(November 7, 2007)
is the quintessential after-dinner winter drink. In fact, if I were
the Mayor of Toronto I would legislate for St. Bernard dogs to patrol
the streets on cold weather nights with barrels of Port strapped
around their necks. (Which is not as crackpot a scheme as some our
politicians dream up.)
The only question would be, Which style of Port should the dogs
Port is made by adding brandy to the wine of the Douro Valley before
it has finished fermenting. The alcohol stops the fermentation process.
This leaves residual sugar in the wine and an alcohol reading of
around 20 per cent by volume (most table wines are 12 to 13 per
cent alcohol). How the wine is treated at that point determines
The initial wine is usually a blend of five indigenous grape varieties
– Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and
Basically, there are two types of Port: those aged in wood and
those aged in bottles. The length of ageing time determines the
category and the price.
The least expensive Port is Ruby, with an average age of 3 years.
It's young, sweet and fleshy.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is a wine from a single year that has
spent an average of 4 to 6 years in wood. The wine may carry a vintage
date but it will not improve noticeably in the bottle unless it
is left unfiltered before bottling. Drink it now.
Vintage Character is the same as LBV but is a blend of different
Tawny Port is aged in wooden casks and derives its name from the
colour of the wine. Since it is exposed to air it oxidizes over
the years in wood and loses that dense purple-ruby colour of bottle-aged
Ports. Tawnys can be 3 to 5 years old and Aged Tawnys will be 10,
20, 30, 40 or even 50 years old. The number of years refers to the
average age of the wines in the blend.
Colheita is a Tawny Port from a single vintage and will bear the
date on the label.
Single Quinta is a vintage Port made from grapes grown on a single
estate. The large Port houses such as Taylor, Graham, Dow and Warre
will usually bottle a single quinta Port from their individual properties
in years when they don't declare a vintage Port for the house as
Vintage Port is bottled unfiltered after two years in cask and
requires long ageing. The wine will eventually throw a sediment
and will require decanting. Vintage Ports are not produced every
year; it is up to the individual producers to declare a vintage
Port if they consider it up to their house standard. Vintage Port
is still made the traditional way by foot-treading the grapes in
lagares that look like square, cement wading pools.
White Port is made from such white varieties as Gouveio, Malvasia
Fina and Viosinho and ranges from off-dry to sweet. It should be
chilled for serving.
The French are the largest consumers of Port, usually Ruby or white
as a pre-dinner aperitif; the English prefer Vintage Port and LBV
while the Portuguese themselves prefer aged Tawnys.
Aged Tawnys are slightly less sweet than Vintage Ports and make
ideal accompanying wines for desserts such as chocolate mousse,
crème brûlée and cheesecake. They can also be served with mild cheeses
and pâtés. And the great thing about Tawny Ports is that, because
they are already oxidized, they will last a long time in an opened
bottle or in your decanter. Bottle-aged Ports like Vintage and LBV
should be consumed within two weeks of opening the bottle.
Vintage Port and LBV go beautifully with blue cheeses, foie gras
and rich desserts (like Christmas pudding).
The LCBO general list currently does not have a great selection
of Ports but you will find Sandeman Ruby ($15.45, #23366) and Kopke
Full Rich Ruby ($14.30, #35766).
The best of the LBV on general list are Taylor's Reserve Late Bottled
Vintage ($17.35, #46946), though richer LBVs can be found at Vintages
outlets – Quinta Sa de Baixo LBV 2001 ($23.95, #30460) and Quinta
do Portal LBV ($23.80, #613901).
A good introduction to the delights of Tawny Port is Quinta do
Noval Tawny Reserve at Vintages outlets ($19.95, #687608). On the
general list is Graham's 10 Year Old Tawny ($28.15, #206508), and
for a real treat pick up a bottle of Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny
(Vintages, $67.95, #149047).
Vintage Ports are expensive and usually disappear from the shelves
as soon as they are listed. For example, Warre's 2003 sells for
$69.95 in Vintages and there are only a few bottles remaining in
the system (#633248).
Article by Tony Aspler
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