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Port…voyage of discovery

In a class of its own, Port is a unique fortified wine style hailing from the spectacular terraced vineyards of Portugal’s Douro Valley. It has inspired imitations from many of the world’s wine regions, but much as with Champagne, none of the competitors can match a top vintage Port from a good producer.

badgePort is a unique wine style that derives its flavour, strength and sweetness from the process of adding spirit to still-sweet part-fermented grape must. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that Port represents two rather different wine styles, depending whether the wine is primarily aged in bottle or in cask. Most readers will probably be familiar with the sweet, dark, tannic, richly fruited style of Vintage and Single Quinta Ports which are bottled fairly young, and will then slowly age to mellowness. Less commonly appreciated are the cask-matured Ports known as Tawny or Colheita (these are vintage dated tawnies), which are typically lighter in colour, with soft, spicy nutty flavours and less overt fruitiness. Both styles are worthwhile.

| Types of Ports - Aged from a single harvest

• Vintage

Vintage Port (or VP for short) is considered the crème de la crème or King of Ports. On average, VPs are only produced 3 times per decade, in the very best of years. A Port declaration only occurs when a shipper believes they have enough quantity of very high caliber grapes to bottle from a single harvest. VP’s typically are a blend of grapes from several Quinta’s that a producer owns or buys from. However, some grapes are also purchased from other contracted Quinta’s. After the initial vinification, VP’s are stored in used (and neutral) oak barrels for at least two years. By law, VP’s must then be bottled between the 2nd and 3rd year after harvest. They are bottled unfined and unfiltered and will form a rather large amount of sediment over time and must be decanted prior to drinking. VP’s are typically designed to need many years of cellaring before they fully mature.

There's strict controls on when a Port can be called Vintage, or 'declared' as it is known:
- the wine must be from a single harvest,
- bottled between 1st July of the second year following harvest, and before the 30th June of the third.
- the maker must submit samples of the wine to the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, together with details of the quantity of wine to be released, the yield of wine from the grapes, and the proposed release date of the wine.

If the Instituto is convinced that the wine is of sufficient quality they grant their approval and the maker can 'declare' the Vintage. Not all makers declare a specific year. It is a brave maker that does not follow the lead of other houses, but it is a far braver maker that declares a Vintage year when few others do. This results in much debate about the merits of one vintage over another, and the merits of one makers vintage over that of another makers.

Duorum Vintage 2007

Duorum Vintage 2007 Port

Full bodied with great structure, well balanced acidity, and with firm, ripe and well integrated tannins. These characteristics make for a very persistent, harmonious and elegant finish. A wine with great ageing potentilial.

£68.99 a bottle.

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• Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

Late Bottled Vintage Ports are produced from the grapes of a single harvest; the vintage of which will be stated on the label, and can be either filtered or unfiltered (formerly called “Traditional”). The year of bottling will also appear, typically on the back label of the bottle. LBVs are bottled between the 4th and 6th year after harvest and typically spend those years in very large oak barrels, which are called Tonnels.

LBVs which are filtered (and fined) are designed to be consumed upon release and are not meant to be aged. Filtered LBVs do not possess sediment and need no decanting prior to drinking. Most filtered LBVs do not state the term “filtered” on their label. Unfiltered LBVs will throw a “crust” (aka: sediment) just like a Vintage Port and need to be decanted. These types of LBVs can be cellared for longer term drinking than a filtered LBV (5-20 years) or consumed right away. Most of the time the word “Unfiltered” will appear on the front or back label to indicate this designation of LBV Port style.


Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage 2005 Port

Brilliant red colour with a wonderful aroma of dark fruits and a classy touch of chocolate. On the palate sweet grainy seductive tannins give the wine a superb elegance and interact well with the fruit and fine spirity finish.

£19.66 a bottle.

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• Single Quinta Vintage

Whereas Vintage Ports are blended with great skill from different vineyard sources, Single Quinta Ports are, as the name suggests, made from single estates. This is where some of the best value Port is to be found. Essentially, they are treated the same as Vintage Port, bottled just two years after harvest, and will also need decanting. In many cases these wines are components of Vintage Ports during vintage years and are then released as Single Quinta wines in non-Vintage years. They might also be from independent estates who bottle their own Ports each year, an increasingly common practice.


Offley Boa Vista Vintage 2003 Port

This wine is soft and rich, showing good structure and concentration, backed by lively, firm tannins, very well balanced with a very long finish.

£62.99 a bottle.

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• Colheita

Colheita (pronounced Col-yate-a) is pure and simply, a single vintage-dated Tawny Port, (all grapes are from one harvest) which are aged in small used oak barrels. In Portugese the word "Coleheita" actually means "harvest" and can be construed therefore, to mean vintage as well. Colheita Ports may also go by the name of "Port of the Vintage" and therefore must not be confused with Vintage Port, even though it is vintage dated on the label. If "Reserve" or "Reserva" is on the label...it means that the wine is a Colheita and not a VP. Colheita must be aged in cask at least 7 years, but eight years is pretty typical, but they may spend as many as 50 or more years maturing in wood. Look for the date of bottling on the front or the back label ("Bottled In 19XX ") along with the words "matured in wood" or "aged in cask"...both of which are further clues that this is not a Vintage Port. Colheitas offer excellent value as these wines are well aged, can be considered outstanding quality Tawny Ports, and are less expensive than similarly aged VP's.

