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Don't choose just any port in a storm
1:25pm Tuesday 2nd December 2008 in Leisure
Port, like its other fortified brethren sherry and Madeira, has always had a bit of an image problem.
But don’t let its ancient associations with elderly gents, cigars and gout put you off.
Most of the port drunk in this country hails from Portugal’s incredibly beautiful Douro valley, where vines have been grown on terraced hillsides for more than 300 years.
While white port makes a good summer aperitif, this time of year calls for the honeyed richness of its more mature cousins.
The very best vintage ports – blended from the pick of the wines from the best vineyards and stored for at least 15 years – can be rather pricey, but there are plenty of pocket-friendly options.
Port also makes an excellent gift, especially if you’re turning up at someone’s place for dinner and want to treat them to something to stash in their cellar. Play your cards right, of course, and they might just crack it open on the spot.
If you’re not a fan of Stilton, try your next glass of port with dark chocolate, dried fruit (figs are especially good) or Brazil nuts.
While wine buffs are often seeking out new vineyards and the Next Big Thing, port fans can rely on trusted names familiar to generations of drinkers.
They might not sound very Portuguese, but names like Croft, Graham and Taylors are all reliable labels.
Graham’s 1980 Vintage Port is one of the finest wines, but it’s hard to get hold of and costs upwards of £40 a bottle. Try your local wine merchant or thedrinkshop.com if you’re keen to get your hands on one.
The new 2003 Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage, which is just about to appear in stores nationwide at £11.99 a bottle, is a nice introduction to port at a fraction of the cost. Taylor’s created this style for British palates, so it’s almost like getting a bespoke port at a bargain price.
There’s no rule that you can’t look further afield – Australia’s De Bortoli winery produces some excellent port thanks to some parcels of very old wines from the Barossa Valley and Rutherglen. EU regulations mean that they can’t label their aged tawny port accordingly, but look out for the deep golden Old Boys 21 Year Old (£18.99 at Oddbins, pictured left).
Single quinta written on a label means the port has been produced by one vineyard, rather than the work of many. Croft’s Quinta da Roeda 1997 (£17.99 at Threshers and Majestic) comes in a smart wooden crate, making it a nice Christmas gift.
Because you can’t move a muscle without someone mentioning the dreaded credit crunch these days, rest assured that you can get away with spending less than a tenner (though, as always, you do get what you pay for).
Look out for Fletcher’s Ten Year Old Tawny Port in Aldi stores for a cheap and cheerful £7.99. Croft Indulgence (£9.99 at Tesco, pictured right) and Taylor’s First Estate (£8.99 at Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Budgens) are also good buys for lean times.
Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny is a spicy, fruity port and a great partner for mince pies and Christmas cake, aavailable from all major retailers, RRP £17.99 for a 750ml bottle or £12.98 for 500ml.