November 18, 2016
Port is one of the most iconic fortified wines in the world. From the Douro Valley in Portugal (where it takes its name) there are a whole variety of different Ports to be discovered. Whilst there are over 100 grape varieties that are authorised to make Port, the top 5 that are most widely used are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão. Like many wines, the grapes for making Port are picked by hand, a slight difference however is that they are crushed by foot. Despite being very labour intensive, this treading method is the best way to achieve gentle yet complete extraction. The wine is then fortified and made into Port, through the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as ‘aguardente’; utilised in order to stop fermentation and retaine the residual sugar in the wine, and increase the alcoholic content.
Ruby Port, named after its bright ruby colour, is fruity and youthful with only 2-3 years ageing in barrel before bottling. After bottling, this wine can be enjoyed straight away with no further ageing required. Ruby Ports are relatively inexpensive, easy drinking with ripe berry flavours and pair well with a variety of different foods. Serve slightly chilled on its own or pair with berry desserts, chocolate or blue cheese.
Tawny Port is more complex and richer in style than Ruby Port. It requires a minimum of 7 years barrel ageing in order to be named Tawny Port. As its name suggests it is tawny coloured, much darker, browner, a sort of rich amber colour. It is the oak ageing and oxidation that promotes the change in colour. The barrel ageing changes the flavour profile of the Port too, the flavours are richer and nuttier with more dried fruit characters. Tawny Port is great paired with dark chocolate, dried fruit puddings such as Christmas pudding or cake and richer, mature cheeses such as cheddar and caramelised desserts such as crème brûlée.
Late Bottled Vintage
Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV for short) starts its life as Ruby Port from which all of its grapes have been picked in the same year, which then spends longer ageing in the barrel, between 4-6 years before release. They are deep purple/ruby in colour, sweet in style with dark cherry, blackcurrant and chocolate flavours with lots of dried fruit. LBVs are ready to drink when sold, however they will continue to improve in the bottle for a further five or so years depending on the blend. Try pairing with anything chocolatey, or a cheese board.
Vintage Port is only made in good to exceptional vintages. In years where all the Port houses declare it is known as a General Declaration. These vintages are 1963, 1966, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2011. There are some good vintages other years and often the Port houses release ‘Single Quinta’ (vineyard wines). These are often half the price of those in General Declaration and offer good value.
Port is a great drink for winter and over the festive period is certainly quite the winter warmer. Whether you enjoy with sweet or savoury tastes, be sure to enjoy the experience. Mine’s a generous glass of LBV and a mince pie please…
Port also makes a great gift, why not treat your loved ones to a bottle or two this Christmas. Give drinking Port as a gift to enjoy now, or give some younger Vintage Port as a gift that can be enjoyed in the years to come. A gesture that will almost certainly be appreciated!
Whatever style of Port you are looking for, we have a great selection of them on our website and in our wine showroom Cellar 21. Please call me in the office on 01325 776446 or email me on email@example.com if you would like to discuss Port further or would like some recommendations.