Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Doug Rosen, owner of long-time Arlington wine store Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
When searching for the perfect gift for the wine lover, we should really start at the most obvious: a truly special bottle of wine. If your recipient likes wines of a particular variety, like California cabernet, you might look for a special bottle from a hard-to-find producer. Or ask your wine merchant to help you select a wine from a different place or made from a different grape that has a similar flavor profile to your recipient’s favorite.
Perhaps you can find an older bottle that has been properly cared for and squirreled away. Fine wine merchants often hold some stocks of highly rated selections and offer them for sale at the peak of drinkability, giving a client an opportunity to experience what a well-aged, well cared for wine tastes like. The bottles’ bouquet, palate feel and complexity can only develop over time and no amount of decanting can yield the same results.
Port makes a great gift as there are so many delicious options and in most cases, the consumer can enjoy a well-aged wine immediately.
You can’t go wrong with an aged Tawny Port. It’s hard to beat a glass of Port on a cold evening in front of a fire. The most popular Tawny Ports are 10-year-old and 20-year-old, but you can also find 30 and 40-year-old examples. The number of years designated on the bottle represents the average age of the blend from several vats of various years. Tawny Ports are aged in large wood vats and as they age they slowly oxidize and mellow, losing color and sweetness while gaining nuttiness. Since they are aged in wood for extended periods of time, they don’t need decanting and can be enjoyed to the last drop. Another beauty of Tawny Port is once open they can be enjoyed for months — just keep them in the refrigerator.
Ports represent great value, given that the grower has held the wine in his cellar and aged it for you. Tawny’s are best served cool, which helps moderate the higher alcohol level. They are a gift that keeps on giving.
Vintage Ports are the King of Port Wines. They represent the best wines that a producer can make, encompassing only about two percent of the producer’s total production. They are produced on average only three times in a decade. Vintage Ports are made from the grapes of the finest parcels of land, from usually the oldest vines, the finest farms, and from a single harvest. To this day many houses still tread the grapes under foot in shallow concrete vats. Law dictates they must be bottled unfiltered after only two years in barrel. They are then offered for sale, letting the consumer age them in his cellar. They often need 30 to 40 years to reach their full potential. A good fine wine shop will stock Vintage Ports dating back to the seventies and offer mature wines for sale.
Vintage Ports are truly a grand experience, requiring some forethought as the bottle must stand upright for several days to let the sediment slowly drift to the bottom. Even with three days in an upright position, you will want to decant the wine using a funnel and screen (widely available), rinse out the original bottle to remove the remaining sediment, and then return the decanted wine to the original bottle. After that, you are ready to serve it. Unlike Tawny Ports, Vintage Ports are best consumed within a day or so after opening.
Enjoying vintage port may seem like a lot of work, but I promise you it’s well worth it. Match this grandest of wines with Colston Bassett Stilton, slices of pear, and nuts and you are in for one of the most revered wine and food pairings in the world.
Try it you’ll love it!
Email any comments or questions to [email protected]. Follow Doug on Twitter (@ArrowineInc) or like the store on Facebook. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx.