Food & WineThis Port is good for the Storm

This Port is good for the Storm

This Port is good for the Storm

As we head deep into the depths of winter most of us will be looking for some winter warming wines and while there are plenty of high alcohol, rich, jammy and juicy numbers available from Australia, Argentina, Chile and California, I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone about a wine that many will claim they don't like, but I hope will give a try - Port.

When I say the word "Port" I tend to get mixed reactions, mostly in a negative way. For example, upon the mere mention of the "P" word, many make a face. It seems that the verdict on port can be a very divisive wine-style: Those who like it, love it and those who don't, and won't touch the stuff no matter what you say.

As a fan of Port wines I always have trouble understanding when people tell me they don’t like the it. After all, what’s not to like?  Plum, cherry, chocolate all wrapped up with sweetness and alcohol; where’s the problem?  But there are still those who won’t give Port a fair shake.

Perhaps it is the price people balk at?  Sure Vintage Port can get pretty pricey, I have one bottle in my personal cellar, and that was a gift, but there are plenty of other styles that are more accessible.  From white and pink versions to lighter, sweeter red fruit and chocolate Ruby-styles to the often almond-toffee-orange peel-dried cherry version Tawnys.  There are also Late Bottled Vintage Ports that carry a vintage date without the vintage price, or the waiting time required to drink them.

Not long ago I walked the room at a Port tasting and tried a variety of Ports that are available in our market. I even recommended a value vintage Port in my Thirst Impressions column, a wine that hit Vintages shelves on January 7, 2012 (Jose Maria da Fonseca & Van Zeller 2003 Vintage Port $19.95 - #0638924) - but here are some other Port producers and styles many might find worth the money and a great way to keep warm this winter.  Most are widely available here in the Great White North.

Ferreira Dona Antonia Reserve Port ($18.95) – this is a 6 year old bottling made in a Ruby-style, but with cherry fruit in the forefront and orange peel backing it up it drinks like a cross between a ruby and a tawny, though leans more tawny, especially on the finish. (****)

Taylor Fladgate - the one thing I can say about Taylor is that they are consistent throughout their line. From the Late Bottled Vintage at $17.95 to the Vargellas Vinha Velha single vineyard ($275) they really put delicious taste and style into each and every bottle.  Personally, I love their 40 year old tawny (****+) but at $224 I find it a little out of my price range for any bottle, no matter how good it is. Their Vintage (2009) marks the first time they have made 4 vintage Ports in a decade (2000 / 2003 / 2007), but for my money the Late Bottled Vintage 2005 ($17.95) is an absolute steal, very fruit driven with great acidity and the right amount of sweetness. (**** ½)

Sandeman - odd to see a Vintage Port under $20 but the 2000 VAU Vintage ($19.95) is a light refreshing take on the usual heavy vintage port and it drinks well right now. (****)

Hutcheson - 1999 Colheita ($29.95) consists of creamy smooth vanilla, toffee and dried cherries. (****+)

Calem - 10 Year Old Port ($19.95)  combines a smooth toffee taste that is dominated by spice. (****)

Quinta do Noval - 2005 Late Bottled Vintage (~$25). This one is a real beauty, showing that 2005 was a great year for the Late Bottled Vintage stuff: peppery, spicy, blackberry and cassis with a sprinkling of cocoa; long spicy finish ends this one with class and elegance.  Set for release in Ontario March 2012; my recommendation is to buy a few. (**** ½)

Quinta do Infantado - I’ve been a fan of this Port house since first we met a few years back.  I have both their Ruby and Tawny in my cellar.  Hopefully we’ll also see the 2007 Late Bottled Vintage ($N/A) on these shores sometime soon, as it was also well worth putting in the cellar for a spell. (****+)

Dow’s - 2005 Late Bottled Vintage ($16.05). This port is another fine example of the ’05 LBV’s being worth the price; one of my two favourites in this style from this year - see Fladgate above for my other.(****+)

Warre’s - You have probably seen OPTIMA in its distinctive clear 500ml bottle, so far we’ve just been privy to the 10 year old version, but now here comes the 20 ($39.95).  The 10 doles out sweet cherry and toffee; the 20 dishes up the cherry and toffee and adds a real nice orange peel sensation along with biting acidity and spice; good complexity here. (****+)

Graham’s -  Another house that shows a great deal of consistency in the bottle; here the choice was easier to make for a favourite though.  Standing heads and tails above the rest of the line was the 20 Year Old Tawny ($36.95) – cherry, anise, orange zest and dried peel, toffee and some almond brittle all add to the intensity and enjoyment of this deliciously inviting sweetie. (**** ½)

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