Fine Living | Need To Now

A vintage port with a benevolent flavour

Military charities will benefit from this limited-edition vintage port

A vintage port with a benevolent flavour

October 18 2011
John Stimpfig

Earlier this year, there was something of a split decision from the leading port houses over whether to declare the 2009 port vintage. The Taylor Fladgate Partnership boldly declared for Fonseca, Taylors and Croft. But the Symington Group declined to do so for Graham’s, Dow’s and Smith Woodhouse. According to Paul Symington, managing director of the eponymous port shipper, the weather was just too hot to make truly great vintage port.

Time will tell who was right. But the Symingtons have at least declared one very special vintage port – the 2009 Warre’s – to mark a unique and very special bicentenary.

In 1809, one Captain William Warre, aged just 25, was serving under Wellington in the Peninsular war when he courageously led an action to cut off the escape route of the French army. Subsequently, Warre’s valour was recognised by the Portuguese monarch, who decorated him with the country’s highest military honour, the Order of São Bento d’Aviz.

To commemorate such personal gallantry and the freeing of William’s native Oporto, just 500 cases of the 2009 Warre’s have just gone on sale. Not only that, the Symmington Group has decided to donate a significant part of the proceeds to military charities in the UK (Help for Heroes) and Portugal (Liga dos Combatentes). “We’ll be giving £4 per bottle or £48 per case to the charities. So I hope to hand over cheques for at least £20,000,” says Paul Symington.

Is this declaration a case of the heart ruling the head? Having tasted the port, I can assure port aficionados that the end result is a sublimely balanced, elegant and concentrated vintage port, well worthy of the Warre’s name.

One of the reasons Warre’s, in particular, has done so well in 2009 is because most of the wine comes from the lofty Quinta da Cavadinha, whose altitude mitigated the fierce Douro temperatures experienced by the lower riverside vineyards. Paul Symington believes that “the wine will give a lot of pleasure and hopefully raise a significant sum for two very deserving charities”.