An Alsace VT, and a Portuguese Vp

2001 Louis Sipp Kirchberg de Ribeauville  (grand Cru) Pinot Gris (vendanges tardive) 12.5%
Alsace provides disproportionate disappointments caused by cork- oxidation and TCA. The discard rate should make anyone extremely wary. When the wines behave as intended they can be magnificent (the 1990 Trimbach Clos st Hune Riesling garnered a perfect score from me once; a second bottle a few years later was almost as memorable, and I have tasted awesome bottles from Josmeyer and Zind-Humbrecht).

This Louis Sipp wine was a final gamble– a bottle tried a few months ago was oxidised to undrinkability. Pinot Gris is a low acid, “quiet”  variety (undistinguished in Australia), but if aiming at the “gris style” with sensitivity, ripeness and some residual sugar, it can be a surprisingly adept partner with fish. Obtaining texture without phenolics being too overt is the winemaking key; alcohol, residual sugar and winemaking finesses are important.

2001 louis sipp pg vt

Vendanges tardive indicates late harvest, but the residual sugar level – moderate but an easily discernible amount- is unknown. The wine is golden in colour, displaying tropical notes of pear, baked apple, mango, honey, spice, and glace fruits. The palate is drying out, but still exerts attractive grapey sultana character, mandarine, yellow peach and mixed spices to wrap it up.

Better a few years ago, but a decent, well-chilled bottle will provide considerable enjoyment

Drink now (or via time machine a few years ago), 89 points.

1980 Warre’s Vintage Port 20%
Served blind, and a translucent brick colour, this wine exhibits mocha, almond, vibrancy and is relatively dry for the style; then fig and rose-petal emerge. Uniformly identified as Portuguese by commentators at the table, Warres was the house deemed likely. Its age was assumed as a declared but “lesser” year. This wine is a further triumph for 1980, showing a winning combination of life and mellowness ,with a wholesome, lingering palate.

Drink to 2030, and 92 points.

Assorted recent drinks

1979 DF vp2008 dow's lbvp 1970 warre's vp

David Franz AD 1979 Vintage Port 17.4%
Its terrific to see a 37-year-old fortified wine from South Australia. Made by Peter Lehmann, and tidied up and recorked by son David Franz; Barossa Shiraz with some Langhorne Creek Cab Sav.

The colour is a dark brick, and there is plenty of richness and softness, but also vitality. Mocha, liquorice, cardamon, orange rind, with a dash of camphor lift. Clean brandy spirit, plus figgy, dark caramel flavours, dried fruits and not nuttiness. The wine is not overblown, its gentle and reflective; a lovely piece of history that drinks compellingly.

Some people may prefer less bottle development, but this is a tribute to Barossa fruit longevity, its maker, sourcing and survival. And it may still be available in a few places for around $50. All up, a very welcome experience

Drink to 2020, 88 points

2008 Dow ‘s LBV (late-bottled vintage port) 20%
I don’t taste many of this style; more mellow than a vintage port, and substantially cheaper, these are bottled between 4 and 6 years after harvest, They are a “nearly” vintage port, with the decision on the style happening early. There are filtered and unfiltered versions, some sealed with a stopper, and debate about whether the wines can improve in bottle. An excellent discussion is on Roy Hersh’s (mostly paid) site.

Dense and cloudy,  light ruby/mahogany colour. Ripe dark cherry and slightly raw oak. Silky ripe mouthfeel, plum and light red liquorice flavours,  clean bright spirit. Brisk, and tastes youthful. This is a wine that won’t change much and there is no advantage with further cellaring.

Drink now, 89 points

1970 Warre’s Vintage Port
Decanted, due to a vast amount of sediment. We learned that this bottle had less than stellar cellaring conditions. Pale ruby in colour, the notes of almond meal, putty, mocha and rose-petal were sufficient to sway me to its Portuguese origins. Spirit looked plain, and a bit awkward, but the other characteristics offset this. The wine was quite sweet,  with dark jam and fig elements. Rich, but with energy and just a superfine sustained palate. A terrific year for VP’s though; the wine was consumed with gusto and hugely appreciated. A generous piece of history.

Drink to 2030, 93 points, and potentially other bottles will be better..

10 decades of (Portuguese) Vintage Port

This turned out to be extremely educational about the longevity of this style. 10 different houses, and some great comments from the organisers and a contingent of winemakers from Rutherglen. Certainly its unusual for me try more than one VP at a session. Far from easy task locate these, and we suffer in Australia from vagaries of shipping and storage. All wines were decanted for about 3 hours, and we’re looking at single bottles as they were on the night. The oldest Portuguese VP I recall is the wonderful 1970 Fonseca, with the oldest Australian versions I’ve tried include a 1956 Hardy and a 1957 Lindemans. An observation  was made at the tasting that Australia was intent on moving to a drier, more Portuguese style with greater use of Portuguese grape varieties (rather than our traditional Shiraz). There was less agreement of whether the Portuguese had made any concessions to early drinking or more approachable VP’s.

As it happened the 3 oldest wines fared brilliantly. I had feared they might be historical curios, but they were defiantly truly alive.

2012 Quinta do Noval

Not many declared 2012 especially since 2011 turned out so well.

Dense red black with purple tints; this is highly perfumed and floral – blueberry and violets and black fruits. It surprisingly approachable, but the tannins are very fine and persistent. Red liquorice and some headsy spirit. But not the magic of 2011. Score 93+, but no doubt this will live longer than I suspect.

2000 Croft

Slightly murky colour, Slightly grubby bouquet with some cough syrup and cocoa; palate is better. The spirit holds this together, and kicks in vigorously at the finish. Score 90

1997 Fonseca

Medium red, spices, grainy tannins, sweeter style on the palate. Score 91

1983 Taylor’s

Clear ruby colour, with some floor-polish aromas, seems pretty straightforward on the palate. Score 91

1977 Grahams

Clear pale ruby. Lots of rose petal, toffee/coffee/ jersey caramel. Brisk with spirit making a terrific contribution. Graham is reputed as a sweeter style, but its not out of place. Lovely now but will keep for a long time yet, such is its balance. Score 95

1960 Warres

Looking forward to this, but TCA has made an unwelcome appearance. Kept for 55 years and ruined by cork taint.

1955 Cockburn

This was also ruined, but whether oxidation or other issues was debated by the group. Certainly faulty.

1947 Delaforce

Ruby colour with some orange tints. Starting to look like an old tokay. Citrus peel and salted mixed nuts, spirit a bit hot, but lovely drinking. Score 94

1935 Sandeman’s

Ruby colour, dried fruits and plums, vanilla, and toffee. Fleshy, subtle, singing. Score 94

1927 Dow’s

Amber colour; scents of green olive, orange peel and chocolate covered peanuts (one of my favourite indulgences). Could drink this all night. Score 96