The Symington name is synonymous with port as the family business owns the biggest names in the category including Warre’s, Dow’s, and Graham’s. James revolutionized port production for the family – personally responsible for the Dow’s and Warre’s 1966 and 1970, two top Port vintages of the 20th century, as well as the lauded 1970 vintage Port at Graham’s.
Perhaps more important was his work to put port back on the international map which helped a region largely destroyed by World War II recover economically. He will be sorely missed.
Much like the prized vintages above – the 2017 Warre’s Vintage Port is one for the ages. It’s the first time since 1880 that two back to back vintages had been declared. Some in the family – even said it couldn’t, it shouldn’t be done but once the wines were tasted there was no denying the declaration.
2017 Yields were drastically down and harvest was the earliest that anyone in the family remembers. The wines are concentrated and massive and with the best ‘grip’ of a generation. Those who are old enough to remember are likening the Symington 2017’s to the legendary 1945s.
That may be up for debate – what’s not is that this is the best Symington vintage in nearly 50 years and the raters have not been shy. 98 points from Port authority Decanter and a matching 98 from James Suckling. 97 from the Wine Spectator and 96 from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
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98 Points, Decanter
Based on fruit from Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley, as well as Quinta do Retiro in the Torto and Quinta da Telhada upstream in the Douro Superior, this is mostly a field-blend from old vines backed by Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. It has lovely open floral aromas, so fresh and aromatic, with a touch of green tea leaf. In the mouth it has an underlying dark chocolate concentration with wonderfully pure, sweet plum and wild cherry fruit, backed by fine-grained tannins. It’s wonderfully fresh and lithe, with an expansive finish and near-perfect poise.
98 Points, James Suckling
Loads of wet earth and grape aromas with hints of stems. Old vine aromas of bark and moss. Full-bodied, sweet and structured with a big kick on the end. Very impressive. Exceptional layers of fruit and energy. A stronger and more muscular Warre.
97 Points, Wine Spectator
Lush and inviting in feel, with a beautifully creamy texture that lets plum sauce, blueberry reduction and raspberry pâte de fruit flavors glide along effortlessly. Notes of violet, anise and black tea are beguiling in the background before melding seamlessly on the finish. This shimmers with fruit, balanced by depth and spine. Best from 2035 through 2055.
96 Points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Relatively accessible, this still shows some impressive firmness to go with its fine concentration. An elegant wine this may be, as Charles Symington called it, but it is still admirable for its structure, even if the whole package is a little understated. Its fruit and mid-palate are nicely supported by moderate tannins. It evolves well with air, easily showing vivid and fresh fruit. It is beautifully textured as well. This is a fine Warre’s Port, holding its own next to Dow, better than the 2016 Warre and a force in its own right. It is one of the best in a while. It is relatively accessible but not ready.