Friday, February 19, 2016

What kind of Port should I buy?

Port has been around for centuries and I noticed this year that there seems to be a rising interest in different types of port. The most common question I was asked over the Christmas season was "What is a good port to serve?" Well... They're all good. It's like asking, "What is a good wine to serve?" Do you like red, white, rose, sparkling or dessert? It all depends on your taste. So lets review the most common types of port so that you can try them and then decide for yourself.

So what is port?
Port is a wine that has a grape spirit or brandy added to fortify it which increases the alcohol level to between 19 and 22%. Fortifying port wine was started during the French-English wars when wine shipped from Portugal spoiled during the voyage to England. Spirit alcohol was added as a preservative.
Port is synonymous with Portugal (specifically the Douro region) although a few countries like Canada, Australia and California produce "port style" wines as well but not nearly as good as the port from the Duoro. Red ports are made primarily from the Tinto Roriz and Touriga Nacional grapes. White port is made from Viozinho, Gouveio, Malvasia, Rabigato grapes.

Here's a brief description of each port style with an example

No doubt that this is the absolute top tier of ports and the price point reflects the quality. The best grapes from the best vineyards go into this port which is only declared about 3 times per decade. A dark rich flavoured and unfiltered port (decanting required) that should be consumed within a few days after opening or it will start to go downhill. Vintage port if stored properly can be aged up to 50 years.

2003 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port (LCBO - 251967) $130.25

LBV or Late Bottle Vintage
A mainstream port that is filtered and ready to serve. It also has a much longer shelf life after opening so you can hold onto it for awhile without worrying about it going stale.

2009 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port (LCBO - 46946) $16.00

Tawny and Old Tawny
Tawny port is a blend of Ruby port and White port. Old Tawny ports are much more complicated as the port is a careful blend of aged Tawny ports and then bottled as 10, 20 or 30 year Old Tawny ports.

Graham's 10 Year Old Tawny Port (LCBO 404012) $25.95

As the name indicates this port is ruby coloured. The youngest of ports with a more fruit forward flavour and a minimum 3 years in a cask before it can be bottled and sold.

Sandeman Ruby Port - (LCBO - 23366) $15.45 

White Port
A semi-sweet port. Unlike the dark fruit like fig and nutty flavours of an LBV or Vintage port, a white port has more citrus (orange) and honey flavours

Calem Lagrima White Port (LCBO - 912568) $16.95

To make it more confusing, there is also Colheita, Crusted and variations of Reserve ports which are less common but you may want to try them as well.