Deep brown-ruby color; vivid butterscotch, honeysuckle, caramel, nuttiness on the nose; dried cherry, butterscotch, hazelnut, walnuts, raisins, fig on the palate.
Sweet—126 grams of residual sugar—with caramelized sugar taste. Mouth-pleasuring full body. Significant complexity and depth. Purely deliciousness. Some chewy tannins. Exciting finish that includes cameo appearance of chocolate. Oh, my, be still my heart, very nice ride.
Tawny ports are made with red grapes, then aged in oak barrels that expose them to oxidation and evaporation. The oxidation delivers nutty flavors. The evaporation concentrates flavors—in 20-year Porto, one-third of the original wine evaporates. That which is lost is called the “angels share”, the same process in long-aged spirits and Madeira, and the reason for the cost. And the reason such efforts so pleasure your palate, your whole body; 20% ABV.
Now, there is expense. On the plus side, a serving of Porto is only a few ounces and, when stored appropriately—away from light, around 55º F—this 750 ml bottle of wine can last for six months or more and is very likely to improve as it ages after opening. Think about that—a wine that gets better long after you open it.
At this price around $50-plus, this is Porto bargain. Really premier tawny Portos sell for $1,200-$7,000. For an added kicker, various sources estimate it will improve past 2050. Welcome to the long game of Porto. Classic style from premier maker. Wonderfully balanced. The Symington family dominates Porto and Madeira production in Portugal because they are so good at it.
Andrew James Symington became a partner in Dow’s in 1912. In 1970, the family bought both major Porto makers Graham’s and Smith Woodhouse. In 1989 the family became a partner in the Madeira Wine Company, at that time controlled by the Blandy family. They now control Cockburn’s, Graham’s, Warre’s, Dow’s, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell, Quarles Harris, and Martinez—by far the strongest Porto portfolio in the world. They have the largest vineyard ownership in the Douro.
Dow’s 20 Year Tawny Porto is round, long, delicious—an exemplar of quality tawny Porto. Many consider 20 years the perfect age for tawny; every wine drinker should enjoy a pour of this delight. You likely will ask for more. This is liquid dessert with the complexity and sweetness to pair with many dessert dishes. Impressive on several levels. Decadence at its best. Serve chilled around 55º F. Pair with blue Stilton cheese; dried fruits, fruit tarts, nuts, fruitcake, vanilla ice cream, crème brûlée, flan. $50-65