Vintage Port – The Ultimate Holiday Gift
Are you looking for that special holiday gift for your boss, or the wine aficionado in your life who seems to have everything, but unsure of what to get? The options can be overwhelming. You can go the same route as most others and select a high end bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Scotch, but why not do something a little more outside the box and go for a high end bottle of vintage Port?
We have amazing bottles from the 2011 vintage, all of which received ratings of 96-100 points in the Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast. A vintage Port is a completely different animal than the other bottles of Port you will find on the market. They are a very special bottle, and some of them need to age for 20 years or more before they’re ready to drink. Here we’ll briefly explore what Port and vintage Port are, how a vintage is declared and how to properly enjoy your bottle of vintage Port.
What is Port & How is it Made?
Port is a fortified wine that comes from the Douro Valley, which is located in the northwest part of Portugal. Port comes in a wide variety of styles ranging from Ruby and Tawny to Late Bottled Vintage and Vintage Port (which is the focus of this article). Port is made from over 50 different local red and white grape varieties. Some of the most common grape varieties used are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Cao and Tinta Roriz.
Port starts off being made in a similar style to other still wines. The grapes are harvested in the Fall and then pressed in large cement or steel tanks to extract the juice and initiate fermentation. After a while, the wine is fortified with a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente, which stops the fermentation process. This fortification leaves residual sugar in the wine. Finally, the Port is pumped into large oak casks to age. After the aging process, different lots of Port are blended together until the house’s desired flavor profile is achieved.
Vintage Port & Declaring a Vintage
Vintage Port is made exclusively from grapes grown and harvested in a specific vintage that has been declared. Keep in mind that not all vintages get declared, usually only 2 to 3 each decade. The decision to declare a vintage lies with each Port producer every year. It is not a joint, trade wide or regulatory imposed decision.
Once the decision has been made, the timeline for completing production starts in the second January after harvest. That’s when a sample is sent to the Port and Douro Wines Institute, who gives approval for the Port to be sold as vintage. Typically sometime in April the vintage is publicly declared with cask samples and a launch and by the end of June bottling is completed, and they are released for sale.
Enjoying Vintage Port
Since vintage Port is aged in bottle, it is best to decant it. This will help to remove the natural sediment that was deposited by the wine and allow the aromas that have developed in bottle to express themselves. Using a small funnel with a strainer may be helpful in keeping some of the sediment from getting into the decanter. Here are a few simple steps to follow when decanting:
* Prior to decanting, let the bottle stand upright for 10-15 minutes if it’s less than 40 years old, and up to 30 minutes for an older bottling.
* Pour the wine gently into a decanter and stop pouring when you see sediment moving into the bottle neck.
* Decant vintages up to 40 years old two to three hours before serving. Decant older vintages 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
When you’re ready to enjoy your Port, pour into Port glasses and enjoy. For maximum enjoyment, it is important to serve your Port at the proper temperature, which is 61-64 degrees Fahrenheit. If you serve a Port too cool, it won’t release all of its aromas and flavors. If you serve a Port too warm, it will appear to be unbalanced.