14 Port Wine Recommendations

Port is a wine fortified about halfway through fermentation. How port is treated after fermentation determines the different types of port. Here are seven types with two recommendations for each.

May 23, 2011
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Cockburn's 2003, a classic with ripe fruit and intense flavour
Cockburn's 2003, a classic with ripe fruit and intense flavour
Churchill's Crusted Port 2004, with dark and smoky flavours
Churchill's Crusted Port 2004, with dark and smoky flavours
Churchill's LBV 2002, light and fruity
Churchill's LBV 2002, light and fruity
Fonseca Siroco, a refreshing cocktail in summer
Fonseca Siroco, a refreshing cocktail in summer

Port is a fortified wine. That is, about halfway through the fermentation process a dose of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente is added to the wine, thus fortifying it, and halting the fermentation before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. The resulting wine is both stronger and sweeter than traditional table wine.

Because both the sugar and the high level of alcohol act as preservatives, port can age for decades. How port is treated after fermentation is stopped determines the different types.

Vintage Port

Vintage port is made in tiny quantities in only the best years and bottled after two years in 550-litre (145-gallon) traditional oak barrels called pipes. It then ages for 20, 30, even 50 years, at which point it can be quite magnificent.

  • Taylor’s 2007: Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman was founded in 1692 and is still noted for its scented, long-lived wines of elegance and restrained power.
  • Cockburn’s 2003: A classic vintage with balance, ripe fruit and intensely concentrated flavour.

Single Quinta Port

Some estates, or quinta, produce superior port even in years that are not deemed good enough to be a declared vintage. These ports, rather than being blended, are bottled under the quinta name.

  • Quinta da Roêda, Croft 2008: The backbone of Croft Vintage Port in vintage years, it displays a strong tannic structure that will soften and make the wine delightfully drinkable after 10 years.
  • Quinta do Panascal, Fonseca 2008: Shows a fabulous rich nose of dark stone fruits shot through with hints of aromatic spices. On the palate there are luxurious layers of dark chocolate, marzipan and liquorice.

Crusted Port

A blend of different vintages bottled young enough so it throws a sediment, or crust, like vintage port. Quite rare these days.

  • Churchill’s Crusted Port 2004: An intoxicating mélange of dark, smoky flavours like anise and cinnamon.
  • Dow’s Crusted Port 1997: Full-bodied, powerful and marked by Dow’s historic dry finish.

Tawny Port

Also long-aged but in wood rather than the bottle. It has a nutty, mellow character.

  • Fonseca 40 Year Old Tawny: An extremely rare 40-year-old Tawny, it is marked by an extraordinary depth and complexity, each sip revealing different layers of dark mystery.
  • Dow 10 Year Old Tawny: Creamy and aristocratic. Delightful served chilled in warm weather.

Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV)

Single vintage port bottled after four to six years in wood offers some of the characteristics of vintage port at a more modest price.

  • Churchill’s LBV 2002: Impressively light and fruity. Possessed of a subtle and finely focused delicacy.
  • Smith Woodhouse LBV 1995: Unusually old for a current LBV, it is bottled without fining or filtering thus ensuring it retains a depth and complexity rare in an LBV.

Ruby Port

A blend of young vintages, fresh and fruity, it lacks the complexity of older versions.

  • Quinta do Noval Black: A powerful spicy nose is followed by a fresh and vigorous fruitiness.
  • Sandeman Founders Reserve: Rich, creamy and luscious.

White Port

Similar to ruby but made from white grape. It is best drunk chilled as an aperitif.

  • Dow’s White Port: Semi-sweet, it is delicious with ice and soda.
  • Fonseca Siroco: Extremely dry. With mint and tonic it makes a most refreshing summer cocktail.

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