Port is not just for Christmas

By GERARD RICHARDSON MBE

Gerald Richardson4WELL, it’s coming round to that time of the year again when we start thinking about rich foods, fortified wines and sitting on some strange dude’s knee while promising to be good for the next year. Despite my repeated mantra however that port is not just for Christmas many people, particularly up North do feel they shouldn’t try it at any other time of the year which is such a shame.

Port is a fortified wine which means it’s base wine is topped up with clear alcohol to increase the alcoholic level to between 18 and 21 per cent. This style of wine is of course made the world over now but it can only be called Port from a specific region of Portugal called the Douro Valley and it’s that region that I’ve focused on here. If asked what my favourite wine style of all time is I would have to say Port largely because among the various types of port there really is something for everyone. Port itself is inextricably linked to the UK wine trade and we are among the biggest consumers anywhere in the world and that of course was helped by our near constant state of war with our nearby French cousins so the UK traders were always on the lookout for wine products acceptable to the crown and the early customs officials.

I briefly mentioned different types of port and they are:

  • Vintage Port which is the most famous of all and which can age gracefully for many many decades, losing some of its power and tanning but gaining a softness and concentration of fruit in the process.
  • Vintage Character or LBV (Late Bottled Vintage: Vintage Port is only made about three times a decade on average and in years not declared a vintage as well as in vintage years some of the wine is flash aged in wood and bottled much younger to arrive on the shelves in a far ore commercially viable timescale. These are the best selling ports and include such names as Fonseca BIN27, Taylors LBV and various Ports listed as crusted, vintage character, special reserve etc.

Tawny Ports are for me some of the most outstanding products in the world of wine and include some of the longest business plans of all. I’ve regularly enjoyed some incredibly old Tawnies and currently stock them back to 1964! Tawnies are like liquid sticky toffee pudding with more toffee the older the wine and for the record, I’ve never had a bad one.

So my tip for the season ahead is try a nice Port or two as your weekend special as well as opening the obligatory bottle just so you can leave Santa a nip with his mince pie.

Gerards Pick: 1975 Taylors Port

Taylors are the big boys of Port and they take no prisoners with regard to the concentration of flavour and depth of the wine and the 75 vintage which was hot and dry helped Taylors make a powerhouse of a Port which is only softening now into an explosion of autumn fruits, liquorice and cassis.