It may have been one of the warmest winters on record this year but it is still pretty chilly and there is nothing better than curling up in front of a warm fire (if you are lucky enough to still have one) after dinner and quietly sipping a glass of port or on a really cold night, a brandy.
Port wine is a wine made using a base of red wine with plenty of residual sugar and then fortified with Cognac and the premium port producers use premium Cognac. If want to learn more about port wine you have a wide range of choices from a fruity ruby port to a delicious tawny port that has caramel and nut flavours or maybe a vintage port.
To get the very best from your bottle of port then you need to make sure you enjoy it while it is still fresh, so if you open a bottle of ruby port it will be at its best for about a week, a tawny port will last a little longer but really a week should be about as long as you leave it.
Vintage ports are produced in exceptional vintages and tend to be fruit bombs when they are young but are also very complex and can age majestically. Irrespective of how old the vintage port is think you should serve them fresh and have a little respect for it, sup it and enjoy it rather than treating it like just another glass of wine.
One of my current favourite Vintage ports is the Croft 2011, it isn’t cheap with a recommended retail price of $160 but you may find it on special for less and if you want to try something truly special then this is the wine to reach for.
It is an immensely rich and complex wine that looks almost black in the glass with aromas that are rich and sweet, bursting with incredibly intense dark berry fruits, blackberry, boysenberries, layers of chocolate, hints of cigar tobacco while the black berry fruit aromas flow through to the palate. A touch of chocolate-dipped liquorice, very dry powdery tannins with a nice twist of acidity to make your mouth water for more make it a wonderfully complex wine.
If you like brandy then I think you should try the Moutere Pommeau produced by Peckham’s at Upper Moutere. This is a blend of apple brandy and their cider juice. Peckham’s ferment apple juice, allow it to mature and then have it distilled into apple brandy. The apple brandy is then aged in oak casks before being blended with fresh apple cider and then matured in oak for a further six months.
This pommeau is delicious, rich and warming and you can have it as an aperitif while dinner is cooking or just enjoy a nice warming glass after dinner as a digestif. It has a recommended retail price of about $20 for a 375ml bottle making it wonderful value for money because a little glass goes a long way.
The Croft 2011 Vintage Port is a very special wine and in my opinion is worth every cent however I know the vast majority of consumers don’t want to pay that much and there is a port at almost every price level so you have lots to choose from. You can buy a very good vintage port for around $70 and fruity ruby ports for around $35 while a complex, nutty tawny port can be bought for about $35 too.
There are also many levels of quality and style so if want a port that is easy drinking that will keep for several weeks after being opened then I would recommend a vintage Colheita, because of the way it is made it will be fine to keep once open and will cost you about $60.
Make the most of a cold winter, it is the perfect time to enjoy port and apple brandy.