With Christmas jingling onto the horizon, it’s time to dust off your port glasses. Deep in colour and rich of taste, this fortified wine is the toast of the festive season — and tends to sit at the back of our drinks cabinets until the turkey’s in the oven and carol singers are knocking at the door. But, this year, it may pay to get your port out a little earlier.
Like sherry and mead before it, port has been co-opted by the younger generation and given a much-needed shot in its alcoholic arm. That’s right; port isn’t just for Christmas anymore, and it’s now being thoroughly enjoyed all year round. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s cool. So, if you’re interested in sampling this Portuguese speciality before your chestnuts start roasting, we’ve poured out three winning ways to try these wines.
Add a splash of colour with pink port
You’ve likely heard of ruby port and tawny port — they’re probably the ports that stay hidden in your house for 11 months every year. But we’re not interested in the most common varieties of this fortified wine. Just like gin found new flavours and expressions when it exploded in popularity, so is port doing the same — and pink port is leading the charge.
If you’re keen to carry your summer brosé culture on into the colder months, pink port is the wine for you. A new style of the classic serve, this vivid port has vibrant fruity flavours and offers something easier for sipping than your usual dark, sticky ports. Croft was the first to take the rosé plunge, with nuanced notes of honey, grapefruit and cherry. Offley has also brought its own bottle to shelves; with tropical mango and guava flavours. Or, for an intensely rich, strawberry fruited pour, head to trusty Marks & Spencer to add a splash of colour to your port game.
Crusted port sounds horrible, but tastes delicious
If you can look past the thoroughly unpleasant name, crusted port is something of a hidden delight. Named for the sediment left at the bottom of bottles, crusted ports are blended from two or three wines, aged in large oak barrels for up to two years, and then bottled without any fining or filtration. A British invention, it was initially dreamt up by British port shippers to create wines similar in taste to vintage ports, but at a fraction of the price.
Happily, those unfamiliar with the finer details of port production — most of us, then — won’t be able to tell the difference. And so, opt for a crusted bottle from a big name, such as Graham’s or Churchill’s, and you won’t go far wrong. But our favourite comes from Dow, sold through Fortnum & Mason. Deep, dark and fruity, it’s a decadent pour; and the perfect alternative to a celebratory single malt scotch.
Graham’s Crusted Port
Churchill’s Crusted Port
Fortnum’s Crusted Port
White port is the most versatile bottle in your bar
And so we come to perhaps the most famous variety on our list. Showing once again the innate and engaging versatility of this fortified wine, white port is the closest you’ll get to a summer port; a serve unthinkably different to the snifter of ruby wine you sip alongside a Christmas cheese board. No, this is a fresh, fruity take on port — and best enjoyed served with tonic.
The best bottles for this have been formulated especially to mix with the sparkling stuff. Niepoort’s Dry White has a fresh taste and nutty finish. Graham’s Blend No. 5 is made using Malvasia Fina and Moscatel Gallego grape varieties for an aromatic, young bottling. And Cruz has a white port so versatile that you can enjoy it on the rocks, with tonic, or as the base of any number of cocktails. Raise a glass.
Niepoort Dry White Dry Port
Graham’s Blend No.5 White Port
Cruz Port White
Looking for something without a kick? We’ve rounded up the best non-alcoholic spirits here…