The annual portfolio tasting held by UK wine importer Fells is one not to be missed. Firstly they represent a broad range of exceptional producers from all over the world, secondly the tasting is beautifully and expertly organized and lastly they always show a good range of fortified wines. Fells belong to the Symington family and so Cockburn, Dow, Graham and Warre are out in force. These were the vintage Ports on show at the tasting. My notes are perhaps not quite a detailed as they would be if I was sitting down and contemplating them over a longer period of time but I think they provide an informative snapshot on the evolution of these wines. All the wines below are commercially available and I have added the indicative retail price supplied by Fells.
Cockburn 2015 ****/*****
It is not long since I last tasted this wine when it was the star of the 2015 declaration. Deep, opaque, still raw but pure on the nose, lovely fruit with expressive, ripe cassis character, deliciously rich and well structured with a touch of tropicality on the finish. This shows that Cockburn’s vintage Ports are truly back on form. £50 a bottle is the indicative retail price. 18.5 +?
Graham, Quinta dos Malvedos 2005 ****
Still deep in colour and very ripe on the nose, chocolate and tar representing the heat and concentration of this drought vintage; big, ripe and bold on the palate, broad and overtly sweet with tannins rising in the mouth, lovely wine: firm and tight knit with a core. Just approachable now but better in 5 years. A bargain vintage Port at £29.99.
Dow 2000 (Magnum) ****
Mid-deep in colour, slightly cloudy (was the wine decanted or not?), rather stewed and a touch singed on the nose, perhaps just a phase in its evolution; much better on the palate with well defined ripe fruit backed by spicy tannic grip, ripe and peppery with some dark chocolate concentration evident towards the finish. Reserve judgment. £130. 17?+
Dow 1985 ***/****
Still deep and dark at the centre with a thin browning rim; not terribly expressive on the nose, seemingly a bit green and stalky (‘chaffie’ as the late Tim Stanley Clarke would have said); some dark chocolate fruit but rather soupy and lacking definition, sweet (for Dow) and rich in the style of the 1985s, backed by firm tannins, with better definition on the finish. £80. 16.5
Warre 1980 ****
Still plenty of colour here with a thin brown rim; rather soupy and lacking classic definition on the nose but showing much better on the palate with lovely sweet berry fruit, mid-weight with just a touch of dark chocolate concentration, black pepper tannins, still very fresh with lovely blackberry-ish acidity on the finish. Absolutely no need to hurry up and drink this if you have any in your cellar. Good for another ten years at least. £90. 17.5
Graham 1977 (Magnum) ****
Mid-deep in colour, brick red and browning on the rim; gentle berry fruit on the nose, fully open with a touch of spice; soft and rich initially, in classic Graham style, sweet summer fruit backed by ripe tannins which rise inn a crescendo towards the finish: broad, sweet and spicy. Near perfect balance and drinking beautifully now but its poise suggests a long plateau. £215. 18.
Warre 1977 (from a Tappit Hen) ***/****
A tappit hen contains 210 cl of wine and, in theory, the wine should mature more slowly given the larger volume: paler in colour and more mature in appearance than the Graham (above); surprisingly rather hollow on the nose, stretched and seemingly a touch woody; soft, very approachable but without a great deal of structure on the palate, cherry fruit, still retaining its freshness but not hanging together all that well. Rather loose knit. Drink soon. £455. 16.5
Cockburn 1970 ****
Pale, pink-tinged mid-garnet hue; open, floral but slightly medicinal cherry fruit on the nose and palate, very charming and attractive with firm tannins mid-palate, still all there, firm, fine and quite elegant in style. Drink over the next ten years. 17.5
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty