After Dinner

After Dinner – Port Style Wines – February 2019

BCGWJ After Dinner Presentation September 2015

A Focus on Port

After completing this session you should know:

  1. the five principal grapes used in making port
  2. the different styles of port
  3. what country is the largest importer of port wines
  4. why Port is stored at Villa Nueva de Gaia and not Porto.
  5. what country is responsible for making this fortified wine known around the world.

 

From the BCAWA Handbook

Eleventh Edition, March 2013

 

History

  • oldest demarked area (1756)
  • Oporto is the British name for Porto.
  • wine industry modernized after joining the EU in 1986.
  • Portugal’s DOC laws are similar to Frances AOC regulations.
  • Port only comes from a 70 mile long demarcated region in the Douro Valley.
  • vineyards border the Douro and stretch from near the coast to the Spanish border
  • Portugal is a small country370 miles long and 125 miles wide
  • Portugal remains steeped in tradition
  • Over 225 varieties of grapes are grown. Over 80 in the Douro Valley.
  • Britain is largely responsible for the popularity of Port.
  • Most well known Port Houses have British names – Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Graham, Sandeman, Warre, etc.

 

The Wine

  • Port is luscious, sweet and fortified. A wine to savor and for quiet contemplation.
  • Ten different styles are made.
  • Vintage port is the most expensive style and only accounts for 1% of total production.
  • Vintages are only declared in the best years when the quality of the fruit, the quantity available and market demand meet.
  • Minimum bottle age for Vintage port is 15 years. Best ones show well for 50 years+.
  • Like Champagne, each Port House aims for a particular house style.
  • Taylor Fladgate acquired Fonseca (1948), Croft (2001)
  • Croft established in 1588
  • Taylor dates back to 1692
  • Fonseca’s 10 year old tawny, aged in neutral barrels (oak, mahogany, cherry)
  • ‘Quinta’ is a family farm
  • most all vineyards are organic
  • four houses still foot press
  • foot pressing is the gentlest method – skins break but not seeds, therefore, no harshness
  • most workers 15 years experience with company
  • 2 hours to make the cut then refreshments. Then back at it for another 2 hours. Very hard work. Like being in the army (marching).
  • 1692 George B – Taylor Fladgate
  • A thru F vineyard ratings
  • Some vines 100 years old
  • with new plantings, vines are matched to the site
  • on average, Taylor Fladgate vintages are declared 3X per decade
  • up to each producer to declare a vintage. This is not odd as sites vary greatly – exposure, aspect, altitude, etc.
  • if no vintage is declared, single vineyards are released
  • stored at Villa Nueva de Gaia across the harbour from Porto.
  • Villa Nueva de Gaia faces north, therefore cooler in summer. Gravel floors in the lodges. Better for wine storage.
  • lagars (concrete / granite) about 1 meter in depth
  • some vineyards are 900 feet above the river
  • some 60° slopes – necessitates hand picking
  • vertical vineyards and terraced vineyards if too steep
  • After 30 – 36 hours, wine is half fermented. Spirits are then added.
  • French organic spirits are used now. Traditionally it was Portuguese spirits
  • 77% alcohol spirits
  • 1/5 of port is alcohol
  • In the spring, the wines are moved downriver.
  • Late 1800’s phylloxera. One small area north of Lisbon escaped invasion. Replanted with American rootstalk.
  • Small 600 L barrels used for tawny ports
  • Barrels allow the tawny to breathe, slight oxidization, colour changes
  • A ten-year-old tawny is a blend of wines that average 10 years old. A 20 year old will have some 50 year old wine in it)
  • Blending is done just prior to bottling
  • 3% is lost to evaporation, every year. 5 bottles = 1 bottle of 40 year old
  • tawnies get lighter in colour as they age until they are 80 years old, then they darken again.
  • Irrigation only allowed in the first year for new vines to establish roots
  • Erosion and weeds are the main problem
  • Using ‘friendly’ ground cover such as oats, clover and peas, which do not compete with the vines.
  • Weeds die off in the summer, or are mowed
  • Laser guided bulldozers – 7° inside slope to retain water/reduce erosion. Natural gutter.
  • Duoro is a UNESCO world heritage designation
  • Rainfall varies 300ml near the border with Spain, 500ml near Pinhau to 1100 in Porto.
  • 2011 was a classic year in the Duoro
  • 85% of a vintage is released to the public, the rest is held back
  • about 1% becomes vintage port.

