person who accompanies the aging process and who irons out the difference between harvests and the annual weather cycles to produce consistent quality.

WE: What are the stylistic differences among your three brands?
NB: Taylor Fladgate is lean, firm, racy, muscular, but in a sinewy, elegant way. Fonseca´s style is noted for its expressive, luscious fruitiness, opulence and voluptuousness and velvety mouth-filling tannins. Croft is defined by an abundance of rich plump fruit with a delicious exotic quality and a distinctive herbaceous, spicy character.

WE: You still tread the grapes by foot each September. How does foot treading as opposed to mechanical crushing affect the quality of your Port? 
AB: We’re a very innovative company, but we do not throw out the old ideas just because they’re old. You must not break the seeds and release harsh tannins. The foot does this perfectly. We don’t compromise on quality, so we still tread.

WE: What is the difference between vintage Port and late bottle vintage Port?
AB: Vintage Port is the very best that we make. It comes from a single year, is bottled after two years and is rare; We make it only three or four times a decade. It’s one of the world’s longest aging wines. However, it’s expensive. We came up with the idea of late bottled vintage in 1970. This is a Port from a single year, but by aging it in wood for five or six years, it’s ready to drink immediately.

WE: The Taylor Fladgate Partnership declared a vintage in 2009. What about 2009 was vintage worthy?
NB: The 2009 vintage Ports are wines of massive scale and density, with tannin levels and an intensity of color that hasn’t been seen for at least two decades. However, in spite of their inky color and thick, muscular tannins, the 2009s also display a magnificent quality of fruit, crisp acidity and extraordinary complexity. In many ways, these wines represent a return to the vigor and stamina of the iconic vintage Ports of the early 20th century.

WE: What do guests find most exciting about the new The Yeatman Hotel? 
AB: Guests love the tranquility, the space and the fact that it is an oasis in the center of a bustling city, but even more, they love the spectacular view that it has. This is due to the privileged position that we have in the heart of the Port wine lodges facing the old city center across the river. Most of the comments that we receive are about attention to detail in all aspects of The Yeatman. There are things to explore from the food and wine, to the themed bedrooms, the decorated lifts and the spacious gardens. And don’t forget the decanter-shaped pool!

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