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….
A fancy bottle, looking very much like something that would normally contain whisky, a glass stopper, a little gold badge on the bottle and the iconic cloaked man on on the label. A lot of marketing money has gone into the Sandeman’s brand which, apart from the bulk made port you’d normally find in supermarkets, has been suspiciously absent in a lot of wine merchants in the UK.
Now that Liberty Wines has got the job of distributing it, Offley and a range of Sogrape’s wines, expect that to change, but is this highly stylised wine worth the £35 – £40 you’d expect to pay?
Dear God yes! It is a lovely wine with a multitude of dried fruit – raisins, prunes, candied peel, apricots – leaping out of the glass with a note of marzipan as well. A deliciously smooth palate, again those fruits, but with very well integrated alcohol, a noticeable sweetness, but with some cigar smoke on the finish and the tiniest bit of stewed rhubarb. This is a super 20 year old tawny and I’m sure I’ll revisit it again very soon. 92pts
Warm jammy brambles with some chocolate and chilli pepper aromas (strangely) and some fresh cherry on the nose. The palate has a nice spice up front, a lot of tannin – soft, but very firm – and then the alcohol I remember from Niepoort’s LBV comes out. A lot of savoury flavours on the end, with a warm spice coming out. Nice. 88pts (February 2017)
Cherry, lots of cherry coming off the nose. There is a jammy element coming out with some warm honey as well. The palate is quite thick with some big tannin, moderate alcohol and then a lot of spice coming off. Nice and juicy, well made, but I think a tiny bit clumsy on the midpalate before it cleans itself up and finished off well. 87pts (February 2017)
Strawberry red core with a brick colour around the rim, and the wine has an orange marmalade aroma up front, polished wood with some cinnamon pastry. The palate has more dried fruit up front, then a lovely brandy flavour coming out. Very soft, with little prickles of alcohol coming through, it is a super wine that offers great value for money. 90pts (February 2017)
A cherry red coloured tawny port, with some slight orange hints on the rim. The nose has a cranberry, cherry menthol aroma with some slight spice hints. The palate is nicely balanced, with dried berries, dried leaves and the brandy note coming out quite a bit. Very little alcohol burn though. A really nice port. 89pts (February 2017)
Fresh berries on the nose, blueberries, cranberries and some underripe blackberries. There is a lovely seductive silky aroma too, leading onto more blueberry. The palate has an upfront sweetness, such a soft approachable palate and then the spirit creeps in, and it actually has a brandy like flavour. More of those lovely berries and then some aromatic spice before a gentle, bitter chocolate and tobacco flavour on the palate. Lovely lovely stuff. 90pts (Feb 2017)
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