Typical Descriptors

Toffee, caramel, raisins, figs, almonds, walnuts, dried fruit, black fruits, red fruits, chocolate, spice

Port Pairings

Stilton, Roquefort, apple desserts, brownies, crème caramel, pecan pie, almond desserts, biscotti, chocolate, pavlova, shortbread, toffee pudding.

The Flight

In this flight you will taste wines of different styles and colours, so you will need to judge each one on its own merits rather than comparing one to another. You will taste (in alphabetical order) a Late Bottle Vintage, a Ruby, a Tawny, a Vintage and a White port. The wines vary in sweetness from 5 – 10, based on the BCLDB ratings.

Got lots of money? In BC you can buy an 1863 Taylor Fladgate Single Harvest Port (predates Canadian Confederation) for only $3988. It comes in a crystal decanter housed in a beautiful maple wooden box complete with a signed certificate. The tasting note for this wine is the lengthiest and most elaborate I have ever seen at over 120 words. Only 1600 bottles of this wine exist.

 

Appendix 1 

The Grapes Used in Making Port 

These are the top five grapes used in port production (since the 1970’s) though there are many others (obscure names for most) that are used in lesser supporting roles. Sometimes the other varietals are known and sometimes they are just interspersed throughout the vineyards.

  1. Touriga Nacional – robust and tannic. This grape is considered to be the most important varietal for making port. It’s complex acids and tannins help to contribute structure to the wine. Its yields are small and the berries are intensely flavoured.
  2. Touriga Franca – its fruit and floral aromas help to contribute to the wines aromas.
  3. Tinta Barroca – jammy and potent – adds body and breadth. High sugar levels mean strong potential alcohol.
  4. Tinta Roriz – aka Tempranillo (Spanish name). Adds depth of colour, which is helpful given typical short maceration times.
  5. Tinto Cao – adds spice and help with longevity.

Appendix 2

Styles of Port

The way a port is aged and the producer’s house style are the main influences, which determine the final style of port. There are two broad categories of port:

Cask aged– wood matured ports (often called wood ports) have been aged in wooden casks or sometimes, cement tanks and are ready to drink right after fining, filtration and bottling. Cask aged ports lose their flavour quickly.

Bottle aged – ports designed to mature in the bottle. They are generally aged for a short time in wood and are bottled without filtration. It may then take up

to 20 or 30 years before such a wine is ready to drink. These ports keep their colour and their fruitiness well into maturity.

The many other styles of port fall within or between these two fundamental types. That being said, a number of authorities contend that there are four types of port: ruby, tawny, vintage and white. The others are subsets, variants or creations between the pillars.

The following is a short description of the types produced:

  • RUBY – the base for all vintage, vintage character and LBV Ports. If just labeled ‘ruby’ then a very simple, inexpensive version of a vintage port. It is aged for 2 – 3 years in wood, concrete or stainless. They do not improve much in the bottle.
  • TAWNY – made from a blend of grapes from several different years; they can be aged in wood for as long as 40 years. They’re tawny in colour and ready to drink when bottled. The labels on the best tawnies stipulate the time that they’ve matured (10 – 40 years). The older the tawny the deeper the colour and its nuances of caramel, raisin and nutty tones. Inexpensive tawny ports are created by blending white port and ruby port.

* Ruby and Tawny ports are sometimes called wood ports or wood-aged ports. Wood ports slowly oxidize and display aromas and flavours of roasted nuts, especially walnuts.

