Today’s Story: Dow’s Port
Dow’s is one of the most highly-regarded producers of Port, with the family-owned house tracing its roots back to the year 1798. Bruno da Silva, who was a Portuguese merchant from Oporto, moved to London and created a wine importing business concentrated on the Port trade from his native land. He quickly rose to prominence both for his business acumen and the quality of his wines, however the Napoleonic Wars threatened to cut off the crucial trade routes for his Port. Not one to face defeat, Bruno applied for the right to arm his ships with guns and cannons to fend off enemies of the British Empire in the Bay of Biscay, and he was awarded the opportunity so his business could continue to flourish.
Bruno’s son, John da Silva, later joined the family business and proved himself to be equally savvy. In 1862, John forged a partnership with Frederick William Cosens and re-established their Port trading business as Silva & Cosens. Over time, as the business continued to prosper, the duo was joined by George Acheson Warre whose family had been a critical player in the Port trade since its earliest days. George helped lead Silva & Cosens to even more success in Portugal itself, and the team later merged with Dow & Co. in 1877. James Ramsay Dow, who ran Dow & Co. at the time, was highly regarded for his exceptional vintage Ports even though he wasn’t the largest house. Due to this reputation, when Silva & Cosens merged with Dow & Co. they chose to keep the entire company under the Dow name.
Dow’s experienced decades more of continued success under this partnership, growing into one of the most important names in Port that continues to this day. In 1912, though, Andrew James Symington held a partner position in Warre & Co. and, while the Warre family maintained a majority ownership in Dow’s, he was propositioned to take over Dow’s operations in Portugal to allow George A. Warre to return to London. At this time Andrew James Symington received a 30% stake in Dow’s, while he traded shares in Warre & Co. to George A. Warre. For nearly half a century, the Port trade continued to blossom as the Symington family managed the vineyards in Portugal and the Warre family managed the sales and import business, though the Symington family purchased full control of Dow’s in 1961. The Symington family maintains ownership of Dow’s to this day, alongside their other producers including Graham’s, Warre’s, and Cockburn’s.
Today’s Wine: 1985 Vintage Port
Blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, and Vinha Velha; 20% ABV
The 1985 Vintage Port is deep purple in color and nearly black at its core. Appearance here is quite youthful considering the age. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose offering up classic notes of plum, crème de cassis, blackberry compote, dried cherry, fig, brown sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, and the palate showcases a similar profile of plum, raisin, dried cherry, fig, cassis, mint, grilled herbs, caramel, and chocolate. This sweet wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. A very good Port showing quite well for its age, but overall nothing mind-blowing.
Price: $115. Given the age of this bottling and how well it showed on this occasion, I think this is a pretty solid price to give it a try. I will say, however, that I think you need to be cautious about provenance if you decide to purchase a bottle. This bottling came from remarkable provenance and sounds like it showed better than others who recently enjoyed it.