Port wine is for some quite a scary wine category. There is so much to choose from, so many styles, how do you know what is good and how long can it stay open – these are some of the questions I am often asked by people who are thinking about buying a bottle of Port. Then there is the price. A good bottle of Port usually costs much more than the average bottle of wine, so I understand that for some people it can be a difficult decision.
So what is it about Tawny Port and makes it so special that is worth paying for?
Tawny Port is a very interesting and classic category within Port. The grapes and initial winemaking process are exactly the same as for the Ruby Ports. The main difference however is in the ageing process after you have made the wine. Tawny Ports spend all their life maturing in large seasoned oak casks. It’s a carefully controlled process, and only the best selection of quality wines can go on to age successfully for 10, 20 or 30 years or more in this type of environment. When the wine is initially poured in into the casks, it is very deep-coloured with lots of black fruit character. As it ages in large casks, it loses its colour, and develops a very different fruit character. At 10 years old the colour has already changed to a more brick red – copper colour and the fruit is more red fruits based intermingled with nuts, spices and apricots. By 20 years of age, the colour is more like mahogany and the flavours are much more tertiary with apricot, baked peach, orange peel, caramel and spices intermingled. Only the best barrels age well beyond this and at 30 years the spiciness, nuttiness and more subtle apricot, orange peel and toffee take the upper-hand.
What I think is amazing, is that we can purchase Ports which have aged 20 or 30 years yet are still accessible in terms of price. A good bottle of Tawny Port also keeps well in the fridge after opening, and you can easily enjoy it over a 4 – 6 week period. This means you can enjoy it with several dinners rather than worrying that it is going to go off. The reason you can keep the bottle so long after opening is because Tawny Ports have spent all their life in casks which means they are used to being around oxygen and are very stable and comfortable in this time of environment, as opposed to a wine which has spent all of its life maturing in a bottle.
Grahams Port, Douro Valley, Portugal
Grahams (owned by the Symington Family) has been one of the leading producers of Port wines in the Douro Valley in Portugal for more than 200 years. Grahams 20 year Tawny Port is an excellent choice if you really want to understand Tawny Port quality and ageability. The average age of the Ports used to make the 20 year old, are in fact 25 years old which means that in the blend there is a combination of much older Ports blended in that add to the complexity.
Photo taken inside Graham´s Port Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro River from Porto during my Master of Wine student trip to the Douro Valley.
Grahams 20 year old Tawny Port
Bestillingsutvalget – men finnes i flere butikker.
Opprinnelse: Douro Valley, Portugal
Druene: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela
20% abv, Restsukker: 115 g/l
Medium deep mahogany, with red undertone. Aromatic with very good concentration of orange peel, apricot, caramel and spices. On the palate: lovey “ying yang balance of freshness and juiciness. Very good concentration of orange peel, glazed apricots, caramel and dried fruit. Nutty complexity, cinnamon and spice. Very pure with a long lingering finish. Incredibly good!
Ready to drink now, but will hold another 10 years.
Best poured and enjoyed in a high-quality white wine glass rather than traditional small glasses. Serve with ice cream or crème brûlée, or selection of cheeses. Holds well 4 – 6 weeks after opening when stored in fridge.