Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

The rumours of Port Wine’s demise have thankfully been exaggerated. While the market is overly seasonal in nature (that is, Christmas), and sales are down, sales of one style are definitely up.

Vintage Port was (and is) the premium port, sought after by collectors and expensive restaurants, and fought over at auctions. However newer wine drinkers are far too impatient to wait 20 years to drink Vintage Port, and if truth be told are often a little intimidated by the whole decanting ritual.

Ruby Port and Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) ports are perfectly fine (Taylor’s LBV is excellent) but do not have the romance of long ageing.

Tawny port is aged in barrel for anywhere from seven to 40 years — a 10- or 20-year-old Tawny is a blend and is an average of 10 or 20 years old. This is what New York restaurants’ richest customers are asking for and old family firms like Taylors have been happy to oblige.

Such is the demand for these silky, figgy, wonders that Taylors began to run low on stocks and began buying up other estates.

Among the fine old tawnies they found in storage at one of their latest acquisitions was a single barrel from the 1863 vintage. This was the year of the Gettysburg Address and one year before Phylloxera wiped out the vineyards of the Douro.

Just 1,600 bottles of the 1863 are to be released in crystal decanters at a cost of €3,750 each. I was lucky enough to taste a tiny drop recently and it is a fascinating combination of treacle and liquid figs with huge length and, believe it or not, balance. I recommend some less expensive Tawnies below.

All of my suggestions this week are available from The Corkscrew via their online shop ( www.thecorkscrew.ie ) or from their tiny Aladdin’s cave of a shop on Chatham Street between Neary’s pub and Steps of Rome pizza (also recommended).

For the diary: The Corkscrew’s Winter Wine Fair, Sunday, November 23, 12.30-5pm, is at Westbury Hotel, Dublin. Admission €25.

Thomas Woodberrys Christmas Wine Tasting, Harbour Hotel, Galway, Thursday, November 27, 5-9pm.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Segredos de Sao Miguel, Alentejo, Portugal - €10.99-11.99

Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

Stockists: The Corkscrew, www.TheCorkscrew.ie , O’Donovans Cork

As you have no doubt heard me say before the Alentejo (South of Lisbon and North of the Algarve) is a source of very tasty reds and whites at good prices. This is a typical blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira and has lovely bright juicy supple red and black fruits and a touch of spice and smoke on the finish.

The Winery of Good Hope Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa - €14.95

Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

Stockists: The Corkscrew, www.TheCorkscrew.ie 

This is only the second or third South African I have mentioned this year as there is a bit of a shortage of good Cape wines around these days. This is imported by the guys in Corkscrew and has classic Cab-Merlot aromas of plums and blackcurrants and some sweet juicy fruit. This is the kind of internationally appealing wine we don’t seem to get from SA any more.

Clos de Porteau, Le Gravelot 2013, Touraine, France - €14.95

Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

Stockists: The Corkscrew, www.TheCorkscrew.ie

Chenin Blanc seems to be hard to sell (as does anything from the Loire) which I think is a huge pity. Made from organic grapes this has fine lemon, honey and straw aromas with some weighty sweet fruit on the palate before Chenin’s racy acidity kicks in on the finish. Strictly for Chenin or Sainte-Maure de Touraine Cheese enthusiasts.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Domaine Seguela “les Candalières”, Cotes du Roussillion Villages, France - €22.95

Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

Stockists: The Corkscrew, www.TheCorkscrew.ie

This was one of the first wines imported by The Corkscrew and I can see why they stuck with it. A lively juicy blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan (60-20-20) from around Perpignan the near the border with Spain. This is just for pleasure, not for thinking about too much – try with a winter stew or something spicy.

Taylors Fine Tawny Port - €24.95

Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

Stockists: The Corkscrew, www.TheCorkscrew.ie , Selected Independents.

The Fine Tawny is seven years old and is a good introduction to the style. Nevertheless I loved the red and dried fruit aromas and the flavours of butterscotch, caramelised meringues and dark berry flavours. Good with hard old cheese such as Parmesan.

Taylors 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal - €34.95

Wine: Sales are up on Vintage Port

Stockists: The Corkscrew, www.TheCorkscrew.ie , Hollands Bray, selected Independents.

This is where it starts getting real– brick red colour, stewed and berry fruit aromas, but a huge increase in the nutty character typical of good Tawny. Silky in texture and with surprisingly good acidity and freshness. I would serve this a little chilled with a nut or rich fruit based dessert.


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