By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 1 December 2018
A feast of ports to help you celebrate this Christmas from crisp white, oak aged mature white to mellow tawnies, colheitas and vintage ports:
NOVAL EXTRA DRY WHITE PORT
(£13 Villeneuve Wines, Edinburgh & Peebles)
You can sip this on its own to enjoy its fruity honeysuckle notes, elderflower flavours and nutty finish, but the best way to enjoy crisp dry white port is to serve it as a minty cocktail. Top up the glass with Fevertree tonic, serve with orange peel, mint and ice for a refreshing zippy long cool aperitif.
KOPKE 10 YEAR OLD WHITE PORT
(£22 Inverarity 121; Oddbins; Harrods, Nicholls & Perks)
If you normally drink tawny, you will love this mature white port with its enticing spicy hazelnut and orange flavours and smooth mellow texture. Bit of a rarity too as one of the few age-dated white ports on the market. Like all white port it is made from white Portuguese grapes (Codega, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Viosinho and Moscatel). Serve it as aperitif, with pate or blue cheese.
WAITROSE RESERVE TAWNY PORT
On the light side of tawny, but a good buy on a budget. Everything you might expect from an average tawny with caramel, honey and dried fruit notes with rich warming flavours and a smooth mellow palate. Made by the Symington dynasty, it will not win prizes for depth and concentration, but is the best tawny at this price.
WILLIAM PICKERING TAWNY PORT
(£26.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Impressive nutty tawny with dried fruit, figgy notes, creamy texture, spicy, very elegant with an attractive salty savoury note to the long lingering finish. No wonder it is so good, it is an exclusive cuvee created by historic Quinta do Noval from their treasure trove of tawnies.
NIEPOORT 10 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT
(£29.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
Dirk Niepoort is a legend in the Port world for his efforts to demystify this old fashioned drink. Whilst he is now making his mark with superb Douro table wines, Niepoort still excels at port making. Matched against a range of 10 year old tawnies, this shone out for its elegance, gorgeous mellowness and refreshing finish.
GRAHAM’S 20 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT
(£39 Waitrose; £45 Harvey Nichols, Justerini & Brooks)
One of the best 20 year old tawnies (my sweet spot), although like all Graham’s ports it is on the sweet side. Made from a blend of five of Symington’s 28 quintas: Malvedos, Tua, Vila Velha, Lages and Malhadas. Made like most ports from a blend of Touriga Nacional with Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao and other grapes with an average of 20 years wood ageing. Attractive nutty sweet clove and cinnamon tawny with dried fruit and nutty flavours, sweet rich rounded and raisiny.
QUINTA DO NOVAL COLHEITA PORT 2000 ***STAR BUY***
(£70-£85 Selfridges; www.italvinus.co.uk)
A highlight from my recent trip to Portugal. A fabulous example of a mature Colheita (a vintage dated tawny) with mellow hazelnut, cinnamon notes and silky smooth textured palate. A rare style of port from Noval made from 100% estate-grown fruit. In the last quarter century, Noval have only made five Colheita vintages (1995, 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2005) – and they only made 20 barrels of this 2000.
QUINTA DO NOVAL LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORT 2012
(£22.50 Oddbins, Ocado, Tanners Wines, Villeneuve Wines)
Noval always take LBV more seriously than other Port houses. It comes only from their 145 hectares of vineyards in Cima Corgo, with no bought-in grapes. It is treated just like a vintage port with foot-treading, but matured 4 years in large casks. Bottled unfiltered so it is advisable to decant it. Deep concentrated damson fruits with good structure and length; Noval’s LBV port can age well, so tuck a bottle away for next Christmas too.
QUINTA DE LA ROSA LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORT 2014
(£17.95-£22.50 for 50 cl bt Woodwinters, Edinburgh, Bridge of Allan & Inverness; www.oldbridgewine.co.uk)
I have always liked the classic style of ports made by this small Pinhao-based quinta overlooking the Douro river, run by father and daughter Berqvist. Good value compared to bigger names, their port style is often a little drier – but this 2014 has lusciously sweet super-ripe fruit in a good firm structure, spicy with enticing cherry flavours.
QUINTA DA CAVADINHA SINGLE QUINTA PORT 2001
(£30 Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Morrisons)
Our favourite in a line up of three single quintas tasted at Symingtons. Grapes come only from the steep Cavadinha estate located 400 metres altitude on a sharp bend in the river at Pinhao. In top years the grapes go into Warre’s vintage port, but in lighter years like 2001 they are made to be drunk earlier like this one. Delicious mulberry and prune aromas, with good freshness and acidity in the mouth often lacking in single quinta ports.
QUINTA DE VARGELLAS SINGLE QUINTA PORT 2002
(£30 Majestic, Selfridges, Waitrose, Fountainhall Wines, Good Spirits, Luvians)
Like all single quintas, made for earlier drinking than real vintage port. In the best years the grapes from the historic Vargellas quinta far up the Douro river are used as the backbone of Taylor’s vintage ports, but in lighter years like 2002 it makes deep dark well textured, velvet smoth, spicy, damsony ruby port which is drinking well right now.
NIEPOORT VINTAGE PORT 1987 ***STAR BUY***
(£82 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
If you, like me, are celebrating 31 years of marriage, this is the bottle to crack open this Christmas. Tasted with Dirk Niepoort at the end of a long Douro quinta lunch, I can still remember the licquorice notes, spicy edge and fabulous smooth mellow flavours of this mature beauty made in Niepoort’s generously fruity style. This was the first vintage port made by Dirk with his father.
Join Rose’s Portugal: Douro v Dao Wine Tasting at The Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh on Thursday 21 February : £45 www.rosemurraybrown.com