Dow’s Crusted Port, Bottled 2012
Although I don’t really feature Port much on these pages, no winter passes without bringing a bottle or two (or three or four) up from the cellar. In the vast majority of cases these are vintage Ports, mostly wines I bought in decent quantities many years ago, largely from the 1980, 1983 and 1985 vintages, plus other single-quinta wines from the same decade. Other than a few bottles from the 1997, 2000 and 2011 vintages I haven’t really added many more bottles to my cellar over the years that have since passed, and so these days I look to supplement my stock of winter warmers with younger, ready-to-drink wines. Thankfully there are plenty such wines out there.
One obvious port of call (pun fully intended, sorry) would be some of the better late-bottled vintage Ports, with the unfiltered wines from Warre’s and Quinta do Noval being popular, high quality and very sensible choices. There is a less commonly encountered alternative though, and that is crusted Port. For immediate satisfaction, crusted Port is hard to beat; the style resembles vintage Port, being richly textured and flavoured, but without having to lay down the money usually required for such wines, nor indeed having to wait the many decades that vintage Port usually demands before it is ready to drink.
Crusted Port is a very British creation, astrongly associated with the British Port houses and often originally bottled from cask in the United Kingdom. Since bulk exports were suspended in 1996 this work is now restricted to the cellars in Portugal. The wine is a blend from several vintages, each matured in cask for at least two years, before blending and bottling without filtration. The wine is often then aged in bottle for three years before release, which allows the term ‘bottle matured’ to appear on the label. The only date of significance is the bottling date, from which something of the likely vintages involved can be inferred (probably erroneously, but we .
The style is name for the sediment (or ‘crust’) that it throws, and it usually requires decanting, although the crust in this wine is fairly light. Its role as a subsititute for the region’s grandest wine has led to it being described as the ‘poor man’s vintage Port’ which seems to me, on tasting this richly characterful and substantial wine, to be damning it with faint praise. This Crusted Port from Dow’s, bottled in 2012 (and so presumably from the 2010 and 2009 vintages?) has already seen out five years in bottle and it is holding up very well (indeed, I would say this bottle has developed very well indeed since I last tasted it, about a year ago). In the glass it has a truly vibrant hue, showing a dark core with an intense crimson rim. The nose is just so direct and forceful, with a flouish of floral aromas resembling violets and red peony at first, although this should not suggest this is a delicate wine. Alongside this perfumed intensity there is a layer of curiously dark, savoury and spicy fruit, tinged with black pepper and charcoal. On the palate this relaxes into the flavours of damson, macerated black cherry and blackcurrant. Confident and textural, with a creamed texture to the black fruit, scented with violets, rose petals and tar, it is supported by ripe tannins and fine acids. A hugely impressive palate, accessible and yet with deep, dark, savoury complexities that provide a real sense of intrigue. An excellent choice for off-the-shelf Port drinkers, and superb value too. It should age well such is its depth and structure, and I have put away another half-dozen bottles so I can check this out for myself. 17.5/20 • 95/100 (27/12/17)