Whether investing in thousands of pounds of wine or you’re a rank beginner, some principles are saying across the board, particularly keep your port out of sunlight. Whether it’s vintage or tawny direct, sunlight is not good for the wine. So keep it in a dark place and have consistent temperatures that the second principle, which is very important for both tawny and vintage.
You want to keep them about 15 degrees Celsius, maybe a couple of degrees, either side, but no fluctuation. That has the important thing. You want to keep it at a constant temperature, because if there’s lots of fluctuation, you can really start to damage your wine.
Why is the difference between vintage port and tawny port?
- They both start life as grapes in the Douro valley in Portugal, but once they’re picked, they take a very different path, the very best grapes, and the very best years declared as vintages are used as vintage ports and the most of the rest are used as
- Now vintage ports have to be bottled in a certain amount of time and then they age for the rest of their life in the bottle whereas tawny ports age in the barrel for a minimum of seven years, and that process affects the massively from the same ingredients. You can have two very different products.
- tawny ports are much lighter in color. They’ve been exposed to more oxygen they’re effected by the wood of the barrel. So they’ve got a lighter, like a tawny out, hence the name tawny color, and the flavors are more like nutty caramely, Woody kind of flavors.
- Vintage ports will stay very rich, red, strong, deep red purple with fruity flavors, quite sweet berries often come through in vintage ports. So there are two very different products in terms of flavor.
- Tawny ports are normally a mixture of years that have been aged for a minimum amount of time. For example if they’d been aged for 10 years, they’re a 10 year old tawny, 20 year old tawny, etc. But you can also have Culito’s, which are tawnys from a specific year. So if all of the grapes from 1968, for example were used in the process, then it will be a 1968 single harvest Kalita, but it’s still a
- Once tawny port is out of the barrel and into the bottle, it will be immediately drinkable and will say at that quality, once it’s in the bottle, it’s not improving with age. Whereas vintage port needs time to mature from the original harvest, at least 15 to 20 years as an average, to get more of the complex pallet out of it.
Decanting port wine
Now, when it comes to decanting you do want to, once you open the bottle, let it breathe for a bit depending on the wine, you might want to let it breathe for several hours, or it could be ready much sooner. You’ve already have to do a research depending on the individual bottle, but it does need some sort of filtering as well. And the sediment is never a bad thing. It happens naturally with every port, but you don’t want to be drinking it. So that’s an important principle.
How to serve port wine
You want to serve it around room temperature. That’s normally pretty good. Although if it is a very hot day, you might want to chill it for about 20 minutes before serving just so it’s a bit cooler, maybe about 16 degrees Celsius, and then you can really enjoy it.
Now, when it comes to tawny port, it’s a much simpler process. It’s a much less fussy type of port. It doesn’t need to decanting, it doesn’t need filtering, but it does need storing and serving slightly differently. So tawny ports have a very different type of stopper, kind of mushroom cap. This is because the port is ready to drink straight away.
How to drink port wine
Once the tawny ports being produced, it’s immediately drinkable and it will kind of keep that consistent level of quality throughout the years. It may lose some freshness, the older it gets, but basically it’s ready to roll out. This also means that you can revisit it as well.
Vintage port needs to be drunk within a couple of days of opening 48 hours, ideally, whereas tawny port can last for several weeks, once it’s opened. So you’ve got the stopper cork, so you can open and close the bottle across a period of time. But for this reason it needs to be kept upright because obviously this isn’t as secure as having a regular cork.
How to store port wine
So if you keep on its side, it’s more prone to leakage and stuff like that. So keep it upright. So you’re going to keep your tawny port upright. When it comes to serving it, it probably is better to be a little bit chilled, probably about 11 degrees Celsius between 10 and 12 basically. That basically brings out the more caramely nutty flavors and aromas and dolls down slightly, the alcohol from the fermentation process, so a much sweeter, more enjoyable drink if you do it like that.
The other thing to note with tawny ports is as they age over the years, occasionally you might see some haziness, some haze in a bottle of Kalita, for example but that doesn’t affect the quality of wine. That’s not a marker of anything going wrong. That just happens naturally as some tawny port’s age.
So there are many things to consider when you’re buying ports. If you’re buying a recent vintage port, it will need time to develop. You need to lay it down for several years whereas a tawny port will be immediately drinkable.