1983 Vintage Ports

1983 Vintage Ports, now over 30 years old are fully mature, so which houses have full-filled their predicted potential? We had a very enjoyable evening tasting eleven of those which declared, hosted by Alan Cutler, the Black Country’s leading authority on fortified wines, at Stourbridge’s Old Edwardian Club.

The quality of the vintage has generally been considered second to the more opulent 1985’s though this has often been disputed. It is in fact a split vintage many well known houses such as Quinta do Noval, Croft & Sandeman, preferring the potential of their 1982 vintage wines. We were lucky enough, again thanks to Alan’s dedication, to sample the 1982’s last year. There were some very good wines amongst them with a good consistency across the board, but the latter vintage showed a steeper quality curve with three or four wines showing particularly well and for me it is a considerably better vintage at this level.

The best wines are clean with good aromatic intensity, nice silky, generously fruity palates, and quite classic characteristics of violet and licorice. The words balance, harmonious and smooth were all words which I heard descriptively used by the tasters, which reflected my own feelings about the best wines, particularly Fonseca, Warre’s, Taylor’s and Graham’s, not necessarily in that order though the last wine tasted and coincidentally the overall highest scored wine was indeed Graham’s.

There were also surprisingly good bottles from Offley and Quarles Harris, and the only disappointment was that the sample of Dow was corked.


1983 Vintage Ports Tasting Notes – Will Gardener
Royal Oporto: 10/20

Nicely blush, off medium plum. Fruity with a touch of alcohol on the nose; a little smokey, slightly woody even – a touch of scotch character. Plenty of juicy fruit, spicy, peppery, light, mature, the finish is a little peculiar.


Croft: 14/20 Drink now – 2020+

This is quite pale but still not collapsing on the colour. Some toffee here, good silky palate – a little spicy and peppery. A nice grip here on the finish, not bad.


Offley: 15/20 Drink now  -2022+

This has a deep colour with dark fruits and earthy notes and a light hint of menthol on the nose. This is definitely more youthful than the other 1983’s so far. Eucalyptus and a spicy grip fanning out – not a bad surprise!


Quarles Harris: 17/20 Drink now – 2025+

A good deep purple. Quite dumb but correct, dark fruity tones with a hint of mint, ripe and clean aromas. Cool fruit on the palate here, chewy and chunky – this is very good. Great value for me, still plenty of legs.


Gould Campbell: 15/20 Drink now – 2020+

A good deep colour. Spirity with hints of chocolate, scotch and caramel. Slightly tamer than other 1983’s such as the Quarles Harris, starting to fall apart a little – but still tasty.


Cockburn: 15/20 Drink now – 2020+

This is showing some maturity now, more than most. The nose shows age too, some caramel, with nice red fruits peeking through. The palate is clean and balanced but light, not exciting me. Some heat and maybe tannin here, not convinced on this occasion.


Warre: 18/20 Drink now – 2030

Nice youthful colour with a watery rim. The nose has impact, hints of loganberry attractive for me in this company. There is structure and clarity here with good acidity, still some grip with a touch of chocolate and juicy notes. I like this a lot, its light on its feet – this has cool finesse. You can see the house style here, its all about elegance and balance.


Fonseca: 18.5/20 Drink now – 2030+

This is clear and quite pale, with good legs streaming down the side of the glass. Very slightly orange at the rim. The nose has presence, with a nice consistency, I like it. Almost salty, lots to enjoy here – round and silky. Very well balanced with an especially nice finish – delicious!


Dow – CORKED

Taylor: 18/20 Drink now – 2030+

Very bright garnet flecks here, though surprisingly the colour is still quite pale. Notes of redcurrant, and tones of orange peel, still youthful. This is seamlessly smooth and generous – similar to the Fonseca. Lovely balance and a nice breadth. Perhaps finer than the 1983 Fonseca, but not as complex.


Graham: 17/20 Drink now – 2030+

Not surprisingly, the Graham is still youthful looking. Nice and sweet on the nose, with strong hints of black cherry. This has texture, with lots of fruit generosity and richness, though it is a little monolithic compared to some. There is a good length here, and it is vivacious – however it probably lacks the finesse of the Taylors. There is still life ahead for this vintage.


1935 Graham: 18/20

Tasted blind. This is bleached and there is some brown, quite even though, through to the rim. The nose is not singing, it is a little earthy – and a touch spirity. The palate is very smooth and silky and there is generosity but also composure, even structure here. The length is definitely there, hints of elderberry, amazingly fresh with so much elegance. I guessed 1970, really surprising for the age.

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