Port Wine for Under 70s? You bet! I have recently fallen in love with this special grape juice, which comes in many shapes and colours. Obviously, I didn’t know much about it, and always keen to learn. A big thank you to Richard Bowden from Taylor’s who has volunteered to explain to Mrs O and her friends a bit more about Port – here is a beginners guide to Port Wine. Should we raise a glass? xx Mrs. O
With a variety of different styles, Port is the perfect aperitif, a delicious after dinner dessert wine or a fruity addition to a summer cocktail and, as one of the world’s great wines, Port is a must have for any wine lover’s cellar.
If you’ve never tried it or you’re not sure what you’re missing out on, here’s a 10 point beginner’s guide to enjoying Port.
1. So what is Port wine?
Port is a sweet, fortified wine which begins its life much in the same way as other wines do, with the crushing of grapes. But it’s distinctive, sweet and fruit-filled taste comes from the way that grape spirit is added during fermentation process, which stops the yeast from turning the natural sugars present in the grapes into alcohol and at the same time, increases the alcohol content of the wine to around 20%.
2. What are the different styles of Port?
Port comes in 4 main styles which suit a variety of occasions and different foods and it is the diversity of these different styles that is one of its greatest attractions:
These full-bodied and fruit-laden Ports age for a relatively short period of time in large wooden vats (2-6 years), maintaining their deep red colour and intense flavours which are reminiscent of black fruits and cherry. Ruby Ports, which include Reserve Ports and Late Bottled Vintages, are the ideal partner for a cheeseboard, chocolate dessert and can be used to make a scrumptious Port wine sauce.
Aged in wooden barrels, sometimes for decades, rich and mellow Tawny Port is lighter in colour and has a delicious nuttiness with aromas of butterscotch and mellow spicy aromas; characteristics which intensify with age. Served chilled, a 10 year old tawny is a sumptuous aperitif. Alternatively, drink as the perfect accompaniment to crème brûlée, honey and almond cake or hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Manchego.
The very best Port wine from a single year and only produced in years when the wine is deemed to be of excellent quality. It’s kept in barrels for only 2 years, and then bottled, unfiltered, where it continues to age and mature over time. The most long-lasting of Port, Vintage can be enjoyed when young and full of red fruits and tannins, or allowed to mellow to a subtler, more elegant finish. Pairs superbly with Stilton or other salty blue cheeses.
A crisp, fresh Port made from white grapes. Serve chilled or mixed with tonic water. The perfect aperitif or relaxer on a hot summer’s day. Try it with almonds or olives for the perfect palate match.
A relatively new style of Port, lighter in style and full of deliciously ripe cherry & raspberry fruit flavours. Serve chilled, straight up, on the rocks or mixed in a variety of refreshing cocktails. Superb with any fruit based dessert!
3. At what temperature should I serve Port?
White and rosé Port should be served chilled (6ºC to 7ºC). Tawny slightly chilled (12º to 16ºC), whilst Ruby should be served at cellar temperature, or 16ºC to 18ºC. At temperatures higher than this, you will start to lose the elegance of the wine and the alcohol will become more noticeable.
4. What’s the difference between Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage?
Both Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV, are made with grapes from a single year. However, whilst Vintage Port is bottled after spending only 2 years in the barrel, LBV stays in the barrel for between four and six years before bottling, or in other words, it’s bottled late, and hence the name. It is this extra maturation in the barrel that makes LBV more suitable for immediate drinking, whilst still maintaining some of its superior Vintage quality. Vintage Port, on the other hand, will continue to improve with age for years to come.
5. How long can I keep an opened bottle?
With the exception of Vintage Port, all other Ports once opened can be kept for between 2 and 6 weeks, although it’s unlikely you will be able to resist drinking it before that long! Keep it in a cool place out of direct sunlight, or even in the refrigerator to prolong this period and help keep the Port at its best. A young Vintage Port, on the other hand, should be drunk within 2 days to enjoy it at its best and an older vintage on the same evening. It is perfectly safe to drink after this period, but it will lose some of its vintage character.
6. Where does Port come from?
Port only comes from Portugal, and more specifically, the mountainous Douro Valley in the north of the country. It takes its name from the beautiful and historic city of Porto, where Port has been traded for centuries.
7. So it’s been around for a while then. How did it all start?
Wine has been made in the Douro Valley since Roman times, but the first records of the wine which we know today as Port began in the late 17th century. Thanks to the some trade disagreements between England and France, England started sourcing more of its wine from Portugal. To prevent the wine from spoiling on the long journey, shippers fortified it by adding grape spirit. To say the English liked the sweeter style of Port is an understatement and Port sales grew quickly. Port is now sold all over the world and is most popular in the UK, USA, France, Portugal and Canada.
8. Do I serve it in a special glass?
Special glassware isn’t necessary, but do use a – quality glass to get the full Port experience. Giving the Port room to breathe in a glass will enhance the aromas and the taste of the Port. If you don’t have any specific Port glasses, a normal sized white wine glass is fine.
9. Porto sounds great! Can I visit the Port cellars?
Many of the Port cellars run tours, where you can get the full story on how Port is made, and try some Port too. If you’re looking for more information on Porto, check out this post, ‘Glass of Porto, anyone?’
10. I’ve heard enough, where can I get some Port!?
Check out the following sites for more details on Port, where to buy it (Taylor’s Port has a store locator) and further tips and information on how to enjoy Port wine:
Taylor’s Port: http://www.taylor.pt
Fonseca Guimaraens: http://www.fonsecaport.com
Croft Port: http://www.croftport.com
Croft Pink: http://www.croftpink.com
By Richard Bowden, Taylor’s Port