Ah Port! I know the festive season has passed but just like a puppy a good Port is not just for Christmas! In fact is there anything nicer than a chilled White Port on a fine Summer evening – but more of that in later blogs when sunshine is more than a distant memory!!
With the exception of the aforementioned White Port, there are two basic styles – Tawny and Ruby – from which stem many varients. The difference between these two styles is bottle ageing for Ruby Ports and cask ageing for Tawnies.
The Ruby styles in order of quality would be – Ruby (including Reserve), Vintage Character (a generally misleading name & not widely available on the Irish Market), Crusted (like Vintage Character, not widely available here, Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV), Single-Quinta and Vintage. Enough to be getting on with here don’t you think? Let’s leave the Tawnies to a future blog!
Ruby/Reserve Ruby Ports – the most basic Rubies will spend little or no time in cask and are sold shortly after bottling. There is no benefit in holding these wines as they do not improve with age. The real value at this level is the Superior-quality wines made by some producers, which are produced from a blend of wines from a different vintages, and which are aged up to 4 years in cask before bottling. A good example of this style would be Fonseca Bin No.27 Finest Reserve of which more anon.
Late-Bottled Vintage -these are single vintage wines from a good but not necessarily great year. Made in lighter and generally undeclared years, these wines get between 4 and 6 years in cask to expediate their development, making them ready for drinking when sold. They will however continue to improve for another 6 years or so. I find Taylors LBV always delivers.
Single-Quinta – these wines are produced from a single vineyard. Often they are as approachable as LBV as after bottling they are stored until just about ready to drink. Often also the same age as LBV, the difference being the Single-Quinta is aged longer after bottling while the LBV is aged longer before bottling. The two stand outs for me would be Warres (Quinta da Cavadinha) and Taylors (Quinta de Vargellas).
Vintage Port – from a single vintage and made only in the very best years. The laws of the Port region state that Vintage Port must be bottled within 2 years. As bottle aging is more reductive than cask ageing these wines will have a fruitness never found in old Tawnies. When ready for drinking, there will be a seamless integration of grape and spirit, with warm spicy flavours. The best wines from the best vintages will go for 30years and more. Dows 1985, on recent tasting, is drinking superbly right now.
And my Port of the moment?
Fonseca Bin No. 27 Finest Reserve (E21.99) – Wine Spectator says – “Very chocolaty and plush, displaying good concentration to the ripe plum, mocha and dark cherry flavour, with some paprika accents. Very fruity, showing raspberry notes, on the finish. Drink now through 2016.”