Like VPs, Colheitas are "declared" after approval by the I.V.D.P. (Port and Douro Wine Institute, located in Oporto with a secondary branch in Lisboa). There is even less Colheita produced than VP, approximately 1% of all Port produced and mostly Portuguese Port Shippers produce the great ones, it is far more popular in Portugal thanthe rest of the world. where it is just becoming more popular in the past five years.

There are some Colheitas from the 1800’s that are still aging in small oak barrels in Portugal! Colheitas change dramatically during this extended time in cask and take on flavors of dried fruits, nuts, citrus and exotic spices, while becoming very smooth and complex the older they get.


Barros Colheita 1995 Port

Straw colour with a brownish rim. Intense and delicate aroma, red fruit, dry figs and a touch of oak. An involving taste, velvety and a long persistent finish.

£23.99 a bottle.

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Declared Years of Vintage Port

= Ready for drinking = Can be drunk now, but will improve further

2007 Classic Stunning wines from an exceptional year. General declaration.


Classic The 2003 wines have great ‘traditional’ tannic structure with attractive ripe fruit flavours - classic Vintage Port. A general declaration
2000 Classic The 2000 Vintage will be remembered for the immense concentration of its wines and for the small quantities produced.
1997 Classic One of the great Vintages of the decade, featuring full-bodied and harmonious wines. General declaration.
1994 Classic Classic, monumental wines with fabulous rich fruit character. An outstanding Vintage. Probably one of the best of the 20th Century. General declaration
1992 Outstanding A good Vintage with some rich and concentrated wines, the best of which are very good. Declared by some Port houses in favour of 1991
1991 Outstanding The first “Declared Vintage” for six years – the longest gap between declarations for decades. A very small but good Vintage not dissimilar to some of the 1983's. Declared by most but not all house
1985 Outstanding A great classic Vintage, with concentrated, rich and potent wines. General declaration.
1983 Outstanding An exceptional Vintage, with outstanding, powerful wines, but unjustly overshadowed by the 1985s and the 1977's before them. As a result these wines are very good value at auction. Declared by most houses.
1980 Outstanding A hugely underrated year, the good wines are outstanding. This Vintage is like the '66 in that it only became recognised for its real star quality years after the declaration. Overshadowed by the 1977, but as a result a real bargain at auction. General declaration.
1977 Outstanding A classic Vintage, concentrated, long-lasting and complex. Declared by all the major Port houses.
1975 Good A light Vintage, but the best are elegant and a pleasure to drink. General declaration.
1970 Classic A classic Vintage, with great balance, good structure, and long-lived wines. One of the absolute finest Vintage Ports of the last 50 years. Declared by all the major houses

| Types of Ports - Non Vintage

• Crusted

Often referred to as the “Poor man’s Vintage Port” because they emulate the qualities of a Vintage Port but are a fraction of the price. Crusted Ports are blends of at least two or more vintage years that age in wood for up to four years and ideally at least three years in bottle, left unfiltered and are intended to be aged in bottle for midterm cellaring (10-20 years). Crusted Ports are not often seen today outside of the UK, as LBVs have all but replaced them. They offer good quality at typically very good prices, and will need to be decanted just like a Vintage Port to remove the sediment (or “crust”). A little known Crusted Port factoid: Like VP, Crusted Porto must get used to its storage conditions and initially will throw more of a "crust", and then it will slow down as it acclimates to its surroundings and will continue to slowly mature.

• Garrafeira

This is a very rare style of Port and many Port lovers have never even heard of it, and even fewer have ever tasted one. Literally the word garrafeira (pronounced: gah-rah-FAY-ruh) translates to bottle cellar, private wine cellar or bottle rack in Portuguese. Do not confuse this with the word garrafeira you may find on your typical table wine in Portugal. In that scenario the word "garrafeira" typifies a Reserve wine, but has nothing to do with Port. Garrafeira which today is only produced by the Niepoort family is an elegant style of Port made from the grapes of a single harvest, like a Colheita and therefore has a vintage date on the bottle. But "Garrafeira" is its own special category and a unique relationship with special glass demijohns.

• Pink/Rosé

Pink port is a relatively new variation on the market, first released in 2008 to appeal to a more youthful market. It is made with the same grapes and according to the same extremely strict rules that govern the production of vintage and tawny and ruby ports. It is technically a ruby port, but fermented the way a rosé wine would be, with a limited exposure to the grape skins, thus the pink colour. Bearing the hallmarks of a light ruby with its taste being lighter in style and containing a fruity flavour, it's commonly served cold in various ways.


