Ah, port. Criminally underrated and seemingly synonymous with Christmas, this classic Portuguese digestif is about as festive as they come. But more than just a cheese board partner, port is a rich and complex genre of fortified wine that includes more than syrupy, saccharine after-dinner wines. My favourite of the lot? White port. Oh, you didn’t know it existed? Let me introduce you.
Boasting a range of styles, white port can be enjoyed on its own, in cocktails, and in various culinary experiences. What’s more, these wines can be enjoyed year-round, with the festive period lending every excuse to trade up to the most complex and pricier styles. Who doesn’t like a wine treat after all? Basic white port tends to be the least sweet of all styles, with the word dry appearing on the label. It’s often fruit-driven (think peach and apricot), sometimes with a slight nutty note. Pull a bottle from the fridge and enjoy it on its own or with light snacks such as crisps, plantain chips, bombay mix, olives or chorizo. However, if you’d like to transport yourself to the city of Porto, the spiritual home of the drink, make a Port Tonic. As the name suggests, a measure of port with tonic to your personal liking and off you go.
Personally, I much prefer the reserve expression for a long drink or use in cocktails. The extra ageing gives a more intense nutty and dried orange peel intensity of aromas and flavours. Engage a high-quality ginger beer in a long drink and garnish with a slice of blood orange for the perfect Christmas dinner aperitif. Revving things up both in terms of price and flavour experience involves an introduction to those styles boasting an age indication. The higher the age indication, the more profound that experience will be. These are decidedly sweet and come into their own with more complex dishes, usually a main course, the cheese board or dessert. Try it with a nut-based main or even turkey over the festive days. Many a success has been had with stilton, aged cheddar and quince paste. I’ve also had compliments when paired with orange cake, dried fruit and nuts and ice cream. Experiment; go crazy even!
Colheita are serious and scintillating examples that should always take centre stage. Unique in their expression, they proudly display a vintage year on the label, confirmation that the grapes were all harvested in that year, one worthy of note. Pay attention to the date the wine was bottled, which is often in smaller print. The larger the difference between the vintage year and bottling date, the more likely you are to be seduced. These are perfect for postprandial moments alone or with others – enjoy their amber colour and flavour profile of roasted nuts and dried stone fruit. With its warming, indulgent embrace, it’s quite difficult to put a glass of this port down. Spread some love and buy a bottle for those friends and family that seem impossible to buy for. With such an array of delights on offer, keep them all on hand to satisfy the ambience of any season, as well as gifting needs. I know I will this year.