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A cold night and a glass of port

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I was taking my customary 5.30am walk to town and back this morning, and as it was particularly cold I got to thinking about the “warming” effect of a glass of port.

Perhaps not as unusual a thought as you might think.

As part of the process of making port, grape brandy is added during fermentation and so the alcohol level is a little higher than in regular table wines. Alcohol actually causes your blood vessels to expand a little and more blood flows to your hands and feet making them feel warmer.

I should warn that if you are really in danger of hypothermia, this is not a good fix at all as your body is dispersing heat.

One website says that port is a sweet wine with flavours of raspberry, blackberry, caramel, cinnamon and chocolate sauce — can't get much better than that.

We actually have 39 port listings in our price book, but for this article I will narrow it down. For instance, I will not spend time on our Taylor's Scion 1855 Tawny, because even if it has recently been rated 100/100 and is perfect after 161 years, I must come clean on the fact that at $3,790 a bottle, it is somewhat slow in sales. Same goes for our Taylor's 1863 at the same price; but can you just imagine sharing either with some of your best friends? The ageing ability of great port is stunning.

So for mere mortals on a cold winter's night, may I suggest Taylor's 10 Year Old Tawny for $43.45. I have no argument with Robert Parker's Wine Advocate when they rate it 93/100 and say: “It is our opinion that Taylor's tawny ports are the best of their type. When tasted against other tawnys they exhibit more aromatic personalities, greater fruit and ripeness and a wonderful sweetness and length.”

The tawny colour comes from years in the barrel — 10, 20, 30 and so on. Vintage port only resides in wood for about a year before being bottled to take its very long journey to maturity. So let us say that you have purchased the Taylor 10 Year Tawny, look at the label and you will see that it was bottled in 2014. If you keep it for ten years it will not become a 20-year-old tawny as the ageing basically stops once it is out of cask and bottled. By the way the Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny costs $76.05 and both are so yummy with chocolate or coffee-flavoured dishes. Cremé brulée is the ultimate matchup.

Once you open a good tawny it should keep for up to a month and, like all opened wine, refrigeration will extend its life a little.

If you would prefer the intense ruby purple colour of a vintage port then you should try a bottle of Taylor's 2010 Late Bottled Vintage as they invented this modern, reasonably priced, quick ageing wine. If you seek this out you will notice that it tells you on the label that it was bottled in 2014 and it is the extended time in barrel that causes it to age far more quickly than true vintage port does in the bottle.

It is ready to drink now, is sediment-free (this was left in the barrel) and the cost is $30.05. Flavours of red currant, raspberry and blueberry and delicious black liquorice would just hum along with a cracker covered with stilton cheese or other blue types.

For the purists among you, I should briefly mention a classic vintage port and here I am thinking of the 2003 from Taylor's. I cannot say that it is perfect, only near, as Parker scores it 98/100.

It is a baby that should be fully developed between 2035 and 2060 but I certainly would get tons of enjoyment out of it now. Serve a plate with stilton, crackers, dried fruit and nuts and just experience from the glass a mix of raisins, molasses, liquorice, plums, black cherries, rose blossoms and chocolate. $108.15. Keep warm!

This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm

Warming effect: Taylor's tawny ports are described as the best of their type
Aromatic personality: Taylor's 10 Year Old Tawny

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Published February 19, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 19, 2016 at 7:33 am)

A cold night and a glass of port

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