Highlights: four Ports to consider for the festive season

I love Port, and I kind of wish (for the sake of the Port producers) that it wasn’t such a seasonal drink. But it is. After summer, and a mellow start to autumn, we look to winter approaching, and with it Christmas. [Apologies to my readers from the southern hemisphere – I’ve done a southern hemisphere Christmas and I realise how different it is!]

And suddenly we want to drink Port. Port is an amazing drink, and we should be consuming it all year round. But its sales are quite seasonal, so here I’m recommending four bottles I opened today in research for a forthcoming newspaper column.

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2010 Portugal
20% alcohol
£28 Tanners, Hedonism, Sainsbury’s
This is a Vintage Port from a single property, and spends 18 months in barrels before bottling without filtration, and so decanting is recommended because it could throw a sediment. After a decade in bottle, this still has lots of sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit, and some tannic structure, but it has begun to mellow and develop some mint, leather and earth complexity, as well as a touch of pepper, and also a hint of raisin and spice on the finish. Nicely structured, and with a great balance between the fruit and the sweet, mellow spicy characters, this is now entering its drinking window, and it’s quite a bargain at this price. 94/100

Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2017 Portugal
20% alcohol
£16.99 Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose
This is a beautiful example of the fruit-forward ruby style of Port, which has spent a bit of time in cask to make it drinkable early, but not so much that it loses its fruit. It’s vivid, intense and quite floral, with blackberries, black cherry and some blackcurrant, showing lovely sweetness but also a bit of grip. Irresistible now. 93/100

Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Port Unfiltered 2016 Portugal
19.5% alcohol
£25 Ocado, Oddbins, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Master of Malt
Sealed with a proper cork, this is LBV with a difference, from Noval’s own vineyards. This is floral and expressive, with rich, concentrated, structured black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, showing hints of wet stone, crushed rock and pepper spice. There’s a freshness and focus here. It’s a pretty serious Port with many of the qualities of a young Vintage Port, but with just a touch more evolution and approachability. Grainy, dark and vivid, with the sweetness countered by structure and savouriness. 94/100

Barros 10 Year Old Tawny Port NV Portugal
20% alcohol
£23.95 The Whisky Exchange
This is rich, warm, inviting and sweet on the nose, with some fine peppery spice and old wood notes as well as fine raisin, dried fruit and cherry. In the mouth, the lush cherry fruits are complemented by some raisiny richness and a distinctive woody spiciness, with just a little tannin. Made mellow by ten years’ ageing in cask, this is such a warm, complex, inviting tawny Port, drinking perfectly now. It’s hard to get the balance just right in these wines, but Barros have managed it here. 94/100