The traditional port family has many members, such as ruby, tawny, white port, late bottled vintage port (LBV) and vintage port.
Ruby ports have intense berry, ripe fruit and spicy notes. Tawny ports are aged in barrels for longer and have mature nut, date and fig notes. LBVs have richer and more spicy flavours than ruby ports, and vintage ports continue to mature in the bottle for years, or even decades.
Known as a dessert wine, port is also an excellent aperitif and a good match for cheese.
Try ruby port with hard savoury cheeses and rich desserts with dark berries; tawny port with dried fruit, nut pastries and chocolate; LBV with milder blue cheeses and chocolate desserts; vintage port with Stilton or as a ‘meditation wine’; and sweet white port with pears cooked in wine. Port tonic, i.e. dry white port blended with tonic water, is a great aperitif.
Serve ports as follows: white ports well-chilled at 10–12°C, vintage ports slightly chilled at 16–18°C and other ports chilled at 14–16°C.
Ports are made in the north of Portugal, in the valleys of Douro and its tributaries.
Over time, a sediment accumulates in a vintage port bottle and this should be removed before drinking the port. Place the bottle in an upright position for 24 hours to make the sediment sink to the bottom. You can also filter the wine using a coffee filter or a decanting strainer. Vintage port should be consumed within a few days after opening.
Unopened ports keep for a few months or even several years, depending on the wine type. Opened tawny ports keep for many weeks and other ports for a shorter time.