I’ve already established that I’ve been drinking port for over a decade and a half and have a few ‘drinking buddies’ with whom I’ve enjoyed exquisite wines with when we were in our twenties. Vintages like ’63, ’66, ’70, ’77 and the (then) exceptionally young 1985 were the wines we were drinking reasonably regularly, and anything that started with ‘nineteen ninety’ would never cross our lips. Sadly these friends live in the south of England, so drinking with them has become less frequent, so to stop the inevitable gout setting in from drinking too much port, I’ve found a few folk that I can enjoy a glass of wine with from time to time.
I have a few friends who live locally who enjoy the odd glass of port or two and one of them kindly gave me some decanted Warre’s 1985 for me to try today that he had opened to celebrate his birthday. Aside from the fact that he offered to share this wine with me, which is very touching, I realised it would be a lovely opportunity to try this wine now that it has had a few more years to mature, and mature it has. A blackcurrant aroma comes off first, with some dried fig and a little bit of tobacco.The palate is well balanced with dried berries and cocoa, a little bit of alcohol coming through but it is nicely blended in with the fruit. On the finish there is sweet tobacco and a menthol flavour too cleaning up the palate. 90pts
Now the part I’ve omitted is that when tasting this wine, I realised that this wine will celebrate its 32nd birthday this year, and the person who had opened it is only just 19 years old. He was born in 1998, a year after a vintage I still won’t touch as it is ‘too young’. Then, overthinking as I do, I realised that for this guy just setting out on his wine journey, sampling this Warre’s 1985 is the equivalent of a 1963 or 1966 vintage to me in my early twenties. I feel so old….
It has all gone terribly wrong! Much like the United States under President Trump, day five of this tasting was a series of smoke and mirrors. When the wine showed nice fruit, behind the mask was aggressive alcohol. There was a cloud of lovely aromatic spice and then a downpour of hard tannin.
So what do I conclude? Well the purpose of this was to determine if you could get a bottle of affordable, aged vintage port to last a week, and with the 1985 Gould Campbell I would say the answer if no. The experiment to see how long this port would take to fall apart was fun, and at three days, it lasted longer than an ‘alternative fact free Trump White House’ did, by a good forty eight hours!
So after four days, the wine has started to fall apart. The nose is still nice, spiced fruit and so on, but the palate has really become disjointed. There is a harsh bitter element coming through and the wine is not as tasty as it was. However, put it with some blue cheese (as I did in a wonderfully clichéd way) and it was much better with the strong mouldy flavours masking it a bit. 86pts
Spicy aromas coming out today, almost as if someone has got cherry pie filling and laced it with Szechuan pepper. The palate has really lost a lot of the prominent alcohol, the fruit is bright, then with some liquorice and that oriental spice again. A freshness throughout and good balance with a very savoury cigar smoke finish. 90pts
So the floral aroma is still there, almost violets coming out of the glass, but there is then a backbone of earth, blackberry jam and mint. The palate is much more balanced, the earth and alcohol are still there but much softer. It is getting a bit more balanced and, I think, tomorrow will be when it is at its best. 88pts
So the idea behind this is to see how a bottle of vintage port evolves over five days. I’ll be tasting the wine every day and figuring out when the ‘sweet spot’ is. This might seem like it is just me being an pedantic idiot, but it actually has some relevance. The reason so many people don’t buy better bottles is because they don’t want the wine to go off before they finish it. By conducting this experiment, we’ll see what a decent bottle of port can do, and then if it is nice after a week, there is no excuse not to drink nicer wine. So the rules;
- Only I will drink the wine – no sharing.
- I opened the wine, decanted it and left it in a decanter for 90 minutes before the first tasting.
- I then put the wine back into the bottle and stoppered it with a cork stopper from an old bottle of tawny port.
- I’ll try the wine every night and write a tasting note based on what I find.
- The port I chose was a 1985 Gould Campbell Vintage Port
So, on day 1…
Ruby at the core of the wine, and then getting a tinge of brick around the edges. The nose has warm plum, cinnamon and fruitcake with a floral perfume aroma too. The palate is round, soft at first but then alcohol comes in as does cigar tobacco. There is an earthy element too that has a sweet fruit flavour calming it, and the alcohol, down by the end. A savoury finish. 87pts
Light cherry menthol with cloves too, but quite muted. The spice builds up, as does the alcohol, and it has a long, drying finish with plum skin flavours. 90pts (Dec 2011)
Very gentle, fresh red berries. The palate has a dark sweetness emerging, twiggy with a minty freshness. Superb. 94pts (June 2011)
Dark menthol aromas and some full, juicy fruit notes. A meaty flavour comes out with chocolate, bramble, leather and spice. Voluptuous, with the tobacco note giving it oomph. 95pts (June 2011)
Cherry menthol, cough drops, cherry and chocolate truffle. A lot of menthol… menthol menthol menthol! The palate is more of the cough syrup, baked fruit, cinnamon and aniseed. Lean and alcoholic. 83pts (Dec 2008)