Offley Rosé Port

Offley Rosé has a light pink hue, with shades of violet, and a fine bouquet of tropical fruits and exotic wood. In the mouth is quite balanced and fresh, with a flavour of tropical fruits and a long and elegant finish.

£12.66 a bottle.

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• Reserve/Ruby Reserve

This designates a higher quality version of the Ruby Port which used to be called, “Vintage Character” Port. A Reserve Ruby is typically a Port which is made by blending a variety of vintages, with an average age of 5-7 years. They are still fruit forward Ports, but have more complexity and structure than a Ruby Port due to the extra time in cask.


Ramos Pinto Adriano Reserva Port

Impresses through its structure and its firm tannins, of a great quality. It's possible to feel a taste of ripe red fruits and exotic woods. The finish is long and robust.

£12.33 a bottle.

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• Ruby

This is the most basic of wood-aged Ports and the youngest. A Ruby Port is a blend of several years, typically averaging 3-5 years old. They are simple and fruit driven given their young age and are less complex than a Reserve Ruby or Late Bottled Vintage Port which progressively move towards a Vintage Port in style. Ruby Port is vinified to be consumed upon release and is not meant to be aged at all, with primary, vibrant fruit character. A lot of people use these to cook with, (e.g. Poached pears or for a Port reduction) as they are less expensive than other types and very fruit forward. Lightly chilled, these make a wonderful drink on a warm evening. Almost all Port producers make a reasonably priced bottle of Ruby Port and they are easy to find in a wine shop or on the shelves of your local grocer. Once opened, they last reasonably well, so there is no rush to finish the bottle quickly.


Ferreira Ruby Port

An intense and well defined ruby hue, with a intense aroma reminiscent of ver ripe fruit, fine-tuned through its careful ageing in wood as well as through the blending carried out during its natural ageing process. Full-bodied and rich, it has a fine balance between its sweetness and its tannin structure, giving it unique characteristics and a fine and attractive long finish.

£9.33 a bottle.

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• Tawny

It must first be mentioned here that Tawny Port, not Vintage Port is the most popular after dinner wine in Portugal. It is very easy to find excellent Tawny Port all around Portugal, but there is some difficulty in finding top notch VP, especially those from older vintages.

Tawny Port actually starts out like a Ruby Port, but then spends an extended period in wooto soften and round out its character. As the large oak casks or "pipes" are somewhat porous, the oxygen that enters over the years will allow some of the wine to evaporate. This concentrates flavors in the remaining wine and leaves a slight "air gap" at the top of the cask. Like a fine wine in a decanter with increased surface area exposed, the Tawny Port is allowed to oxidize during its time in the oak vessel. Constant racking over the many years the wine is in cask also allows for further oxidation. As this oxidation process takes place, the colour of the wine slowly changes from a purplish-red eventually to a tawny or reddish-brown. The more time the Tawny spends in wood the more complex its flavour profile, and the Tawny-er the colour becomes.


Dow's Fine Tawny Port

Dow's Tawny combines subtle fruit with delicious velvety nutty flavours derived from the cask ageing.

£9.00 a bottle.

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• Tawny with an indication of age

There are only 4 types approved in this category and they are 10 years old, 20 years old, 30 years old, and over 40 years old. These are a blend of many years where the average age of the bottle is at least 10, 20, 30 or 40 years old.

They are typically produced in a “House style” that varies from producer to producer yet remains relatively the same from year to year. It is the Master Blender responsible for exhaustive work at blending these Tawnies that has maintained the reputation of the "brand" and the Port Shipper's "house style." The consistency of the particular house style is the primary goal of the winemaker and master blender, along with producing a wonderful wine year after year. These Tawny Ports often give excellent quality to price ratio, (QPR) allowing the buyer to get an older Port at an affordable price. Tawny Port with an Indication of Age is what most Tawny lovers seek out, except those that have been enlightened by Colheita is still very difficult to come by in the UK marketplace - untill now.

Look on the label of a Tawny Port With An Indication Of Age and you will find the year of the bottling, the age of the wine 10, 20 etc., and a mention that the wine is aged in cask (or wood). These wines offer a smooth and silky mouth feel, with intense flavours and aromas that vary from nutty, caramel, nutmeg, leathery, and even chocolate.


Quinta do Vallado 10 Year Tawny Port

Balanced, velvety and consistent, it has a complex profile, which lingers in the mouth.

£31.33 a bottle.

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• White

White Port is made from white grapes of which a few dozen varieties qualify for the final blend. There are nearly as many white varieties grown in the Douro as red grape types. White Port is fortified like all other styles of Porto, but vinified like a tawny and aged for a year in huge oak tanks before further aging in “Pipes” (550 liter oak casks) prior to bottling. The wines range in colour from that of a pale straw Chardonnay to a beautiful salmon colour seen frequently in Rose, to those aged for extended periods in wood that resemble the appearance of ancient Tawnies.


Sandeman Apitiv Branco Port

A pale yellow colour, APITIV, has floral and a nutty aroma. A light fresh flavour combined with a hint of natural sweetness.

£14.66 a bottle.

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