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Vintage Port over £10

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Warre 1980

Sandwiched in between a succession of well-received Port vintage declarations, 1980 never gained the credit that it surely now deserves.

The 1977 vintage had been billed as legendary, on a par with 1963 and both 1983 and 1985 were well received by the trade.

In fact, 1977 has proved to be something of a disappointment with many wines now looking fully mature and 1980 has been christened ‘the Cinderella vintage’ with some 1985s now looking like rather ugly sisters.

The growing season in 1980 was variable. Spring came early then cold weather in May and June caused a delay.

The summer was reasonably warm and dry but at the start of September sugar levels in the grapes were still on the low side.

But warm weather during the harvest hurried things along and two years later most shippers thought the year fit to declare. It is fair to say by no means all the 1980s are as good as this but the Symington family, owners of Dow Graham and Warre, made a trio of outstanding wines.

Warre is the oldest of all the British Port houses, having been established in 1670. In 1905, Andrew James Symington became a partner in the firm and the Symingtons and the Warres ran the firm in tandem until the latter sold out in the 1960s. William (‘Bill’) Warre MW continued to work for the firm in London until he retired in 1991.

Warre has long been in the top tier of vintage Ports producers making wines that are fine and elegant in style, deliberately somewhere in between the drier Dow and sweeter, richer Graham.

The grapes for Warre’s vintage Ports were traditionally sourced in the Rio Torto, the so called ‘twisted river’ on the south side of the Douro. But in 1978 the company switched sides with the purchase of Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley north of the Douro. Warre’s 1980 vintage still looks incredibly youthful for a wine that is now 31 years old with a deep, opaque purple colour.

But it isn’t all colour. On the nose it is bright, floral vibrant and very much alive, packed with berry and cassis fruit in the mouth which is backed up with firm yet ripe tannins and leads to a wow of a finish.

Good to drink now although I think it will still be drinking well in thirty years time – Warre’s 1980 seems to be almost ageless!

Written by Richard Mayson

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