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So, it is December already. You would barely believe it but it really is.
It feels only yesterday that we sitting in our gardens, sipping rosé under the canopy of green leaves. But now, this has fallen to the ground, spreading instead a crunchy carpet of amber, gold and brown. So, it must be December. The Radio pumps out Christmas Classics, my living room is beginning to resemble a blinged-up black forest and people are beginning to ask me about Port. I miss the simplicity of rose; pale and dry or dark and sweeter. Whereas Port is a far more complex issue altogether.
Firstly, All manner of grapes are allowed to be blended into Port so long as they are grown within the region. I would think about trying to remember just a handful of them. The big five for example, the Two Tourigas and the Three Tintas. Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesca plus Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao. Each brings something different to the port party; richness, sweetness, structure, tannin, etc...
Next to consider is the production method. Once the grapes are harvested, pressed and fermentation gets under way this process is halted at a precise moment via the introduction of a distilled grape spirit. Relatively straightforward so far but the next thing to try and get ones head around, particularly as a consumer, are the many different styles of Port.
Ruby / Reserve Ruby
Simple, straight forward, fruit driven port made for early consumption. The Reserve version is a blend of Reserve Ruby styled ports.
Lots of good value to here if you track down the right one. A vintage port that spends longer in barrel than a normal vintage port, 5-6 years. The result is a wine that is designed to be drunk on or near release as the ageing process has already taken place in barrel. However, some can age well, especially when unfiltered.
As it says on the tin. Relatively rare it can range from the very sweet to the very dry. Can be mixed with tonic or soda over ice for a refreshing, long aperitif.
A blend of vintage ports, designed to be drunk young, but like LBV can age well in the short term if of a good quality.
A single vineyard vintage Port. Made in the style of a vintage Port but from an undeclared year. This style should show off a unique terroir. Can be fascinating.
Tawny (10, 20, 30, 40 years)
A Tawny port typically spends longer in barrel than any other style of port achieving a style that is lighter and nuttier than other types of Port. Aged examples blended from different vintages can be intense and extraordinary.
A special Tawny Port from a Single Vintage. Usually released after around 10 years in barrel. Can be of exceptional value.
The crème de la crème of Ports. In some vintages indestructible. Ages with a grace and complexity that belies it's fortified beginnings.
Fonseca Crusted Port £17.95
Full-bodied with dark berry fruit accompanied by notes of leather, exotic wood and violet scents.
Ramos Pinto 10 year old Tawny Port £34.95
Waves of dates, dried figs, Brazil nuts and toasted almonds with a long, medium-sweet finish.
Dow's Vintage Port 1997 £69.95
The 1997 Dow's displays a dark ruby/ purple colour, attractive liquorice, chocolate, and roasted coffee aromas, medium to full body, sweet tannin, and a moderately tannic finish. This excellent vintage port should drink well between 2004-2025.