Let’s Talk About Port
Posted on December 01 2014
Although we might be happy to drink Port at any time of year, there is no doubt that Christmas is the time when it really comes into its own. Whether for drinking on its own after a meal, with cheese, or with dessert, Port is a versatile and warming style of fortified wine. With various styles of Port available, it can be difficult to know which to choose, but our brief guide to the different styles of Port is here to help!
Late Bottled Vintage
Late bottled vintage Ports are designed to be easy-drinking and accessible. They are made from wines of a single year, and aged for around four to six in large oak casks. The oak imparts minimal flavour, and the ageing mellows the wine allowing it to be open and expressive. The majority of late bottled vintage Ports are fined and filtered and so don’t need to be decanted. They are great with a cheese board, particularly mature, hard cheeses and with Christmas pudding.
This is perhaps the ultimate expression of Port. Producers decide based on the character and quality of the year whether they will ‘declare’ a vintage – only choosing the best, most successful years to make a full vintage Port. The best grapes from the house’s best estates are chosen to make the blend, which is then aged in large oak barrels for up to two years. The wines are then bottled without any further processing, and destined to do the majority of their maturation in bottle. Vintage Ports can age for many decades, mellowing and gaining complexity over time. These wines will need decanting as a significant amount of sediment can develop in the bottle as the wine matures. Save these for drinking with the best cheeses, or for lingering over after a meal.
Single Quinta Vintage
In years that are not quite successful enough for a producer to declare a ‘full’ vintage, many of their individual estates (or ‘quintas’) can still produce excellent wines. The producer can therefore choose to make a vintage Port from a single estate and a single year. These wines can be phenomenally good value, and give an insight into the character of the different estates in a particular producer’s stable. As they are made in the same way as vintage Ports, single quinta vintage Ports also require decanting and are great for drinking on any occasion when you would drink a vintage.
Tawny Ports are made from a blend of wines that are aged in wood for a prolonged period of time. Over time the wines are gradually exposed to oxygen and evaporation, producing a nutty, raisiny character and developing a golden brown or ‘tawny’ colour. The best tawny Ports carry an indication of the average age of the wine in the bottle from 10 up to 40 years. These are particularly good with blue cheese, or try them with your Christmas nut selection.
White Port is made from white grapes, and ranges from quite dry to very sweet in character. This can be an interesting and delicious aperitif on its own, or try it blended with tonic to create a refreshing ‘Portonic’ cocktail!
Alex’s Recommended Wines to Try
Quinta de la Rosa Late Bottled Vintage 2010
Churchills Quinta da Agua Alta Single Quinta Vintage 1995/ or 1996
Churchills Vintage 1997
Quinta de la Rosa ‘Tonel 12’ Tawny
Churchills Dry White Port