When we think of Port we often think of Christmas but this week I want to encourage you to think about this wonderful wine as an ‘anytime’ drink.
My son had his 18th birthday last spring and one of the drinks I served him and a few of his friends at the after-party was Smith Woodhouse 2000 which is still remarkably youthful.
I’m pleased to report they loved it and I had to open a second bottle.
Smith Woodhouse is the entry level vintage port from the Symington Family who also own Dow and Warres.
The other great powerhouse in Port is Taylors who also own Fonseca and Croft and other names that have featured here before include Noval and Niepoort — Wine Mason will have some Niepoort open at this Thursday’s Spit wine festival (see below).
Almost everyone declared in 2016 making it the first generally declared vintage since 2011.
Taylors held a tasting of their 2016s along with some older vintages in Green Man wines recently and the heady aromas that filled the room brought to mind my mothers jam making sessions when I was a child (we grew raspberries and blackberries).
I realise that at up to €95 a bottle these are not for everyone but given the price of fine Bordeaux Vintage Port is a bargain and Tawny Port even more so.
The weather in 2016 was ideal in the Douro with a wet Spring to compensate for the drought in 2015, a hot dry summer and a warm spell after some mid-September rains which delayed the harvest a little.
Yields were low but quality was very high and already the wines are showing well.
Croft is one of the oldest Port houses and Taylors have put a lot of work into their wines in recent years — the 2016 is beautifully bright and fruity with exuberant blackberry fruits and integrated tannins.
Fonseca was a little more savoury in comparison with violets, blackcurrants and touches of mint, layers of dense fruits and an attractive minerality.
Taylors 2016 had dense concentrated fruits and will probably last the longest.
As usual with Taylors it just seemed a little more regal than the others with concentrated textured black fruits, weighty and dense, but also ripe with a big structure and touches of herbs on the finish.
Don’t forget that the Spit-Fest wine fair is on next Thursday (October 11) at the Chocolate Factory, Dublin 1. www.spit.ie
Best value under €15
This is Croft’s entry level port and a good refresher on the Croft style which tends to be easy drinking with a touch more red fruits than its rivals.
Ripe raspberry, black cherry and plum fruits, soft and luscious with a bright fruity finish.
I like this a little chilled with poached pears and with strong cheeses.
Not a port but a ripe red wine from the same region made with grapes often used for Port — Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz (better known as Tempranillo).
Juicy light red fruits with some pleasing earthy touches and a taut, ripe, fruit-driven palate.
Perfect for casseroles or roast meats.
Alvarinho is the Portuguese name for Albariño and this is not from the Douro but from further north near the river Minho which is Portugal’s border with Galicia.
Aromas of peaches and white flowers, textured and fruity with pears and sweet apple but with a tangy salty fresh finish.
Best value over €15
Taylors have long been a specialist in Tawny and have ramped this up in recent years with special releases of colheita (vintage) tawny.
This has been in barrel for at least 10 years with a brick red colour with stewed and berry fruit aromas.
Silky and soft with a touch of acidity and lingering stewed fig flavours - perfect for strong cheese or with fruit based desserts.
This is a chance to taste Vintage Port at a lesser price in a more fruit-forward style.
Sourced from the same three estates as Fonseca Vintage it matures earlier but has a touch less density than its big brother.
This is elegant and velvety with ripe prune and plum fruits.
Due in store any day now is Taylor’s delicious new special Reserve Tawny in an antique one litre bottle.
Blended from ports eight and nine years old with a ruby tinged tawny colour, almonds and cherry aromas with violet hints, elegant red and plum fruits, supple and juicy with a long finish.