  • VINTAGE – the ultimate in port, best of a producer and the most expensive. Accounts for less than 1% of total production. Only produced in exceptional years, usually 3 out of 10 with only the best grapes from the top vineyards and only after the IVDP has approved samples and declared the vintage. Bottled after 2 years in wood cask. Continues to age in the bottle. Made to age for at least 25 years. The accumulation of sediment in the bottle necessitates decanting before serving. The aging process in the bottle is in the absence of oxygen. This reductive process is much slower than in a cask hence the long period needed to age these wines.
  • SINGLE QUINTA PORTS – are basically vintage ports produced from a single high-quality wine estate. They’re usually made in years when a port firm doesn’t declare a traditional vintage port.
  • SECOND LABEL VINTAGE PORTS – are produced when the vintage is quite good, but not quite good enough to be declared. They are typically made from the better wines from various sites.
  • LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORTS (LBV) – are made from grapes of a single vintage even though the quality of the grapes is not as high as that for vintage ports. LBVs are aged in wood from 4 – 6 years and are considered high quality ruby ports. Once released they are ready to drink and do not have to be decanted (unless the label refers to ‘traditional’ style.
  • COLHEITA (also called single vintage or dated ports) –aged in wood for at least seven years. They fall into the tawny class. Made from a single vintage. Must have the date of bottling printed on the label.
  • CRUSTED PORTS – are a blend of two or three wines from different vintages. They are aged for 3 0r 4 years before being bottled. Like vintage port, crusted port improves with age in the bottle. It derives its name from the deposit or crust that is thrown during this aging process. Crusted port is not often made today and has been replaced primarily by late-bottled vintage port
  • VINTAGE CHARACTER PORTS – are essentially high quality ruby ports. They’re blended from several vintages and wood-aged, but not nearly as long as tawny port. They’re the lightest and fruitiest in flavour and are ready to drink when bottled.
  • WHITE PORTS – are those made from white grapes (dry versions undergo a longer fermentation). They are aged for18monthsinconcreteorstainlesstanks. Most white ports are not aged in wood since that would add undesirable flavours. Usually drier and fruiter than any of the red ports plus slightly lower in alcohol.

 

PORT  2008

Port is a fortified wine made by adding brandy to arrest a fermenting grape must. This results in a wine, more often red, but sometimes white, that is both sweet and high in alcohol (up to 20%)
Port wine takes its name from Oporto (Porto) in Portugal. The best ports originate in a strictly demarked area in the Douro Valley but are approximated by vintners in California, South Africa, the US, Canada, Australia and India.

BCAWA HANDBOOK – March 2007 Edition

Class G. After Dinner –

Wines in this class are for use after dinner, perhaps with nuts and cheese, or in place of a liqueur. Wines such as ports, sweet sherries, Madeiras, or other wines that are fortified, baked or otherwise made using port, sherry etc. type processes belong in this class. This does not however prevent a competitor from entering in this class an appropriate wine naturally fermented to high alcohol.

Technical Characteristics

Ingredients: No restrictions Alcohol: 15% – 20% Colour: No restrictions Sugar: 15% – 20%

Specific Gravity: 1.017 – 1.040 Acid: 3.9 g/l – 5.5 g/l
pH: 3.2 – 3.9

History

Everything is political. Port wine can be said to have been born out of English and French rivalries from the 17th century. When the British could no longer access their beloved clarets (those damn punitive taxes) they turned to Portugal for a substitute.
These wines were harsh and raw. There are many explanations and stories as to how port developed but the most reliable seems to be a practice that developed to stabilize the first wines shipped from Portugal to England with brandy added to casks.

Another version of port’s beginnings suggests that an English merchant discovered that one monastery added brandy during fermentation to arrest the process to create a sweet and stable wine. This may or may not be true but by the 1800s it was standard practice resulting in wines with a sweet and fruity flavour and high alcohol.

In 1756 regulatorymeasures were introduced to control the production and sale of port. The Port DOC is the second oldest appellation in the world and dates to this time. The regulatory body is the IVDP (Instituto dos vinhos do Douru do Porto) and still strictly relates who will produce what type of port and how much.

Production

Douru Valley in Northern Eastern Portugal is a hot, inhospitable valley where summer temperatures often soar above 35 C. Soils are poor and rainfall is scant.  Yields are among the lowest in any wine region in the world.
More than eighty different grape varieties are authorized for the production of port. However the bulk of port would be made from Touriga Nacional (Cab Franc), Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Cao.

