There are several different drinks that I sell in abundance over the festive period and very little the rest of the year. Port is no exception although I sell more outside of the festive period then drinks like Cointreau or Baileys.
Port has been in our hearts for generations and is the favoured drink at Christmas time when the cheese board comes out. The varied styles appeal to the masses and the quality of the wine is superb.
Port is made by draining off red wine which has only partly fermented so it still contains a fair amount of the natural sugars, into a vessel containing brandy. The fermentation stops, and the result is a mixture which is both strong and sweet. The wine still needs the colour extraction from the skins along with the tannin which is normally achieved through a longer fermentation, but as with Port the fermentation is short, this extraction must come from another process, and that is treading.
I’m often asked if treading the grapes by foot still exists and Port production is pretty much still done this way, although some of the bigger house have introduced mechanical treading that mimic the gentle action that treading by foot achieves.
The vineyards have a classification from A down to F which reflect the quality of their natural advantages which include altitude, soil, location and age of the vines. The higher the classification the more valuable the grapes. The grapes used for production are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz which is related to the Tempranillo grape grown all over Spain, Tinta Cao and Tinta Barroca.
The many different classifications of Port make it somewhat confusing to understand. For example, Vintage Port is made from grapes from one year and is only declared a vintage in exceptional years like vintage Champagne, and must be aged in barrel for a minimum of 18 months. LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) is vintage Port but aged for much longer typically for around 4 to 6 years. LBV does not have the intensity of vintage port but finer examples can show an elegant, velvety rich style and can offer great value for money.
Here are a couple of good examples I stock.
Feuerheerd LBV 2013 - £16.99
Still foot-trodden, this classic LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) from a very old producer has an amazing bouquet with a rich smooth velvety character.
Quinta do Infantado LBV 2013 - £16.99
Rich and balanced with a good depth of flavour with a medium dry finish.
Or something extra special:
Taylor’s 1966 Vintage - £190.00 Considered to be the finest vintage ever.