Which Port in a storm?

Flagship wines 28.11.13

Flagship wines 28.11.13 - Credit: Archant

Vintage, late bottled vintage, vintage character… All terms used by port producing companies to describe different wines in their range but do they mean much to today’s wine drinkers looking for the digestif to round off a meal or to accompany the cheese? And what about decanting and ageing? This complicates matters even further.

A vintage wine speaks for itself as the label says it is a wine of a specific named year, but vintage character? There are wine laws defining this and other port-related terms but are a bit of a mystery to today’s drinkers and this has helped the decline of port drinking in a world where there are myriad other wines available.

Port shippers have recognised the problem and in an effort to try to stem the decline of their product category some of the innovative producers have “designed” products aimed at recruiting new drinkers. Two examples are the Grahams Six Grapes Reserve Port and the Noval Black from Quinta do Noval.

Grahams Six Grapes Reserve is one of Graham’s original port blends but which has only recently been introduced on a broad scale in the UK. It is a full robust wine with great richness and complexity, blended to reproduce the style of Graham’s Vintage port. One great advantage is that it is made ready to drink and enjoy and often called the everyday port for the vintage port drinker. It is great with nutty chocolate desserts and strong cheeses. The six grapes depicted on the label are representative of the fact that six grape varieties are used in its production.

The Noval Black from Quinta do Noval is a strikingly packaged reserve ruby port. The black and silver labelling on the tall bottle make it stand out on supermarket and wine shop shelves alike. It is a new-age port designed to be enjoyed with dark chocolate or in cocktails – no ageing or decanting necessary!

The wine is a very deep ruby colour with a silky intense creamy cherry and red berry fruit flavour, robust and elegant it is a very approachable port. The hints of chocolate and fudge on the palate make it a great accompaniment to chocolate desserts that are usually difficult to pair up with wines.

Croft, another established port house, has launched Croft pink to take advantage of the recent rise in interest in rosé wines from around the world. There have been many new rosé wines including the pink slightly sparkling Moscato-based wines such as Mrs Wigley from Wirra Wirra in Australia but this must be one of the most unusual and innovative. It is made from classic port grapes with short skin contact to give it some colour and then made like white port. It has creamy raspberry fruit notes, with quite a sweet flavour, best served as a mixer with soda water and ice.

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Another port-based wine gaining popularity is white port drunk chilled with soda or tonic water and thus an enjoyable aperitif or with light sweet desserts. Grahams make a fresh delicate example with grape and almond flavours.

Why not try the Grahams Six grapes or Noval Black? They won’t break the bank unlike vintage port, especially if you are a novice port drinker or just want to find a delicious wine to round off a meal.