Port is a particular style of dessert-wine that hasn’t changed its identity since it was the tipple of choice for kings, royal courts, aristocrats and those with a penchant for la dolce vita. Pigeon-holed today as a traditional end to big, sumptuous meals or seen exclusively as a festive treat for Christmas Day, port has slowly trickled off the main stage and exited from any progressive conversation surrounding wine.
Which is a shame, because it’s absolutely delicious.
Things have seen such a downturn that the volume of premium ports coming to the UK from January to September this year has fallen by 20% from 2015, according to the IVDP. Instead we’ve seen the steady rise of drier styles coming from Portugal as our wine palate shifts. However, while port may have fallen out of vogue in more recent years, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to discover. White port and tonic anyone?
This dry style of port is the most delicious of winter aperitifs, and a nice nutty alternative to your usual G&T. It’s also a little-drunk concoction that is definitely overdue a revival.
With that in mind, and a December desire to snuggle up by a fire with a glass of something robust and sweet, probably accompanied by a big ol’ hunk of cheese, we asked Ruth Spivey, from Wine Car Boot, to point us in the direction of some delicious little numbers to enjoy over the winter period.
So, whether it’s a bottle to take to the in-laws for Christmas lunch, or a little nip to have in the warmth of your favourite bar this winter, here’s a few favourite ports for you to seek out right now.
FOUR PORTS TO TRY THIS CHRISTMAS
Berry Bros. & Rudd William Pickering, 20-Year-Old, Tawny Port @ Berry Brothers & Rudd
Quinta do Noval is one of the most beautiful properties in the magnificent Douro Valley, equally famous for their bottle and cask aged ports. Berry Bros. & Rudd have had a long and happy association with them, resulting in this special house bottling. This is a classic tawny - a wonderfully rich yet subtle wine has been aged for over twenty years in wood before bottling, with each passing year gaining in nutty complexity and unparalleled elegance.
Quinta de la Rosa Ruby Lot 501 @ Craft London
All Quinta de la Rosa’s ports are made in the ‘house style’ - which is slightly drier without any cloying sweetness that can be associated with some other ports. Ruby Port is the youngest and simplest style, offering both value and drinkability. This Ruby is unique in that it comes from A graded grapes all grown on the Quinta - most houses use B or below so there’s some extra quality thrown in for free too.
Niepoort Dry White @ Lea & Sandeman, Theatre of Wine and other good independents.
A rare style of dry white port, made with lengthy skin maceration and wood ageing, best served chilled as an aperitif or as a long drink with tonic water, ice and a twist of lemon. This one is made mostly with Malvasia, a richly aromatic variety. Dirk Niepoort makes the best dry white port going (all his wines and ports are excellent) with atypical elegance and freshness. Nothing better than a a refreshing ‘Port Tonic’ watching the sun go down (preferably over the Douro Valley!).
Graham’s 1955 @ Fera at Claridge’s
For a real treat - and splurge - head to the wonderful Fera who have recently plumped up their port selection in time for Christmas. £1150 will get you a bottle of 1955 Graham’s. The 1955 vintage produced outstanding, fruity wines for long-term ageing - just as well as this might be the oldest thing at the table! - and has been described as one of the most underrated Vintages of the 20th Century. Go on, it is Christmas…