Saturday, July 4, 2009

Warre’s 1982 Late Bottled Vintage Port (Portugal)

Tonight, it was the 2nd Annual Pine Island Wine Tasting (Pine Island is located on Lake Nipissing, south of North Bay … in what should be South Bay I am told). Invited by my cousins, I lead the 15 friends gathered in a tasting of wines from California (in honour of it being July 4 – and, for added authenticity, we have three Americans in attendance). The wines numbered 8, and they were: a Chardonnay (Wente Morning Fog), Merlot (Sterling), Pinot Noir (Robert Mondavi), Cabernet Sauvignon (Liberty School), a Syrah (Cline) and a Shiraz (R.H. Philips) - a majority spotted the difference - and two Zinfandels (organic vs. regular - the organic [Bonterra] won over everyone’s taste-buds). And despite tasting, and polishing off, the 8 bottles of wine from the honoured country, the real winner of the night was not from our neighbours to the south, it was from Portugal.

Upon his arrival, a gentleman by the name of Roger handed me a bag and said, “this is for opening tonight.” As I peeked into the bag I saw a block of Stilton cheese and his proclaimed ‘last bottle’ of Warre’s 1982 Late Bottled Vintage Port (bottled in 1986). “Damn right it’s to be opened”, I thought to myself. After dinner I was given the honour. I unwrapped two capsules from the neck (one block, one blue) to discover a fuzzy mold laden cork underneath. The corkscrew sunk in effortlessly. When it was finally removed (without any kind of pop at all, more like a whimper) I noticed the cork was soft but mainly intact (a bit had crumbled away near the bottom); the wine had seeped up to the top on two sides - aiding the molding and softening of the seal. When poured the wine was almost the colour of a 10-year-old tawny (maybe a little more on the red side than brown) and had much the same smells: cherries, orange peel and candied almonds. I got sediment in the first glass I poured and there was plenty at the bottom of the bottle, which required careful pouring - especially near the end. The palate was marvelous, dried-candied cherries, hint of orange, and dark cocoa with nutty nuances; the acidity and tannins said another 10 years of age would have been no problem … and yet it had a smoothness and richness through the mouth that was indescribable to someone who was not at the tasting (or to someone who has not tasted something similar). Interest in trying this piece of history was high, especially amongst the men (some things never change: men and port after a get together, all we needed were cigars in the study). My thanks to Roger for this 27-year-old taste treat. Next year’s Pine Island tasting is Italy, and I’m already looking forward to what Roger will pull out of his cellar.

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