From $24.99 and £16.99 (until midnight on Monday)
Tomorrow I'll be publishing the dry white wines that make up my Top 100+. They were pretty difficult to whittle down to just 25 to fit into the space allowed by The Financial Times, but it is the final instalment, the strong and sweet wine collection to be published a week tomorrow, that was most challenging to squeeze down to 25. This is because fortified and sweet wines are so unfashionable that they tend to be ridiculously underpriced - especially in British supermarkets, which are notorious for driving a hard bargain.
As pointed out on our Members' forum, Waitrose in the UK, which has long had one of the best wine collections of the big British retailers, is currently offering everyone a code that will take 15% off all wines bought online from Waitrose Wine Direct until midnight on Monday. And those who have signed up for their myWaitrose loyalty scheme are being offered a total discount of 25%, bringing the price of Warre's, Bottle Aged LBV 2001 port down to £14.99, almost laughably little for a wine that tastes remarkably like a vintage port.
LBV, standing for Late Bottled Vintage, is a term applied to two sorts of wines, but this is the superior one (see our guide to port in our free Instant expert section). While vintage port has to be from a specially 'declared' year, is bottled before it is three years old and is designed for very extended ageing in bottle, a Late Bottled Vintage port is aged for rather longer in barrel before being bottled as a more evolved wine at four to six years old. The more commercial examples are filtered and fined so that they won't throw a sediment in bottle and tend to be basically superior ruby ports. But this wine is one of the superior sort that are treated much more like a vintage port - neither filtered nor fined - so that after all the complex interactions between the polyphenols still in the wine, a sediment is formed and the wine tastes like an accelerated vintage port.
Paul Symington of the family company responsible for Warre remembers, ‘2001 was the wettest year in the last 20 years, with over 1,120 mm of rainfall in the year, the average being 770 mm. In the winter of 2001 the Douro flooded badly throughout its length, coming into the lower part of Porto and here in Gaia no less than six times over a period of a few weeks. So the 2001 has strong memories for all of us here. I remember taking my children down to the river here after school so that they could hear the roar of the flooded water. It was quite impressive. This year, our rainfall will have been about 460 mm….
‘So 2001 was a slightly above average sized harvest (the winter rains), but with very elegant wines. We made 6,800 cases of this wine, the 2001 was bottled in 2005, so has had seven years aging in bottle here in our cellars. This is the great thing about the Warre LBV. It is made in the original way; aged in seasoned oak for four years and then bottled without any fining or filtration whatsoever and left to age in bottle for several years before release. There are no short cuts to bottle aging port; it gives a velvet-like elegance to the port that is impossible to achieve any other way.’
This 20 per center was bottled in 2005 and has since developed vintage-port-like character. The 2001s followed hard on the heels of 2000, which was widely declared as a vintage, so they have been left to express their distinction in a series of great single quinta ports, the sort of port that comes from one superior wine farm, such as Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2001 (£25 Majestic) or Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos 2001 (£26.37 Sainsbury's).
The Warre's Bottle Aged LBV is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca and contains quite a portion of wine from grapes that were trodden by foot in the old granite lagares at Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha. Most of the grapes come from that high-altitude vineyard, but they are bolstered by some more concentrated grapes from their Bom Retiro vineyard in the Rio Torto Valley.
The wine is already delightfully rich and satisfying with strong Douro characteristics of liquorice and schist - although its strongest characteristic might be said to be the value it offers for a wine I scored 17.5 out of 20. There's no hurry to drink this. In fact you might even consider stocking up on it for many a future year.
In the UK it seems to be available only from Waitrose, where its regular price of £19.99 in 209 stores seems a steal to me (think how much you'd have to pay for a decent 2001 red Bordeaux). It is even easier to find, from just $24.99, in the US.