Pulled from the cellar on 19 March 2021, this exercise constituted my latest effort to acquire a taste for Niepoort vintage ports. Like any port drinker worthy of the faith, I professed undying fealty to Niepoort colheitas some years ago, at my first step on the road to Damascus.
It is my understanding that Niepoort vintage ports from the 1980s tend, even within a given year, to be unequal in their quality. This particular exemplar, whilst quite good on the whole, served to illustrate the point.
The wine’s appearance in the glass was akin to the darkest amber, featuring an opaque core and a clear rim. The nose was not disagreeable, though it was understated from the moment that the bottle was decanted until the first sip, seven hours later. My olfactory nerve could find only hints of moss, mushroom and nutmeg. The nose was not so much unpleasant as it was absent. In the event, the palate was rather enjoyable. On entry, blood honey, cherry and dark chocolate were all in evidence, giving way to cinnamon, unripe fig and a gentle orange marmalade. By the time that the said marmalade had reached the back, it was more akin to a sharp orange zest. The finish proved to be of impressive length; it enveloped quickly the entirety of the face as well as the brain with still more cinnamon and zest.
The mid-level sweetness of this port was addressed by a touch of volatile acidity - an agreeable (to me) feature of Niepoort’s older tawnies. The few drying tannins discernible only at the finish pointed to a wine which is nearing its peak. Once it reaches the latter, I shall be interested to see if the nose comes around. The Niepoorts of the 1980s being what they are, anything is possible; that is, one might find a bottle from the same case showing a magnificent bouquet just at the point that the palate has fallen off a cliff. As such, one can proceed only bottle by bottle, hoping for the best. And at the prices which Niepoort vintage ports from the 1980s command on the secondary market, such promise strikes me as lacking.
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