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Warre’s Vintage Port 1983

Warre’s Vintage Port 1983

I was occupied this weekend in reorganising my wine cellar. It wasn’t an entirely enjoyable experience, as lifting heavy cases can be back-breaking after a while, and it was freezing cold down there as well. The one saving grace is that these days, as a consequence of rising prices, I tend to buy more six-bottle cases rather than twelve, so it is somewhat less of an effort to shift them around. I never expected that higher prices for Bordeaux would benefit me in this manner; having said that, I can’t help feeling I would gladly suffer heavier cases and a little more backache for the sake of lower prices. No matter the weight of the wines and the work involved though, I didn’t really have any choice in undertaking this little weekend ‘task’; everything I have bought in the last six months has simply been deposited behind the cellar door, and the pile of boxes was now so high that I was having to somersault and back-flip over them, Qin Shaobo-style, in order to enter.

While in there I spotted a trio of bottles of Port lined up on top of one of the racks, one each from the 1983, 1985 and 1987 vintages. Seeing that the first, from Warre’s, was now thirty years old, and that it is nearly a decade since I last tasted it, I thought it would be a good moment to pull it from its place of repose. It turned out to be a very good decision, as it is drinking very well now.

Warre's Vintage Port 1983

First, a few words on the 1983 vintage for the Douro. This year was marked by a growing season which, during mid-summer, nobody would have predicted would be a declared vintage. The winter and spring were both cold, inhibiting flowering and retarding development, so that even as things heated up during the summer the vines were three weeks behind schedule, heralding a late harvest. It sounds a little like Bordeaux 2013, doesn’t it? It was in late summer that things improved, with fine weather through September coaxing the fruit along to a timely ripeness, the pickers ultimately bringing in dark, ripe, sugar-rich fruit in good condition (so maybe not so much like Bordeaux 2013 then). The vintage was perhaps under-appreciated at first, already over-shadowed by the 1985 vintage by the time it hit the market, but I have found it able to give a lot of pleasure over the years. Looking back over my past notes for the wines of Warre’s my scores fluctuate a little, but taking the average I think I have preferred 1983 to 1985 so far.

The cork is always a worry in older bottles such as this but happily this one was extracted without too much difficulty, a gentle and sustained draw with a Pocket Screwpull brought it out in almost one piece, with just a small disc at the bottom needing an extra helping hand. Having stood the bottle up for a while I was able to pour the first glass straight from the bottle, although when ultimately decanted the sediment was fairly fine for a wine of this age. In the glass the Warre’s 1983 has a maturing hue, but still has plenty of dark pigment to it; it is certainly not a pale or ancient wine. The nose is delightful, as all the sweetness of young Port (which is pleasurable enough) has gone to leave a more perfumed and savoury complexity, with spicy notes of black liquorice nuanced with lifted scents of orange zest, tar and rose petals. The palate remains textured, although gently, the wine still showing a soft fruit substance but overall it feels much drier now. This perhaps allows the grip of the midpalate to show through, giving the wine a rather solid style. Even so, it feels nicely polished, integrated, although to be fair there is a slightly raw undercurrent to it. Overall, a very good wine, which held up well over a couple of nights. 17.5/20 (2/12/13)

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