Fermentation is rapid for maximum extraction of colour and tannins. After only two or three days fermentation is halted. The wine is run off into vats where a carefully calculated amount of 77% grape alcohol is waiting. The mixture is allowed to rest and marry. Following vinification the bulk of the new wine stays at the Quintas (wine farms) until the spring after the harve st when most of the wines are shipped from the Douro Valley across the river to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia where the wine is aged in Lodges. The cooler climate and higher humidity are thought to be beneficial for the slow cask aging.

Types of Port

The way a port is aged and the producer’s house style are the main influences which determine the final style of port. There are two broad categories of port:

Cask aged– wood matured ports (often called wood ports) have been aged in wooden casks or sometimes, cement tanks and are ready to drink right afterfining,filtrationandbottling. Caskagedportslosetheirflavour quickly.

Bottle aged – ports designed to mature in the bottle. They are generally aged for a short time in wood and are bottled without filtration. It may then take up to 20 or 30 years before such a wine is ready to drink. These ports keep their colour and their fruitiness well into maturity.

The many other styles of port fall within or between these two fundamental types. That being said, a number of authorities contend that there are four types of port: ruby, tawny , vintage and white. The others are subsets, variants or creations between the pillars.

The following is a short description of the types produced:

  • RUBY – the base for all vintage, vintage character and LBV Ports. If just labeled ‘ruby’ then a very simple, inexpensive version of a vintage port. It is aged for 2 – 3 years in wood, concrete or stainless. They do not improve much in the bottle.
  • TAWNY – made from a blend of grapes from several different years; they can be aged in wood for as long as 40 years. They’re tawny in colour and ready to drink when bottled. The labels on the best tawnies stipulate the time that they’ve matured (10 – 40 years). The older the tawny the deeper the colour and its nuances of caramel, raisin and nutty tones. Inexpensive tawny ports are created by blending white port and ruby port.

* Ruby and Tawny ports are sometimes called wood ports or wood-aged ports. Wood ports slowly oxidize and display aromas and flavours of roasted nuts, especially walnuts.

  • VINTAGE – the ultimate in port, best of a producer and the most expensive. Accounts for less than 1% of total production. Only produced in exceptional years, usually 3 out of 10 with only the best grapes from the top vineyards and only after the IVDP has approved samples and declared the vintage. Bottled after 2 years in wood cask. Continues to age in the bottle. Made to age for at least 25 years. The accumulation of sediment in the bottle necessitates decanting before serving. The aging process in the bottle is in the absence of oxygen. This reductive process is much slower than in a cask hence the long period needed to age these wines.
  • SINGLE QUINTA PORTS – are basically vintage ports produced from a single high-quality wine estate. They’re usually made in years when a port firm doesn’t declare a traditional vintage port.
  • SECOND LABEL VINTAGE PORTS – are produced when the vintage is quite good, but not quite good enough to be declared. They are typically made from the better wines from various sites.
  • LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORTS (LBV) – are made from grapes of a single vintage even though the quality of the grapes is not as high as that for vintage ports. LBVs are aged in wood from 4 – 6 years and are considered high quality ruby ports. Once released they are ready to drink and do not have to be decanted (unless the label refers to ‘traditional’ style.
  • COLHEITA (also called single vintage or dated ports) –aged in wood for at least seven years. They fall into the tawny class. Made from a single vintage. Must have the date of bottling pr inted on the label.
  • CRUSTED PORTS – are a blend of two or three wines from different vintages. They are aged for 3 0r 4 years before being bottled. Like vintage port, crusted port improves with age in the bottle. It derives its name from the deposit or crust that is thrown during this aging process. Crusted port is not often made today and has been replaced primarily by late-bottled vintage port
  • VINTAGE CHARACTER PORTS – are essentially high quality ruby ports. They’re blended from several vintages and wood-aged, but not nearly as long as tawny port. They’re the lightest and fruitiest in flavour and are ready to drink when bottled.
  • WHITE PORTS – are those made from white grapes (dry versions undergo a longerfermentation). Theyareagedfor18monthsinconcreteorstainlesstanks. Most white ports are not aged in wood since that would add undesirable flavours. Usually drier and fruiter than any of the red ports plus slightly lower in alcohol.Serving Port –
    Only the Vintage and some Late Bottled Vintage ports need decanting. The rest can be opened and enjoyed as is though presenting port in a decanter has long been part of the serving ritual.
    To decant: if the bottle has been on its side, stand it upright for an hour or two (at a minimum 30 minutes) then taking care to leave the sediment in the bottle, slowly pour the port into a clean decanter, stopping as soon as any sediment is seen.

