December 20, 2012

Port and the Douro by Richard Mayson

By In Drink Books
port and the douro by Richard Mayson
I’ve a single bottle of port remaining in the cellar. When I say cellar, any visions you have of extensive cobweb lined, dust encrusted racks of shelving should be replaced by thoughts of a wooden box at the end of the bed…

But in said box is a single bottle of Dows 1991. Not a clue on how much I paid for it, when or where I got it. But it is one of the longest residence of the big box so I am guessing its acquisition occurred not long after general release, so the early 90’s.

With the port drinking season upon us thoughts of drinking it are upper most. Is it going to be any good? Sure, it is from one of the main-stream producers, part of the Symington Family Estates, but what about the vintage as a whole?

“Dow Ports are made in a slightly drier style than most. In some years the wines can verge on austere with a rather bony structure showing through. This is not to denigrate them in any way, for Dow’s vintage Ports are among my personal favourites. In ripe years like 2003, 2000, 1994, 1970, 1966 and 1963 the wines have tremendous appeal with a cast-iron tannic backbone offset by intense concentrated fruit, Dow also performs exceptionally well in lesser years like 1980 and 1975…” Richard Mayson Port and the Douro

And what does this newly updated book have to say on the vintage itself? Ummm, not so good it would seem…

1991: After six years without a vintage, the shippers were eager for a declaration. Growing conditions were good: a wet winter was followed by a settled, dry spring and a hot summer with very high temperatures at the end of August and early September… When picking began, very high ambient temperatures presented problems for those without adequate control. This has subsequently showed up in some of the wines… The grapes tended to be small with little juice and at the outset the wines seemed deep and well- structured with tannic backbone and grip”

“The market for Port was strong at the time, especially in the US which brought more vintage Port than the UK for the first time in history. Given the American penchant for drinking vintage Port young, most 1991s have probably been drunk by now. This is al to the good because many of the wines have turned out to be rather soft and early maturing, some marked by a hot, raisiny character. All the 199’s are ready to drink and some are already falling apart”.

In light of Maysons info it would appear my Dow 1991 is soon to be consumed!

The third edition of Port and the Douro by Richard Mayson is full of such facts. I’m still reading my review copy but if you need to know anything at al about port – the grapes, the producers, the long history of the region, pests and diseases, sustainable viticulture, and so on in addition to vintage details and comprehensive producer details this is the book to have at hand.

“Richard Mayson is a champion of a wine culture and a fresh and authoritative voice in wine literature” Hugh Johnson
In the new edition Richard Mayson casts a knowledgeable and critical eye over one of the world’s greatest fortified wines. The comprehensively updated book includes:
• New information on the cultivation of the Douro’s vineyards;
• Tasting notes on vintages, which have been reappraised to bring them up-to-date;
• A comprehensive directory of Port producers and shippers;
• A new final chapter focusing on challenges and changes that might affect Port and the Douro in the future;
• An entire chapter dedicated to vintage Port, which includes harvests as recent as 2011 and information on vintages back to 1844;

This completely updated edition of Port and the Douro provides a comprehensive study of port and its production, making it an indispensable reference guide to the world’s greatest fortified wine.”

Port and the Douro (Infinite Ideas Classic Wine)is currently listed by Amazon for £25.50.

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