First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 22nd September, 2018
Do you drink port every Christmas and ignore it the rest of the year – even though you love it? Or do you blame it for that hangover, conveniently forgetting prior consumption of alcohol earlier in the evening? Port has successfully moved on from our image of crusty old colonels swigging a glass in the library.
Nowadays, you are more likely to find younger diners trying a chilled Tawny with their dessert, drinking a long summery cocktail made with white Port, or even sipping a glass of iced pink (rosé) port. Not only that, the Douro Valley, where all port grapes are grown, now produces very good red and white table wines too. I feature one below.
However, as autumn begins to bite, there are few things more warming and comforting, than a glass of port with a few hunks of cheese, a handful of walnuts, or possibly a few squares of dark chocolate.
The big daddy of them all is vintage port, made, as the name suggests, with wine the very best wines from one single excellent year. A port house tends to declare a vintage roughly every five years. In the intervening period, a producer may release single quinta ports, made from one single vineyard in a good but not outstanding vintage. Single quinta port can offer great value; it is often a match for vintage port, drinking earlier, but often lasting for an equally long period.
Vintage port matures and improves for decades (I am still working on my 1970 and 1977 Fonseca); it is therefore the ideal gift for a godchild, child, or any other young relative – or as a wedding present. You can be pretty sure good vintage port will last as long as they do. If you neglected to buy your godchild some port, there are still plenty of vintage ports available, provided the recipient, were born in the right year. I can vouch for the wonderful, elegant Taylor’s Vintage 2007 (€145) and the hedonistic lush, spicy Fonseca 2009 (€155). Both can be drunk now or at any time over the next two decades, and should be available from the same stockists as the Taylor’s below.
Chris Forbes, of the Taylor Fladgate group, visited Ireland earlier this month, showing three 2016 vintage ports. I would love to have a few bottles of Taylor’s or Fonseca in my cellar. Tawny port is aged in barrel (as opposed to bottle for vintage ports) and therefore needs no decanting. Try it chilled with desserts, or hard cheeses such as Manchego, and Parmesan. If decanting bothers you, maybe you should invest in a Coravin, which will allow you to withdraw a glass of mature vintage port without opening the bottle – restaurants please take note!
100 Hectares Touriga Nacional 2016, Douro
Very stylish ripe youthful powerful black forest fruits, with nice grip and real length. Decant before serving. Confit duck with some creamy mashed potatoes.
From La Touche, Greystones, Latouchewines4u.ie; Donnybrook Fair, donnybrookfair.ie; Harold’s Cross, D6; Fresh Outlets, freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie; Nectar Wines, Sandymount; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street, thecorkscrew.ie; Liston’s, Camden St., listonsfoodstore.ie; The Wine Shop, Perrystown; The Wine Well, Dunboyne
Taylor’s Limited Edition Reserve Tawny Port NV
20%, €55 for a litre bottle
Mature figs, nuts and orange peel mingle with fresher cherry and blackcurrant fruits. Serve cool or lightly chilled with pâtés, firm cheeses, or rich cakes and puddings.
From O’Donovan’s, Cork, Odonovansofflicence.com; Clontarf Wines, clontarfwines.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, greenmanwines.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Kelly’s, Clontarf, kellysofflicence.ie; Terroirs, Donnybrook, Terroirs.ie; Gibney’s, Malahaide, gibneys.com; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, dundalkwines.com; McHughs, Kilbarrack Road & Malahide Rd., mchughs.ie; Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; O’Briens, obrienswine.ie; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie; Wineonline.ie
Fonseca Quinta do Panascal 2001, Single Quinta Port
Smooth and rich, with an explosion of figs, walnuts and pure damson fruits edged with spice. With any firm or blue cheese.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Kelly’s, Clontarf, kellysofflicence.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Clontarf, martinsofflicence.ie; O’Donovan’s, Cork, Odonovansofflicence.com; Grape & Grain, Leopardstown, leopardstowninn.ie; Grenham’s, Ballinasloe; The Vineyard, Belfast, vineyardbelfast.co.uk
Taylor’s Vintage Port 2016
Supremely elegant with wonderful pure damson and blackcurrant fruits, good acidity, and plenty of tannic structure. Deceptively drinkable now, but you should really keep it for 10-30 years.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,jusdevine.ie; Kelly’s, Clontarf, kellysofflicence.ie; Gibney’s, Malahaide, gibneys.com; Clontarf Wines, clontarfwines.ie; Blake’s Fine Wines, Derrylin, blakesfinewines.com