Thu 18 Dec 2014
Going to a holiday party that carries the responsibility of a host or hostess gift? Need a present for someone who appreciates fine wine and a sense of specialness? That’s why I’m here, My Readers, to remove from your troubled spirits the burden of choice. The only requirement is that the recipient does drink alcoholic beverages. Port, as you probably know, is produced in the Douro River valley in northern Portugal from a group of grape varieties grown almost exclusively in the region. It is a fortified wine, meaning that fermentation is stopped by the addition of brandy or some neutral spirit, leaving the wine sweet to a greater or lesser degree, though Port usually finishes dry. Vintage Ports, made only in the best years, used to be the darlings of the auction rooms because of their longevity, their power and their high prices. Other excellent, not to say fabulous Ports exist, however, and today I mention three that would make beautiful gifts for a friend, a loved one, a boss, a host — and don’t neglect a treat for yourself, because I know that you have been more nice than naughty this year, n’est-ce pas?
These wines were samples for review.
The Graham’s Special Old Vines Edition “Six Grapes” Porto is a particular bottling that commemorates the company’s 100th anniversary of using the Six Grapes motif. Only 500 cases were produced of this tremendously impressive Port. “Old Vines Edition” means that some of the vineyards date back to the 1960s. The color is deep, vivid ruby purple; seductive aromas of blackberries, currants and plums are permeated by notes of cloves and allspice, smoke and black licorice, toasted hazelnuts and a hint of marzipan, all wrapped in a haze of fruitcake and all that implies in terms of spices and dried and candied fruit and its subtle alcohol lift. This is an intense, concentrated and powerful Port that coats the mouth with supple dusty tannins, a keen graphite element and profoundly vibrant acidity; sweet and succulent black fruit flavors segue to dryness in mid-palate, leading to a major finish packed with iodine and iron. Incredible presence and tone. 19.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $42.
Imported by Premium Port Wines, San Francisco
The “Late Bottled Vintage” designation means that instead of being bottled after two years in barrel, as is the case for Vintage Port, the product is typically bottled after five years in barrel, implying that it’s now ready to drink and needs no further aging. Vintage Ports from great years, of course, can age in the bottle for decades, undergoing marvelous development and maturity, and are much beloved by the dwindling pool of collectors who possess sufficient fiduciary prowess. Still, LBVs can be powerful wines that do not necessarily have to be consumed immediately. The Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2008 is a fathoms-deep dark ruby-purple color; spectacular aromas of black currants, black cherries and raspberries long steeped in spiced brandy are infused with lavender and licorice, with strong smoky oolong tea and roasted figs and prunes; a few minutes in the glass bring up notes of figs and bitter chocolate-covered raisins. Pretty damned heady stuff, all right. On the palate, this LBV 08 is bold, intense and concentrated, sweet and juicy on the entry but segueing into dryness; riveting acidity maintains the tremendous tension among fruit, scintillating graphite minerality and dusty, leathery tannins; the finish is long, dynamic, supple and dense with spice and minerals. 20 percent alcohol. Hold for a few years, if you want, but once opened sip over the course of a week. One of the best LBVs I have encountered. Excellent. About $24.
Imported by Kobrand Wine & Spirits, New York
Only 1,000 bottles — fewer than 85 cases — were produced of the Quinta do Vallado 20 Years Old Tawny Porto, so mark it Worth a Search. It’s a blend of old vine tinto roriz, tinta amarela, tinta franca and other varieties, aged in very old 600-litre oak casts and other old oak vats. The age indication of a Tawny Port offers an average, so some of the ports in this blend could be younger than 20 years and some older. The color is glowing medium amber; enticing aromas and flavors of cloves, toasted almonds, toffee, coffee and toasted coconut are wreathed with notes of orange rind, dried citron, menthol, lightly buttered cinnamon toast and cigar smoke. While this Tawny Port is dense, vibrant and resonant on the palate, it is also silky smooth; towering acidity gives it plenty of nerve, a dynamic factor that does not detract from its innate delicacy and elegance. The finish brings in hints of maple syrup and pine resin. The entire effect is mellow and autumnal. 19.5 percent alcohol. Go classic here: a handful of walnuts, slices of apple, a segment of Stilton cheese. Exceptional. About $80 for a 500-milliliter bottle.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif.