Best Port Wines to Start a Wine Wardrobe

Harvest time in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Best Port Wines to Start a Wine Wardrobe
(Wine Wardrobe – Starting a Wine Cellar Part IV)

Read “Wine Wardrobe – Starting a Wine Cellar” Part I HERE, Part II HERE, Part III HERE

It’s that time of the year already.  The time when we dig out the winter clothes, or at least the sweaters for those chilly nights.  Maybe you already have your eye on some of the latest fall/winter trends.  It is only normal that just as our wardrobe taste changes with the season, our taste for food or beverage also changes.  For those who have followed me before, you know I am talking about wine.  So for Fall 2012, what new item will you have in your wine collection?  This wine might be just as warm and comforting as your favorite fleece, but as classic and sophisticated as the Fedora hat, which has made it into the line up for the fall fashion trends this year.

Vintage Port.  Before I list off some of the must-haves for this season and many others in the future, I am going to give you a crash course on this soon to be fall-favorite in your wine wardrobe.

Where are authentic Ports from?
Douro.  That’s in Portugal.  But you already knew that.

What makes a Vintage Port different from average Port?
A Port producer can declare a vintage year based on what they feel is an exceptional year.  This choice is not based on any specific wine law or regulation.

What type of growing season is ideal for Port to be declared a vintage?
People who are fans of Vintage Port will follow weather patterns during the growing season closely.  The ideal weather patterns for these wines would be:

1. A sufficient supply of water, either from a wet winter or periodic summer rains.

2. Summers in the Douro region are known to reach well over 100°F (40°C), with no notable rain during the months of May through September. Grapes can survive in these conditions; however, a long heat spell of these temperatures will shut down the vines, which slow maturation processes. Producers hope for only short amounts of heat in such conditions.

3. A common factor among vintage-declared years is rain that has occurred in late August or early September. This is just before harvest. The excess of water available will swell the grapes, which softens the skin structure and raises sugar levels. As all color is extracted from the skin, the softer they are, the easier it will be to obtain deeper colors.

4. A warm harvest is also ideal for processing the grapes.

Though some great Vintages have been made in less than ideal weather, it does not occur often.  Most producers might not declare a Vintage year but three to four times in a decade.

Without further ado, here are your classic years, adding a hint of sophistication to your collection.

1958 Warre’s Porto   $335

Definitely ready for instant savoring satisfaction this season.  It’s almond-y, sweet, floral, dare I say, beautiful.  As I stated in ‘Wine Wardrobe–Starting a Wine Cellar Part I’, decant all your Vintage Ports one to three hours before sipping, for this one even a little longer.

1970 Taylor Fladgate   $198

Said to be ‘perfectly mature’ and a ‘great vintage’.  Full of spicy fruits and a heartiness of some earthy minerality.  It is sweet like brandy and that re-gifted fruitcake.  You won’t re-gift this wine.

1977 W & J Graham’s   $150

Enjoy this vintage, for vintage 2012 or hold up to another decade.  For now you can experience eau de violets and raspberry preserves on dark toast.  Wait, there’s more – cloves, buttery white chocolate, and dark berries.  The tannins at first approach are a bit young, but round out, leaving behind bright, summer red fruits.

1980 Warre’s   $104

Save this one even for a little later in the season, maybe for Winter Solstice.  It is mellow with full plum and rich dark berries.  A hint of malt, Christmas pastries and dried fruits will make you feel all warm and fuzzy.  Enjoy while warming your feet near the fireplace in your favorite chair.

1985 Fonseca   $130

You can sip into this one now or even hold up to 2024.  The seventeen years on this wine has created a conglomeration of aromas with rich dark fruits, toasted almonds, cedar, licorice and spices.  The tannins are showing maturity with smooth textures alongside juicy plums and cherries.

1985 Nieport   $90

A great find, and you have got to admit, a great buy!  You can uncork this one today and still have some left over to have a couple more bottles to watch this mature.  It is a mouthwatering bowl of cherries, seasonal raspberries and blackberries.  These flavors linger, and finish with tannins still showing some youth.  One word, POTENTIAL!

1991 Fonseca Guimaerens   $76

As far as the Vintages go, this might be seen as a little young, but it is ready to drink.  Baking chocolate, Medjool dates, dark cherries and blackberries greet you, finishing with more chocolate.  The tannins are still a bit young.  You can save it for some more cellaring as well.