Serve at around 65 degrees in a narrow wine glass filled to the half way mark.

Some classical accompaniments: rich Stilton cheese, almonds, cashews, roasted walnuts and pecans. Dried fruit, semi-sweet chocolate desserts, apple, mince pies and crème brulees. Other cheeses that are very compatible are: Gruyere, Saint Agur, Manchego (for Tawnies), double cream Brie and aged Gouda. Gamey meats match well with a good Tawny.

Port Notes specific to BC –

A number of commercial BC wineries are making ports – notably Sumac Ridge, Summerhill, Wildgoose, Alderlea, Calona, Gray Monk, Quail’s Gate and Alderlea. The latter two use the continuous sugar addition method to boost alcohol. Many view this as an inferior method.

Historically, spirits have been notoriously difficult for a winery to acquire. To use other than a grape distilled spirit will not yield the optimal product so many port makers turned to the continuous sugar addition to achieve the desired alcohol percentage. Sugar is fed to the fermenting must for approximately three weeks. This is in stark contrast to the quick fermentation with the traditional fortification method.

Port makers in BC have variously used Marechal Foch, Gamay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. BC ‘ports’ are aged from 8-12 months in new oak at Wild Goose to 3 years at Sumac Ridge. The amateur port in the flight has been aged between 10 and 15 years.

Most BC commercial ports would probably be most akin to a ruby – more fruit driven. It is a significant investment to age ports so whether BC ever sees many examples of old tawnies or vin tage styles remains to be seen.

THE TASTING LINE-UP

The focus for this tasting is a British Columbia take on Port. The benchmark will be set by two tasters. One is a classic Portuguese late bottled vintage port and the other is a BC fortified red wine that spent three years in oak barrels before being bottled.

The flight consists of seven additional port styles – all from BC.

Port is not for the very young, the vain and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher. Evelyn Waugh

 

 

Port 2007

After completing this session you should know:

  1. how Port is made,
  2. where Port comes from,
  3. the characteristics of a bottle aged Port vs a cask aged Port,
  4. which Ports are meant to be bought and enjoyed quickly – and which Ports are meant to be aged, and
  5. who the bishop of Gloucester is.

What is Port?

Port is a fortified wine. This means it is wine that has been fortified with the addition of brandy. The effect of this is to kill the yeast in the part-fermented wine, to produce a rich, strong, sweet flavour. Because the wine hasn’t fully fermented, there are still natural sugars present which result in retained sweetness. After fermentation is complete, the wines are transported to “lodges” where they rest in large oak casks called “pipes.”

Unlike distilled spirits, where some of the subtle wine flavours are lost, the fortification process allows the wine flavours to be retained, and the extra alcohol content provided by the brandy means that

port can safely be kept for many years without fear of degradation.

Class G in the BCAWA competition handbook is After Dinner Wines.

Wines in this class are for use after dinner, perhaps with nuts and cheese, or in place of a liqueur. Wines such as ports, sweet sherries, malmsey Madeira, or other wines that are fortified, baked or otherwise made using port, sherry etc. type processes belong in this class. This does not however prevent a competitor from entering an appropriate completely naturally fermented wine such as fig or raisin in this class.

Wines in this class are for use after dinner, perhaps with nuts and cheese, or in place of a liqueur. Wines such as ports, sweet sherries, malmsey Madeira, or other wines that are fortified, baked or otherwise made using port, sherry etc. type processes belong in this class. This does not however prevent a competitor from entering an appropriate completely naturally fermented wine such as fig or raisin in this class.

Technical Alcohol Sugar Acid Characteristics: Examples S.G. % g/l g/l pH

 

Port

Ingredients: No restrictions Alcohol: 15% – 20% Colour: No restrictions Sugar: 15% – 20%
Specific Gravity: 1.017 – 1.040 Acid: 3.9 g/l – 5.5 g/l

pH: 3.2 – 3.9

Warre Warrior Port

Malmsey, Casa dos Vinhos Madeira

1.017 20

1.034 19

15 4.0 3.9

15 4.8 3.6

Geography

Port comes from Portugal, surprisingly enough! More specifically, it is produced in the Demarcated Region of the Douro under very specific conditions. The grapes are grown in the Douro Valley (in the northeast of the country) on steep terraces along the path of the river.

There is a specified area (of just over 1000 square miles) in which the port vineyards must be situated. The valley stretches east from the city of Oporto to the border with Spain.

Port’s birthplace was the first great wine region in the world to be demarcated (1756). The term “port” can only refer to wines from this region, much like French regions lay claim to certain titles.

The climate is harsh, and the countryside barren, which means that the vine must be very hardy. Despite this, the grapes produced result in a very rich and complex wine.

 

History:

Port takes its name from the city of Oporto that is situated at the mouth of the 560-mile long Rio Douro or River of Gold.

Port was first developed during the 17th century. In 1698 Britain declared war on France, and blockaded French ports. This obviously resulted in a shortage of wine, and so British wine merchants approached the Portuguese, with whom the British had signed a pledge of “perpetual friendship” a while back and who were well known for producing wine.

Unfortunately, the Portuguese wines weren’t of the same quality as the French, and so the British decided to oversee production of the product themselves. Many of the wines they tried were dark and astringent, so the British merchants added a bucket or two of brandy to “stabilise” the wine on its journey back to Britain.

At first this technique didn’t meet with much appreciation, but when an Englishman from Liverpool came up with the bright idea of adding the brandy before fermentation had finished (thus retaining the full and sweet flavour of the wine) port, as we know it today, was born.

Which way should you pass the port?

The most widely known tradition is that of passing the port. British naval officers meticulously passed the port from “port to port”, i.e. clockwise. Traditionally, the decanter of port is placed in front of the host who then serves the guest to his right and then passes the decanter to the guest on his left. The port is then passed to the left all the way back to the host.

If the port becomes forestalled at some point, it is considered poor form to ask for the decanter directly. Instead, the person seeking a refill would ask of the person who has the bottle: “do you know the bishop of Gloucester?” (or some other English town). If the person being thus queried does not know the ritual (and so replies in the negative), the querent will remark “He’s an awfully nice fellow, but he never remembers to pass the port”.

The Wine:

Port Wine stands out from ordinary wines due to its unique characteristics:

1. an enormous variety of types that surprise us with the wealth 3 of 6

Port

Port and intensity of their incomparable aromas,

  1. a highly persistent a roma and flavour,
  2. a high alcohol content (usually between 19 and 22% vol.),
  3. a vast range of degrees of sweetness, and
  4. a assortment of colours.

In terms of sweetness, Port can be very sweet, sweet, semi-dry or extra dry. Just how sweet a wine will be is a choice made during production; it depends on when the brandy is added to stop the fermentation of the wine.

How do you distinguish between the different types of Ports? The first criterion to bear in mind is whether the port has been bottle aged or cask aged. Bottle aged port retains its colour and fruitiness whilst maturing. Cask aged ports lose some of their colour as they are filtered before bottling. Cask aged ports are better drunk straight away, whilst bottle aged versions mature well with age.

Here are a set of categories that identify the different types of Port Wine

Ruby Port is a blend from several harvests, different years and different quintas.
It spends a minimum of two years in very large vats before being bottled. The large vats minimize the amount of air that comes in contact with the wine, which reduces oxidization so the wine retains its bright red hue. Ruby is ready to drink when it is bottled and has a rich red colour and a full fruity taste. It should not be aged, and tends to taste of berries, with light tannins. “A good ruby has rich mulberry fruit flavours.”

