Ports of call

Yvonne Lorkin rediscovers the joy of port, and decides maybe her father was onto something after all...

Enjoying a snifter of port with a chunk of blue cheese on the recommendation of a friend the other night suddenly got me thinking that I don't drink nearly enough of the stuff. Port was something my dad always had an unfashionable-looking flagon of in the kitchen cupboard and it was like a last-resort sip. But times and tastes change, meaning port's now got that 'retro cool' factor going on and I absolutely love it to bits. Port is essentially wine that's been fortified (strengthened) by the addition of neutral spirit. There are three main styles:

  • Tawny. A fortified wine that has been aged in wood for a period of time and has lost its youthful colour and taken on an amber brown or 'rusty' hue. Look for characters such as nut, dried fruit, prunes, coffee, raisin, caramel and toffee.
  • Ruby. Essentially a young tawny port that's been aged for only a few years. It has a more reddish, ruby colour and tastes fruitier than tawny or vintage styles.
  • Vintage. The king of ports. Vintage port is only made in exceptional years from the ripest and best grapes. It takes on a luscious, velvety richness and develops toffee, nut and coffee flavours of an aged tawny, but with riper, more pronounced fruit elements.