Port is a rich and hearty wine that offers a variety of flavours. Available in tawny, a brownish colour that is drier, and ruby, a red colour that is a bit sweeter, these wines are very traditionally winter beverages.
Port is a blend of many different grapes, including Touriga Francesa, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela and Tinto Cão. There are actually about thirty different grapes that are used to make port.
Most of them are thick-skinned and produce a sweet juice, known as must. The blend of grapes that is used is part of what makes each port distinctive.
Many ports are still made by treading or stomping on the grapes with bare feet. This allows human contact to guide the process. The skins are kept under the liquid levels to ensure a full flavour. The skins are eventually allowed to rise and the wine is drained off.
It is combined with a young brandy that will stop the fermentation process. Then it is aged to complete the flavour.
Here are a few picks for you.
1. Cockburn’s Special Reserve
This is the most popular port in the UK. It is known for its bright fruity flavours, most prominently red cherry. This is a lovely port for people who don’t normally go for a port.
2. Dow’s Fine White
White port is lighter and smoother than darker ports. It can be an aperitif or mixed with soda and lemon for an outstanding cocktail.
3. Fortnum’s Tawny 10 Year Old
Nutty and rich, this is a Tawny that is an excellent aperitif or between courses as a bright palate clean
4. Taylor’s Tawny 10 Year Old Port
Just a classic, sweet, warming port experience. No frills, no umming or erring, Christmas day 8pm fire on, kids tiring out, adults stuffed on second helpings of turkey, perfect. Made from a blend of some of the best wines from several vintages, Tawny Port is aged in large wood casks for almost all their life and takes on a brick-red, tawny colour.
Taylor’s 10 year old Tawny is an average of 10 years old. Partners most desserts, particularly those with berry fruit or dark chocolate. It is also a good partner to rich, blue veined cheeses.
5. Graham’s 1972 Single Harvest Tawny Port
Back when the world hadn’t suffered disco yet, the Symington family put up 9 casks of port. Those nine casks have now been opened and released onto the world in 6408 bottles of some of the nicest port in recent history. At a cost of £220 per bottle, the individual numbering will likely make even the empty bottles a collector’s item.
6. Fonseca Bicentenary Crusted Port
In 2008, Fonseca put down grapes for a port that will be released this year. It is created to celebrate the house’s 200th birthday. A crusted port is aged in vats for four years, then bottled unfiltered and aged for another three years. Called a “poor man’s vintage”, it represents a huge amount of complexity and maturity. It is only £17 per bottle, so it is very reasonably priced.
7. Kopke 1965 Colheita
This is a 50 year old port that is presented by the oldest Port house in the world (according to the company). Set up in 1965, it has had 50 years to age and mellow and become an unbelievable beverage. There are only 1500 bottles being released.
This will be a life’s accomplishment for a port lover, so watch for this for a special occasion, like Christmas or a birthday. At the same time try out the whole Kopke range - they are all pretty darn good
8. Warre's Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Port
We have to say this is definitely one of our favourites as it has one unique feature that the others don't. What is that I hear you say? Well you drink it cold! Yes that's right you can enjoy this one chilled and it is beautiful. This one has won a tonne of awards and we can see why.
It has been aged in seasoned oak casks in the Warre's stone walled cellars in Northern Portugal and has gained fine caramel and orange-peel flavours. If served chilled, the elegant floral flavours and gentle spicy tones will be distinctly enhanced. Serve from the fridge or from an ice bucket to enjoy this great wine with friends.
Warre's is the oldest British Port House, founded in Portugal in 1670. Owned and managed by the Symington family, whose ancestral links to Port go back over 300 years.
Port is a wine that has a completely different character from most other wine styles. It is complex and rich, even in its least expensive forms. Take the time to pour a nice glass whenever you can and grab some cheese while you're at it.