The first Monday in November is always Portvinsfestival in Copenhagen, arranged by Henrik Oldenborg. Dominic Symington was invited to do a tasting of Vintages that has been part of his story at the family company. He had chosen different quintas from the family, to show the lovely diversity of the group.
Dominic Symington has been part of the Symington Family Estates leadership for decades. A fantastic man that has painted the Portwine world for us #Portlovers. Traveling around the world promoting these lovely wines and being part of a very important time in history for Port. Was in the company when the great 1994 vintage opened the doors to the huge US market. Has taken care of Quinta do Vesuvio for the family and worked with brothers and cousins for many years. This year Dominic Symington will retire because he is turning 65 – that is family rules. I had the pleasure of doing an Instagram LIVE with him, just before he stopped. You can see this session at RareWine Instagram
We had a very hyggelig afternoon with a focus on the good wines, more than looking for faults in beautiful paintings. What a pleasure to participate in this. All wines were shipped from the cellars directly to this tasing, so perfect provenance. Here are my notes, taken during the tasting. Ratings are used also to put the wines in perspective.
1963 Dow’s Vintage Port
Dominic was only there as a small child of 7 years. Mythical year in that century. First time and year he saw snow. Last year where Dow’s was 100 % foot trodden.
Lots of nuttiness, walnuts and dried figs. Very intense, build on fresh orange and seems already on the nose very elegant. Strong palate with deep black fruit, schist and long finish. Working in so many nice directions. Dancing around with a lightness and still complex. Finesse on the grand scale. 97
1970 Graham’s Vintage Port
The reason is that this is the year Graham’s was bought from the Graham’s family. The first vintage produced by Symington group. Made by uncle James and cousin Peter and Dominic’s father.
Deep color and huge depth. Sweet dried fruit, figs, and marmalade on the nose. Dark chocolate and tar. Developing some balsamic notes. Still seems very young. Sweet black cherry and many layers. Rich and very giving wine where sweet fruit comes out of the glass. Nice structure with soft tannins. Seems very young and still very intense. Fine balance with red fruit and small minty tone. Long finish. 95
1977 Dow’s Vintage Port
First vintage with small influence from Dominic, working a bit in the winery to learn at Bomfim. Three weeks of hard work. Did not evolve for the first 20 years but is beginning to open up.
Relatively light color. The nose is tobacco and forest floor, going in direction of more dry tertiary aromas. A bit shy in the glass with nuts as well. Soft on the palate where almost tawny-like characters come into play. Soft milk chocolate and a balanced style with fresh fruit. Not a big wine, but elegant and has a long finish. 94 may be a bit more for a tawny-lover like me.
1980 Warre’s Vintage Port
Cinderella vintage that nobody talked about. A great vineyard that stands out and coming from Cavadinha alone. Fathers favorite from this vintage.
Deep and very intense with the color going all the way to the rim. Very tight nose with lots of black fruit. Bit moldy bottle that also shows on the palate. A bit bitter with a very tight style. NR
1985 Graham’s Vintage Port
Three faces of maturity. Primary fresh ripe, secondary more cooked, the third stage is the more developed tertiary aromas. This 85 is in the second part. Still very concentrated, but prune coming to the wine.
Black almost, with a small orange rim. Deep on the nose, prune and black plums with huge intensity. Working with intense wet stone and wet forest floor. The primary fruit is standing in line and is still part of the picture. Powerful and intense on the palate, but already open and fresh mint. Works around the palate with sweet plum and just a long working finish. Complex and deep, with many layers. 95
1994 Quinta do Vesuvio, Vintage Port
“Close to my heart” woke up most of the wine world back to a commercial aspect. This was the vintage the American market started buying and drinking too early. Vesuvio is special because this is “my” wine. The Quinta that Dominic is responsible for. Bought in 1989 from Ferreira.
Brown and a bit muddy with a very open nose. Aromas going with sweet strawberry and kirsch. A bit stewed fruit and candy-like. Fruit is in many layers and not finally put in place. Palate is balanced and the fruit is fantastic. The wine is opened up and shows red + black fruit with some dried herbs and wet stone. The finish is long but the tannins make the wine a bit more dry on the finish. 94
1995 Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha, Vintage Port
The vintage that should have been declared. At this time it was still a tradition to NOT declare back-to-back vintages. Standing in the shadow of 1994. High and east-facing vineyard.
Garnet color and not the most giving wine. Red fruit coming out of the glass. Opening up with herbs and a sweet style. Well balanced and lingering on the palate with huge charm. Some black fruit and stone, but fine freshness that keeps the wine working. More fresh red fruit comes on the finish in a very elegant way. Not with broad shoulders. A bit of caramel and raisins to finish this. 91
2000 Warre’s Vintage Port
A year that was relatively hot and where everything went smooth and easy in the vineyards. A lot of steady and good vintage ports on the market.
Dark, almost purple edge – surprisingly young to look at. Nose with some paint and nice fruit intensity. Black cherry and sweet raspberry in combination, tobacco and freshly roasted coffee in the picture as well. A bit shy, not just jumping out of the glass. Powerful palate with huge intensity and the fruit just explodes from different depths, first black fruit, then the red fruit coming and the minerality adding extra complexity. Raisins without being clumsy, fresh but still deep. Soft and easygoing wine, with some acidity. Still, not a ready wine and will develop for a long time. 90 points
2007 Dow’s Vintage Port
A huge wine, that got a lot of attention. 10 points from Wine Spectator. A wine that tells a fantastic story.
Now deep purple color with huge intensity. A very intense nose with black stones, black plum and really claiming your attention! A great nose, a wine you could just sniff for hours. Great palate, where acidity is the keyword for me. So much intensity and packed fruit profile, but the acidity add the fresh element. This just keeps working on the palate. Intense with broad shoulders and good grippy tannins, that still turns into a dry wine at the end. Lovely balance where so many elements came into place: chocolate, dark fruit, mint, and the first tertiary aromas. 97 points.
2011 Cockburn’s Vintage Port
The year Cockburn’s was bought by Symington Group also as a brand. The wine was made since 2006 with the family. 2011 was the first year solely produced by Symington’s.
Dark chocolate jumps out of the glass, seems a bit unfocused. The fruit is a bit overripe and floral notes are dominant with raisins. The palate is heavy and has lots of ripe dark fruit. Plums and dark chocolate go hand in hand with sweet tannins. And easy wine, that is surprisingly open in my opinion. 90
2011 Dow’s Vintage Port
First on Wine Spectator top 100. The world exploded! Much more attention in the vineyard, more attention to maturity of each small parcel. Not just picking the vineyard but looking at each terrace.
Smack on the nose where crushed stone is the main element. Behind this are black fruit and huge intensity. The palate is amazing and so fine in style. The fruit opens up much more and just gives so much. This is dark chocolate, fresh red fruit, and minerals. Not much of the raisins, much more fresh mintiness that keeps the wine hanging in the mouth for a long time. This is amazing. Should/could this be closed? It is not closed, this is jumping out of the glass. Especially the palate is amazing. Wow wine! 98 points
2017 Graham’s Vintage Port
“From my little journey in port, this is the last declared vintage I have been part of” Dominic Symington.
Open nose with sweet plums and nice floral aromas playing along. Complex layers but somehow this seems like a constructed wine, where each element has been placed carefully on the shelf. Is it good? YES, it is very good! Huge intensity on the palate where everything is still packed into tannins and strong fruit. Such a young wine and absolutely not ready. A monster in the making. Fun to see how things are not really melted together but are standing side by side. 96+ but will develop so much more.
Thank you to Henrik Oldenborg for the invitation and to Dominic Symington for all the great wines.