^ Port mellowing in the barrel in Sandeman's cellar
Despite the best efforts of those who make it to project a more contemporary image, port remains one of the most traditional wine categories. The wine itself is typically a blend of varieties such as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz, all brimming with dark- and red-berry fruit, with a touch of dark chocolate and spice.
The most vaunted style is vintage port, and the best bottles can age for decades. The only snag is that after a few years in bottle, vintage port can often ‘close down’ and not open up again for a good 15-20 years – there’s good reason why people lay down a case for their children to enjoy when they reach 21.
But producers across the Douro are encouraging people to drink vintage Port much younger, when they are, as wine writer Andrew Jefford puts it, at the ‘Ride of the Valkyries stage’ – bursting with ‘power, tannin, extract, explosive fruit, density and ferocity’. A good starting point would be Quinta do Pégo’s 2017 vintage bottling, a Gold-medal winner at this year’s IWSC.
The other option is to go for a single-quinta port. The product of one estate, they offer a glimpse of vintage port character but offer better value and can be drunk much younger – as the Gold-medal winner Sogrape Vinhos’ Ferreira Quinta Do Porto Vintage 2017 shows.
The past couple of decades have seen a big push to get younger people drinking port. Suggested serves include white port and tonic, a clear attempt to tap into the gin market; and also chilled tawny, which makes a great aperitif, as well as a versatile dessert pairing. But, as is so often the case with port, the classic styles remain the most popular.
Sophisticated with a superb nose that radiates the beauty of sumptuous plump raisins and soft figs with the delicate toastiness of tobacco and cedar. An incredible concentration of fruit with a divine buttery finish causes the palate to sing joyfully. 20% RRP £193 from Amathus Drinks
Smooth and stylish with a rich and concentrated caramel and toffee nose. Deep layers of candied fruit and walnut offer the palate incredible intensity. A big strong finish billowing with nutmeg and sandalwood tops off a rather special drinking experience. 20% Enquire at Hennings Wines
Warm, lifted nose of candied fruits and nougat. A hedonistic, intensely sweet palate of orange peel, raisins and succulent pineapple, balanced by a lovely acidic bite. The lightly savoury finish adds to the already impressive complexity. A supremely enjoyable wine. 20% RRP £48 from Hedonism Wines
30 Year Old Tawny NV
Delicate and refined aromas of tangerine zest and dried flowers. On the palate, a splendid combination of salty roasted almonds, dried apricots and light vanilla blossom. Lusciously sweet and smooth but still packing a good punch. Delicious. 20% RRP £65 from Majestic
Trademark Finest Reserve NV
Commanding, powerful nose of deep black cherry and plum, with touches of freshly cracked peppercorns and tantalising herbaceousness. Concentrated yet fresh on the palate, with raspberry and young fig cutting through the sweetness, while vanilla notes give excellent length. 20% RRP £7 from Sainsbury's
Gorgeous ripe damson notes on the nose, alongside lighter aromatic cherry and raspberry. Well-balanced on the palate with remarkable poise, as notes of stewed plums and blackberry tart are offset by fine, well-integrated tannins, giving wonderful structure and length. 20% RRP £13 from Secret Bottle Shop
Quinta do Pégo
A bright nose with intense plum and sweet cherry notes, that unexpectedly step aside to reveal deeper aromas of tobacco, lavender and eucalyptus. Beautiful ripe plum and blueberry flavours on the palate with a deliciously wicked finish. Youthful and expressive. 20% n/a n UK
Ferreira Quinta Do Porto Vintage 2017
Refined aromatic rustic fruits on the nose. Elegant juicy black fruits on the palate with vibrant spicy wood notes. Full of energy with fine tannins and a beautifully rounded punch at the end. A true knockout with excellent prospects. 20% n/a in UK
Vista Alegre Colheita 2000
Enticing aromas of hazelnut praline, sweet allspice and mocha coffee; creamy-textured on the palate with balanced notes of orange zest, raisins and vanilla blossom, and a dry, savoury finish. 20% n/a in UK
Vista Alegre LBV 2015
Nose bursting with damson jam, dark chocolate, hints of liquorice and bright, fresh raspberries. Youthful on the palate with black cherries, vanilla and bittersweet cocoa alongside smooth, soft tannins. 20% n/a in UK
Feuerheerd's 10 Years Old Tawny NV
Barao de Vilar-Vinhos
Congenial nose that accentuates the festive aromas of raisins and orange peel. Smooth on the palate with the exquisite flavours of dried cherries and caramelised walnuts. Plushly refined. 20% RRP £25 from Amazon
40 Year Old Tawny NV
Martha's Wines & Spirits
Nose of great depth and maturity, offering rich molasses, walnuts and coffee cake; lusciously smooth on the palate with notes of toffee, dark dried currants and mince pies. 20% RRP £58 from Portuguese Vinhos UK
Special Reserve NV
Delectable aromas of ripe cassis and black cherries. Silky smooth on the palate with an enthralling hit of juicy dark fruit and a subtle hint of black pepper. Generously flavoursome. 20% RRP £8 from Morrisons
The Best LBV 2014
Intriguing nose of ripe blackberries set against earthy notes of espresso coffee and freshly cracked black pepper. Clean and fresh on the palate with light raspberry and rounded, soft tannins. 20% RRP £11 from Morrisons