Bin that dusty, half-empty bottle at the back of your larder, Rob Buckhaven explains why Port is a drink to be celebrated this Christmas.
Port conjures up images of Gentleman’s Clubs, the Bishop of Norwich, billowing cigar smoke and red noses, which is a shame as it can be the most versatile of wines. Those of us not included in that stereotype tend to crack open a bottle or two at Christmas, but with such a gamut of styles which should we go for?
If you’re looking for something uncomplicated, best steer clear of cheap Ruby as this is the Port equivalent of being outside on a drizzly morning, wearing a Magnolia-coloured snood. Instead, go for a Premium Ruby Reserve. Although this is the youngest style of Port, it is a ticking fruit-bomb that buddies up perfectly with berry puds.
For something a little more complex, reach for the Late Bottled Vintage variety (LBV); made for drinking now-ish and great value for money. Produced from grapes grown in a single year, it is lighter than Vintage Port but still has generous dark plum and blackberry flavours with a vanilla-cream bow on it.
Climbing up a rung on the quality ladder, it’s all about the Single Quinta for something more impressive and complex with a friendly price tag. If you’re veering towards Vintage Port, best dust off your anorak and swot up on the vintages. These are only ‘declared’ in the best years, but some are more coveted and wallet-busting than others.
The Vintage stuff forms a sediment, so the bottles should be kept lying down. Turn the bottle upright one day before drinking, and always decant two hours before. This minimises any ‘sediment drama’ whilst aerating the Port at the same time. You’ll need to guzzle it up within two days of opening though, a rewarding task which I usually find I can manage…
My top tip is Tawny; talk about versatile with food. These are the Ports the Portuguese themselves like to drink. This deep amber-coloured nectar has been allowed to oxidise in the barrel, giving it the Tawny hue in the title. The oxidation means that these can last longer once opened, so you are sadly not obligated to finish the bottle within the two day window.
What has all this got to do with the Bishop of Norwich then? Allegedly he was notoriously slow at passing around the Port at stately dinners. Having tasted top producers like Warre’s, Dow’s, Graham’s and Quinta do Noval, you can see Norwich’s point.
Rob will be presenting at the Food and Drink Theatre at the Ideal Home Show Christmas at Olympia London on 29 November, from 12.15–1pm and 4–4.45pm.
Presenter and author Rob Buckhaven is passionate about food and drink and appears regularly as a wine expert on TV and as a newspaper and magazine columnist. He can also be found hosting shows across the country, including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Follow him on Twitter at @robbuckhaven.