2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port
by Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis

I’ll never forget my first wine tasting in San Francisco. I had just moved from Los Angeles as was excited to meet my peers so I put on a nice suit and pair of heels.

Rookie move number one – walking down from Nob Hill to Postrio Restaurant in Union Square and then trying to walk back up in those heels was a nightmare. Rookie move number two – not knowing that women too would flirt by rubbing their leg against mine under the table. I was the lipstick…so much to learn here. Anyway, I did stop to say hi to the bartender on the way out, and was stunned to see more than fifty Vintage Ports on the back bar. They were all available by the glass. And they were all basically spoiled.

Vintage Port is best. This is a no-brainer. But one of the biggest misconceptions out there is that Vintage Port can stay fresh for months. This is not the case at all. Rather, Vintage Ports have a shelf life of 48 hours at best. Vintage ports spend less than 2 years in barrel then go straight to bottle, where they may rest as long as seventy years. Once opened, they rapidly devour oxygen to the point of total oxidation in a very short time.

So what’s a Somm to do? Offer Vintage Port by the bottle (ideally by the half bottle) and offer Late Bottled Vintage Port by the glass, specifically the 2009 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port Douro DOC Portugal $24 (750ml), balanced and elegant with notes of blackberry, cassis, black licorice, cocoa powder, violet and sandalwood. As is inferred by the name, LBV goes to bottle late, spending 4-6 years in barrel first. While still Ruby and youthful, the slight oxidation softens the wine and accelerates fruit flavors in addition to giving it the ability to stay fresh for up to 4 weeks, especially if it is place in the beer box or fridge between services. Unlike a wine opened this long, the fruit won’t
fade. LBV also carries the prestige of “Vintage” in the name, while costing 1/4 the price.

Part of the Rupert Symington Family Estates, Dow’s is easily recognized as one of the top names in Port. Their “A” rated Quinta do Bonfim and Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira vineyards planted to Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and old mixed vines which are vinified separately on site, are the source of their vintage port. Their vintage port gets the top 6 of 45 independently fermented batches of single varietal lots – the sandalwood, cocoa powder and sandalwood components from Bonfim and the violet and mint notes from Senhora da Ribeira. Fourth generation Rupert Symington says, “After we select the 6 lots for vintage, the next 15-20 best lots go into our LBV.” Their 2011 Dow’s Vintage Port Douro DOC Portugal $82, a 99-point wine in the Wine Spectator, is made with the same fruit from the same prestigious vineyards.

Another plus for Somms and Chefs is the higher acidity and drier finish of the Dow’s LBV. While the family’s Grahams and Cockburns are sweeter, Dow’s LBV is fermented longer, so yeasts continue to consume sugar and the wine ends up drier. While still particularly appropriate for cheeses, particularly the local earthy, sharp, and aromatic Queso Serra de Estrela sheeps milk, which incorporates the peppermint and eucalyptus notes found in older ports from the
roots of the Gum Cistus or Rockrose shrub eaten by the sheep, or a strong, well-aged gouda, and chocolate – “dark chocolate with port accentuates the blue fruit, the purity of fruit,” says Symington, “and it is delicious with fudge
brownies without too much sugar,” the 2009 Dow’s LBV is ideal for blending with veal stock and sauce espagnole for a lively demi-glace, or for a port wine reduction sauce to serve over meat. Rupert suggests giving a bottle to the kitchen to play around with.

“We are taking LBV back to its roots from our 2009 going forward. Dow’s is not an LBV made in every year, only in better vintages, so there will be no 2010. As 2011 was one of the best vintages in recent years, we will release a 2011 LBV, says Symington. Their production of LBV is 15-20,000 cases, vs. 5,000 of Vintage. Together this is 10% of what Dow’s produces, and .2 percent of Douro’s total production.

2009 Dow’s LBV Port

3 ounce pour at $11.83/750 ml bottle, $1.41 cost per serving


Prestige of “Vintage” in the name

Getting a look into Vintage without the price – same
prestigious vineyards and fruit

Shelf life 2
weeks, up to 4 if refrigerated

Well-distributed and widely available despite being rare,
hand-crafted, and artisanal

© Copyright 2015 The SOMM Journal

Read our review of the 2009 Dow’s LBV Port and 2011 Vintage Port here:

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