From simple rubies to perfectly-aged vintages, we’ve got a great selection of Port here at Master of Malt. Port, the fortified wine from Portugal, is a surprisingly broad church. It runs the gamut from fruity rubies to pale venerable tawnies, not forgetting bottle-aged vintages and, of course, extremely fashionable white Port. If you want to know more, read our Port guide.
As you might imagine with such a big category, there are numerous ways to drink Port. We recommend consuming vintage wines with cheeses such as Stilton or Manchego while cheaper rubies and tawnies make great cocktail ingredients. Try a Christmas Negroni by substituting the vermouth for Port. Delicious. Meanwhile, there’s no better pre-prandial refresher than a White Port & Tonic.
Right, without further ado, here are our top ten Ports for Christmas 2023.
Tawny Ports are aged in wooden casks rather than bottles or stainless steel tanks. During the ageing process they are allowed to oxidise so that they lose colour and take on a tawny hue. They also develop flavours of nuts and cooked fruits. This quite simple one is delicious served chilled with cheese, fruit, or nuts as an aperitif.
In the past, tawny Port was largely drunk by the Portuguese whereas the British drank the vintage stuff. Now, however, tawny sales are booming over here. This 10 year old version from one of the great names the Douro never disappoints. It’s one to give to people who think they don’t like Port. Few can resist a chilled glass of Noval 10 Year Old.
It’s made by Niepoort, a house of Dutch ancestry which is still in family hands. 20 years is an average statement, it’s a blend of some younger and some much older wines which are made into a house style. The result is something intensely tangy and rich with finish that’s soaked in walnuts.
Now you’re talking. This is one serious wine. Cooked fruit and Brazil nuts have been enjoyed by intense balsamic menthol notes along with orange peel. Best of all, you don’t need to mess about with decanters, just chill very lightly, open and pour. I’d probably just drink this on its own, or maybe with a cigar in place of Cognac.
Rubies are the simplest kinds of Port. They are usually aged briefly in large wooden vats with no oxygen contact to preserve those ripe fruit flavours. Founders Reserve is one of the best of its type and named in honour of the founder George Sandeman. ageing is kept to a minimum to preserve ripe fruit flavours. It makes for a brilliant postprandial sipper especially with chocolate puddings.
This classic bottling from Fonseca has for years offered consistently great quality at a reasonable price. It’s crammed with ripe plummy fruit, blackcurrants, with fennel, rosemary and leather too. Great with chocolate but also makes a winning cocktail ingredient. Add a splash to take your mulled wine to the next level.
Vintage port (will need decanting)
An LBV is aged in cask for longer than a vintage Port, usually around four years, so it’s available for drinking younger. This is one of the best we’ve tried. Those extra years in bottle have mellowed it bringing out flavours of spices and leather. The quality here is the equal of some proper vintage Ports. It’s worth decanting well in advance to let those flavours come together.
True vintage Port is only made in the best years, it’s aged for a couple of years in wood, and then will need at least 20 years to mature in bottle. At 23, this Croft is now really singing. You’ll need to stand it up for at least a day, before opening and decanting carefully (see our guide). Then you’ll be rewarded with herbs, cloves, and stewed red fruit. Serve with a nice bit of Stilton.
White Port has really taken off in Britain in the last few years. It’s a very versatile drink, great sipped neat with tapas or mixed with tonic to make a low ABV alternative to the G&T. This one from Taylor’s is one of our favourites, it’s fruity, nutty from barrel ageing and, despite the name, slightly sweet though much drier than most Ports.