Certain wines rise above the masses of even the top bottlings, and achieve a sort of legendary status. Even casual wine-lovers are familiar with these: Cheval Blanc 1947, Haut-Brion 1961, Lafite 1982. These are the wines against which most others are measured, and the pleasure they deliver and the status they have attained often work in tandem to justify both their reputation and their price.
Last week, toward the end of a dinner I was privileged enough to enjoy in the Douro Valley with Rupert Symington and 6 colleagues at his Quinta do Bomfim, I had the opportunity to taste one such totemic wine: Dow’s 1963 Vintage Port.
I’ve tasted this wine before, and have always loved it. But this one was different: It had come directly from Rupert’s cellar, and it was a magnum, and it was enjoyed in situ, which always seems to make a wine that much more profound. Nighttime had fallen, the bottle, casually as you could imagine, was passed around the open-centered circular table, and the light from the house, all warm and cozy, hovered in the distance.
It was astounding--the kind of wine that shifts what you think grape juice is capable of doing. At nearly 50 years of age, it still shone with a remarkable freshness, its fruit still expressing itself beautifully and with real persistence, as well as distinctive spice, menthol, and anise notes, all carried on a texture that glided across the tongue. On its own it would have been a remarkable treat--a wine of a lifetime--but it was rendered even more profound given the entirety of the experience: Poured with new friends, in a gorgeous setting, and following a remarkable meal, not to mention a boat ride to the Quinta beforehand.
At the risk of peddling in overwrought prose, I’d have to say that, if wine is all about joy, than this one was worthy of every note of the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. What a treat. Many, many thanks to Rupert Symington, the IVDP, and my colleagues on the trip who made the popping of this particular cork one that I’ll remember forever.