A Toast To the Queen with Dow’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port

This past week has been filled with such ceremony as the UK and the world prepare to salute Queen Elizabeth for the last time on Monday. While not a monarchist per se, I do admire the Queen’s dedication to service and her steadfastness through everything. Before she passed away last week, I had noticed this last picture of her in her skirt welcoming the new Prime Minister and thought to myself what an incredible woman. Perhaps that is what stays with me, that she was a woman who served for 70 years as the Queen. She saw so much during her lifetime and met so many. While she loved Scotland, I am toasting her not with a Scotch whisky but with a glass of Tawny Port from Dow, something equally British. Over the weekend, I will have a Dubonnet which I believe was her drink of choice.

This bottle of 20 year old Port was sent to me last year as a sample. I brought it out finally to salute the Queen. I had brought it to the beach this summer but hadn’t yet opened it. This week seemed fitting. Perfect for a toast, this 20 year old retails for $67 and comes from Dow’s which is run by the Symington family, now on its fourth and fifth generation in the business. Their 100 years of experience shows. The family which originally hailed from Scotland joined a historic business that had been run by other families who eventually sold all remaining shares to the Symington family. Today on their fourth and fifth generation, they are both very traditional and open to change. The vineyards and quintas are located in the Upper Douro Valley and the wines here were always made by foot treading. The family introduced robotic treading machines, combining tradition with technology.

This port from the Douro is a classic example of what a port can be. The grapes are from some of their most well-known Quintas Senhora da Ribeira and Bomfin, They use large oak vats to age their ports along with traditional pipes (barrels).

Tawny port which I discovered is the port to drink comes about through gradual aging and contact with air thanks to permeable wood. I wasn’t a Tawny port drinker myself until 2016. Sure I had heard of it but I didn’t know enough about it to become as entranced and interested in it as I became after a trip to the Douro Valley in September 2016. I wrote an article about Tawny port here.

This 20 year old is rich and intense but not overpowering. It’s full of life, has great depth of flavor, and good acidity so it is not cloying. Aromas and flavors of nuts, sweet spice, and caramel along with a slight note of char come through on the nose and the palate. This port is complex and persistent, steadfast and enduring, much like she was.

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