Tawny port is also a blend from several harvests but is aged for two to seven years in casks.
The smaller storage vessels allow more oxidization than the vats used for Ruby ports. It is ready to drink as soon as it is bottled. As its name implies, Tawny port has a deep mahogany colour and are usually sweet. They may have a

drier and nuttier taste, as well as a buttery, nutty caramel flavor.

Crusted Port is a type of Ruby and spends three years in a cask

but most of its ageing is in a bottle. It is a blend of wines from several different years and gets its name from the sediment that appears in the bottle as the wine ages, since

Aged Tawny is the best Tawny port. It can have an age of 10, 20,

30 or more than 40 years.
The age will be indicated on the label and describes the average age of the wines in the blend. In a twenty year old aged Tawny, there

 

Port

the wine is not filtered.

may be some ports 100 years old to add a complexity to the wine. Aged Tawny port has a refined, subtle taste. It should have a silky mouthfeel and a mellow nutty flavour.

Vintage Character port is a higher

quality Ruby blend of port wines that ages four to six years in the cask – “in wood”. This blend of cask-aged ports is designed to replicate (to a certain extent) the characteristics of proper Vintage ports. It is filtered to remove any sediment then bottled.

Vintage Character is a full-bodied, fruity wine.

Colheita (pronounced “call yay ta” which means “harvest”) is a Tawny port made with grapes from a single harvest (and are therefore very rare). It is aged at least seven years in casks – or “in wood” – but is usually aged much longer. The label indicates the year of the harvest.

Vintage Port comes from a single harvest of exceptional quality and is bottled after two years in wood. The wine then spends many years aging in the bottle (in glass) and the label will show the year of the Vintage and the year the wine was bottled. This is one of the most sought-after wines in the world. From 1901 to 1999, only fourteen port Vintages have been declared.

Late -Bottled Vintage port (LBV) is made from grapes grown in a single year, but because the vintage is deemed to be of a lesser quality, they are cask aged four to six years before being bottled with some sediment to add character. The label will indicate the Vintage and bottling date. The LBV port is ready to drink earlier than Vintage port and when labeled “Traditional”, it may have some sediment. For this reason, L.B.V “Traditional” ports, like Vintage ports, need decanting.

Single Quinta Ports are made with wine from one vineyard. They may be Tawny or Vintage styles. After aging two years in wood they are bottled and spend from 5 to 50 years maturing. The label will indicate the Vintage year and bottling date. Single quinta port has a complex, and refined taste.

 

Enjoying Port

Port

Ports should be stored differently depending on their type. The Standard port, including Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) ports, have a stopper-with-plastic-top seal. These are not meant to be aged, and should be stored upright, so the cork does not have any contact with the liquid within. The plastic seal is not meant to hold in the liquid on its side. Vintage ports, on the other hand, are meant to be aged and have a traditional, “normal” wine -type cork. These should be stored on their sides like any other wine.

The standard port is meant to be bought and enjoyed quickly – that’s why it doesn’t have a full cork. It is not meant to be aged. Once opened, if the bottle is kept corked (stopped), it can last between one (Ruby) and four (Tawny) months before its flavor is lost. A vintage port, once opened, loses its flavor quickly (again, like wine). It should be drunk within 24 hours of decanting if possible.

Port should be served around 65 degrees, in a narrow wine glass, and the glass should only be half filled. This keeps the alcoholic content from overwhelming the flavors. It often needs to be decanted, and is traditionally served with Stilton or cheddar cheese. Port also goes very well with chocolate. Port aromas include pepper, smoke, truffles and black currant. “Standard” port should be drunk within a year or two of purchase. Vintage Port peaks at around 20 years for good quality port.

Today’s Flight:

This is a relatively small flight, so take your time. Savour the bouquets – a good port should have an inviting nose that gives as much enjoyment as actually sipping the wine.

The flight is composed of bottled aged and cask aged ports; so you should notice two distinct styles:

  1. T1 is a 10 year old tawny – so it may have a deep mahogany colour, a drier and nuttier taste, and/or a buttery, nutty caramel flavour.
  2. T2 is a vintage character port – so it may have a rich red colour, be full
  3. bodied, and a have fuller fruity tasteThanks to Bill Pearson for the tasting notes.