Warre’s Vintage Port, 1985 (#feelsoold)

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….

#feelsoold #winewastasty

Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port

IMG_5646.jpgA 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

Five Day Tasting -Day Five

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!

Five Day Tasting – Day Four

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

Five Day Tasting – Day Three

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

Five Day Tasting – Day 1

IMG_5497 (1).jpgSo 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

Revisiting an old love – Graham’s Port

big_15_15.jpgOh how I love Grahams. It has been the port house I’ve always had a massive soft spot for, and have (probably) tasted more of than any other port house. I hunted for nearly a decade to find a bottle of 1948 vintage, to complete my collection of every vintage since the Second World War, and (one day) I will do a tasting.

But while I have tried their vintage ports many times, I realised that I’d not tried the core products in Graham’s range for a good number of years and I was fortunate to be given the opportunity recently.

So first up, the 2011 LBV. Now this is a wine I’ve never particularly cared about. Not because I ever thought it was a bad wine, just because it was everywhere and, like its rival Taylor’s, I view it more of a single harvest ruby than a proper traditional style LBV. You can’t go into a supermarket at Christmas without Graham’s LBV being on some sort of promotion on it. My fondest memory of this wine was the fact that my friend Richard made a fabulous gravy out of it for roast Roe Deer, reducing three bottles of it into the most glorious syrupy sauce.

So what was it like?  It was bright and juicy, savoury cigar elements coming through on the nose, with some sweet menthol and cloves and a hint of smoke. The soft, fruit forward, approachable palate is very tasty, nicely balanced with some spice on the mid palate and a jammy flavor on the earthy finish. A nice port you wouldn’t object to being given a glass of, but only buy it when the price is hacked down at Christmas (84pts)

Next along was the Six Grapes Reserve Port. This is Graham’s oldest marque, a blend of wines from five different Quintas – Malvedos, Tua, Lages, Vila Velha and Vale de Malhadas. Situated above the LBV in quality, it is billed as ‘the everyday port for the vintage port drinker’ – ironically, the whole purpose of the LBV classification! It is a really classy wine, cherry liqueur aromas coming off, smoke punching through, but shrouded in a silky chocolate aroma. The palate is balanced, with fresh berries, more chocolate, thyme and cherry stone flavours emerging. Very silky tannins and a lovely, long finish. (88pts)

Moving on, I tried the Crusted Port, bottled in 2011. Crusted ports are a blend of various vintages, blended, bottled and then do the majority of their maturation in bottle. Until recently, the bottling date was over a decade old, but this wine with only five years of maturing was a bit young. It was very fruity, loads of raspberries and sweet cherries, and then a candied peel aroma coming off. The palate had loads of chocolate, but the alcohol and firm tannins dominate a bit. It is a good wine, but so so so young and not ready yet. It needs a good half decade to get into its stride, so currently it scores low, but it will improve. (84pts)

Something that isn’t too young, in fact, something that is slap bang ready to go is the Quinta dos Malvedos 2004 Vintage Port. A delicious sweet, jammy aroma with warm compote coming off. The palate is sweet and spicy, plums, cocoa nibs, black olives, blueberries, prunes and an earthy note on the finish. Superb, very well balanced and good value. (92pts).

The final red port was the Vintage 2011. Now this was a big beast, meaty and jammy with lots of gutsy, burnt beef, Bovril, leather and jam coming off. There is stewed brambles on the palate, tar, leather, liquorice… it was really just a big, powerful bruiser that will mature into a super wine. The only problem is, I’m going to be eighty when its ready.

Now I’ve never tried a tawny from Graham’s before, and although I knew they existed, I have always opted for producers that are tawny specialists. Not a mistake I’m going to make again, the 10 year old Tawny Port is fabulous. A very savoury aroma, polished wood, cinnamon, clove and some dried orange peel followed by a a palate of dark dried fruit, spice and wood. Wonderful acidity, balance and, if I’m honest, a bit more mature than a 10 year old is normally. Not that that’s a bad thing, the exact opposite in fact.

Now I’ve reacquainted myself with the core Graham’s range, does this producer still hold a soft spot in my heart? Of course it does. Their LBV may be a bit on the generic, if decently made, but when you look at wines like their Malvedos, the Crusted (with another half decade ageing) and the lovely Tawny it reminds me of the reasons I fell in love in the first place.

Gluten, Cake & Tawny Port

So I discovered a month or so ago that I was intolerant to gluten. What perfect timing, right before Christmas, a time of cakes, pies, puddings and wheat in every damn thing you consume. I’m not saying I have Celiac disease, just that no matter how much I may like the aforementioned wheat based products, they don’t really like me.

However in life, one has to suffer, and although I’ve cut out bread, cereals and so on, I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to have a slice of Christmas cake at the end of my Christmas Holiday with a glass of port!

My sister in law makes fabulous Christmas Cake, and every year I have got one as my present from her. These cakes have an ABV of their own, being doused in cask strength whisky for months, so there is no real need for a drink with them, but port and Christmas cake has become something I do. Last year it was 1965 Krohn Vintage Port, the year before 1970’s Graham’s, and this year, a more modest 10 year old tawny from Quinta do Vallado.

Why the change from old vintage to a sub £20 tawny? Well I’d be the only one drinking it and it comes in a convenient 500ml bottle and 2016 hasn’t given any of us a lot to celebrate. Much as I’d like to break out a fabulous old port, I couldn’t justify it just for me, but I’m really glad I chose this. Scoring 91 points from Wine Spectator, I was so impressed with this wine’s balance. Ginger aromas, prunes, dates and warm caramel, it is such an inviting wine. The palate starts of with dried fruit – raisins, citrus peel – and then a nutty note too, before the sweetness emerges, enveloping all the flavours in a robe of warmed bitter marmalade. There isn’t a trace of alcohol, it is so well integrated. This has to be one of the greatest 10 year old tawnies, and I think Wine Spectator has the score bang on.