With the festive season almost in full swing, it’s time to pick up those all important bottles of Port – and our wine columnist John Kelman of Rutabaga has just the bottles for you…
Nothing toasts the end of a successful Christmas dinner quite like the Port selection, which is usually quickly followed by the cheese selection.
Kicking back on Christmas day and enjoying the finest food and drink is something we all relish in, and while this festive season may not be the one we are used to, it is definitely one we won’t forget.
Made from selected grapes from the Duoro Valley region in Portugal, Port is a fortified wine made with grape brandy (now neutral grape spirit), which is definitely something to be cheerful about.
Coming full circle from our first article on Portuguese wines, we now take a closer look at this drink so commonly associated with Christmas.
The main and preferred grape varieties used in Port are Touriga Nacional (much preferred but low in yield), Touriga Franca (the bulk of production), Tempranillo (Tinta Roriz), Tinta Barroca, Sousão, Tinta Cão and Tinta Amarela (Baga).
For the Ruby Port bottlings, these Ports are aged in oak for a short period and are specifically designed to be enjoyed young. With regards to Tawny Port styles, this can be enjoyed chilled, and is also nuttier in character and lighter in shade and palate.
LBV Port is a ruby style but from a single vintage, and Vintage Port blends those which have been aged for a minimum of two to three years before vintage is declared. You can wait up to 20 plus years to enjoy the finest vintages.
A centuries old trade to these shores from as far back as 1678, the abbot of the Lamego Monastery passing on the secrets of adding brandy to the fermentation was what created a rich blend, with the wines of Pinhão.
Some fantastic ports are currently available with the run up to Christmas in national supermarkets, discount supermarket chains, local and online retailers. Our search yielded some fantastic results with Ruby, Tawny and Vintage Ports represented by Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Rutabaga.
With decades of experience with food and drink in and around Aberdeen and Scotland, I’ve also suggested some perfect pairings for you to try out, too.
Fletcher’s Ruby Reserve, Portugal, N/V, – 20% alc./vol.
A perfectly proportioned and petit introduction with this Ruby Reserve port, it has lots of dark berry flavours, and is rich and generous. A perfectly sized tipple for one, pair with some blue cheese, perhaps some Lanark, on a cracker of choice with pickled walnut.
£4.99 from Aldi, 20cl
Fletcher’s LBV, Portugal, 2016, – 20% alc./vol.
Deep rich flavours swirl through this late bottled vintage. A slight Perry (a fermented alcoholic beverage made from pears) feel on the palate, why not pair it with a seasonal favourite; baked figs. Add some dolcelatte cheese and reduced balsamic syrup on top and they will make the perfect festive fusion.
£9.49 from Aldi, 75cl
Fletcher’s 40-year-old Tawny Port, Portugal – 20% alc./vol.
Having spent plenty of time in oak at 40 years old, this Tawny Port has a slight nutty character, mellowing over time in hue and palate. A little chocolate perhaps on the tongue, enjoy this bottle with an after dinner petit four, say with a rich chocolate bon bon, or, you can simply raid your Christmas chocolate supply.
£34.99 from Aldi, 75cl
Dow’s Midnight Port, Portugal, N/V – 19% alc./vol.
The third family now running this well-established house, this blended Ruby Port is well-priced and boasts a slight spiced note and hints of dark chocolate. An attractive ¾ bottle size, too, how about pairing it with with some Welsh (or Scottish) rarebit – a decadent cheese on toast dish – with local dark beer, bread and cheese. Delicious!
£6.50 from Asda, 50cl, R
Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port, N/V 20% alc./vol.
This Port is designed to be shared and enjoyed now, so don’t hang about until Christmas to pop it open. It’s great value and uncomplicated and this ruby port has some festive notes abound it too, with a lovely hint of cinnamon spice. You also get the feel of the blended reserve Ports. Pair with our favourite baked dark chocolate cheesecake to bring out the cocoa notes in this fortified wine.
£8.00 from Asda, 75cl
Dow’s “Quinta do Bomfim” Vintage Port, Portugal, 2008, – 20% alc./vol.
With plenty of cherry fruit and dry tannins to the finish of this vintage port, it is no doubt going to go down well this festive period. A blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional, it is perfectly priced to share and it almost too good not to. Portuguese creme caramel gets my vote for the perfect pair.
£20 from Asda, 75cl
Armilar, Porto, Ruby Port,N/V– 19% alc./vol.
Young and fun, and bursting with berries, this oddly-priced Port based on Touriga Nacional has lots of sweetness and it a dessert on its own. You can try this number a little chilled and you should try it with a range of Portuguese cheeses including Quijo de Serra da Estrela and Époisse for a sensory explosion!
£7.13 from Lidl, 75cl
Fine Tawny Port by Sainsbury’s, Portugal, N/V – 20% alc./vol.
A blend of ports, this light with a dry bramble berry finish is perfect when chilled slightly and served with a baked cheese perhaps, think Camembert or brie style cheeses. Add some baked bread or crackers into the mix and you are good to go.
£7.50 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Special Reserve Port, N/V – 20% alc./vol.
This Symington family Port is under Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range and features plenty of ripe fruits. A little oak and heaps of dried fruit cake on the nose, it definitely has that Christmas feel. Dare we say a mince pie with a little thick cream to pair?
£10 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl
Graham’s, Bottled Matured Crusted Port, 2013 – 20% alc./vol.
Fine young ports are blended and aged in oak then matured to created this delicious style. Bottled in 2013 this Port has plenty of lively dark fruits and is long on the palate. Open, decant and share on your desired day of consuming it, and pair it with the famous Portuguese custard tart, Pastèis de Nata, served warm.
£15 from Sainsbury’s, 75cl
Kopke, 30-year-old Tawny Port, Portugal – 20% alc./vol.
Fantastic dried fruits feature as the main flavour of this Port with lots of vanilla notes from oak ageing. Decant, filter and enjoy this blend of grape varieties and be sure to serve it at room temperature or a little chilled if you prefer. Christmas Cake would make the ideal pairing for this number.
£70 from Rutabaga, 75cl
Cockburn’s Vintage Port 1983, Portugal – 20% alc./vol.
This bottling is from a fantastic vintage year, and you should drink it now as it is at its peak. The perfect balance of the sweet fruits develop into a wonderful round nuttiness. Savour on its own or with a little shortbread perhaps if this drop makes it to New Year. Cheers!
£80 from Rutabaga, 75cl
When not scribbling down wine-tasting notes, John Kelman can be found hosting virtual tastings and more at www.rutabaga.co.uk. You will also find a full list of wines and spirits on the site.