It was once observed that it is easier to make a fine vintage port than a fine old tawny. Forecasting a young wine's development up to four decades in the future; blending to preserve, initially, the wine's freshness over time and, later, the style of the final blend; and finally, the considerable investment in reserve wines required to maintain a consistent product (by law, three times annual sales), all demand an expertise that only years of experience can teach.
During the January following each vintage, Fonseca sets aside a reserve of very concentrated, powerful vintage quality red ports, selected primarily from the firm's own quintas and judged according to their aging potential. These are placed in cask and cellared. Since wines from different vintages show variation in character, concentration and rate of maturation, tawny ports of age are blended across several vintages to maintain quality and continuity of style, and thus show an "apparent", or average, age on the label rather than a vintage date. In the very old tawny ports of age, the actual age of each port in the blend may vary as much as ten years, but in the younger tawnies variation is usually more on the order of five years or less.
As Tawny ports age, they grow lighter in color, as they throw their deposit in the cask rather than in the bottle. The process of racking contributes to the oxidation process whereby the wine's fruit qualities gradually diminish and its nutty characteristics are acquired. Moreover, Fonseca cellars its aged tawnies in the Douro rather than in Vila Nova de Gaia; the considerable difference in heat and humidity between these two areas lends Fonseca's Tawny Ports of age a very distinctive "baked" richness more reminiscent of butterscotch than of caramel.
Fonseca Twenty Year Old Tawny Port is deep amber in color with russet highlights. Its superb bouquet is a complex marriage of ripe, plummy, mature fruit, warm spicy overtones of cinnamon and butterscotch and subtle oak nuances. Full-bodied and voluminous on the palate, its smooth, velvety texture is carried into a long clean, elegant finish. Tawny ports of age will not improve once bottled; they should be served at room temperature or barely cool at the end of a meal with nuts or not overly-sweet desserts.
RESIDUAL SUGAR: 20%
115 grams per litre