wine barrels

David Guimaraens – Taylor’s & Fonseca Ports

By Nick Adams, Master of Wine

Next in the series of blogs on star winemakers behind some of the Wine Trust selection, we look at one of the greatest winemakers in one of the most traditional of all regions – The Douro and Port.

The House of Fonseca

In the world famous Port production region of The Douro the Guimaraens family and name is rightly revered as one of the bastions of the industry and its heritage. Linked intrinsically with the leading Port house of Fonseca the mantle lies today with David Guimaraens who is not only in charge of the production at Fonseca but oversees all the production (as Technical Director and Head Winemaker) in the Taylor Fladgate Port Group including the mighty house of Taylor’s itself and Croft Ports – quite some responsibility!

Born in 1965 (“not a great vintage year” he often jokes), in Oporto, Portugal, David represents the sixth generation of Guimaraens to be involved in the Port business, with their long association and ownership of the renowned house of Fonseca. His father Bruce (d 2002) was a true icon of the industry who oversaw the making of the legendary 1963 and 1966 Fonseca vintage ports amongst others. His grandmother Dorothy made the fabulous 1955 vintage. Founded in 1815 Fonseca – under the ownership of the Guimaraens family they elevated its status and reputation to one of the greatest of all houses. In fact, many respected Port industry figures and writers have said that if there were a “First Growth” classification of the top houses in the Douro Fonseca would unquestionably be one (along with Taylors, Graham and Quinta do Noval). In 1949 Fonseca and Taylor’s merged and a great new port dynasty was established. 

After completing his schooling in Portugal and England, David spent time gaining hands on wine making experience in Australia, California, and Oregon before undertaking formal education oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia, returning to Portugal in 1990 to join the Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca wine making teams. David’s first vintage port release was to be the 1994 – one of the greatest of all the 20th Century vintages – some start. Since then, he has overseen the production of all the great modern vintage years as well as developing and enhancing wines across all the port portfolios at every level in the Fonseca, Taylor and (since 2001) Croft Port houses.

The traditional method of foot treading to gently release the juice and colour pigments, and warm the juice prior to fermentation 

The research and development work carried out under David’s leadership has resulted in new vinification technology which has radically enhanced the quality of the wines made from the production of the group’s partner grape growers. He also works closely with the group’s head of viticulture, António Magalhães, one of the Douro’s most respected viticulturists, and a world authority on mountain viticulture, in managing and developing the Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft vineyard estates. Together they have created an award winning sustainable vineyard model which has become the standard for environmentally responsible viticulture in the Douro Valley.

As part of this process and long term planning the group looks to work in greater partnership with growers who are an important source for the ongoing supply of high quality grapes for the range of ports made in each house. Working with the group’s CEO, Adrian Bridge, David and António ensure that contracts and working practices are fair, consistent and above all sustainable and profitable for all parties. This includes advising on viticultural practices which ensure higher quality grape production and, in turn, prices for the growers. David was also one of the first winemakers to make port from organically grown grapes at Fonseca, along with the first ever rosé port from the house of Croft!

Mechanical feet replicating the process and pressure application

In the winery, he has worked on new initiatives such as replicating the effect of the human foot in traditionally treading the grapes to release the juice (please see pictures) with metal feet or plates. These practices are still reserved and used in the production of finer, vintage ports. 

Today, David has many extraordinary wines to his credit and is rightly regarded as one of the most gifted wine makers in the Port industry.

And please find a fine selection of David’s skill and hard work below from the WineTrust portfolio.

With an average age of over 10 years cask aged blended ports this is the most savoury and delicate of all port style. Please serve chilled and yes works a treat in the summer with cheese and lighter chocolate and nut based puddings and cakes (eg chocolate brownie).

A classic rich and sweet plum pudding, cherry liqueur and liquorice style – perfect match with blue and mature cheeses – as unfiltered will have thrown a light sediment in the bottom of the bottle.

Taylor’s legendary top single vineyard port – bottled in 2004 and now into its drinking window but will keep and evolve comfortably for another 5-10 years. A great 21st birthday gift in 2023 for someone. Does require to be fully decanted (off its heavy sediment) before serving.

A stellar vintage year – very ripe, rich, and luscious. Bottled in 2005 (and 95 Wine Advocate points) this is one of the finest examples from this year. Could decant and enjoy now but would be tempted to keep and evolve for another 10 years – this will become harder to find in due course.