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Last-minute shopping and a drop of port

Complex process: during their long maturing period in oak casks, aged tawnies undergo subtle colour changes: the deep red hue which characterises port’s youth gradually gives way to a paler reddish amber colour

I’m thinking about a finishing touch for the Christmas dinner. If I get my way it will be English pudding, doused with cognac and set ablaze. We will need port.

Graham’s was recently nominated by Drinks International magazine as the world’s most admired port brand, and the 14th most admired winery in the world. Their ten-year-old Tawny should hold its own with such a volatile dessert.

Ten years indicates an average age — this aged tawny port is a blend of older wines, which offer complexity, and younger wines, which bring fresh fruit flavours and vibrancy. During their long maturing period in oak casks, aged tawnies undergo subtle colour changes: the deep red hue which characterises port’s youth gradually gives way to a paler reddish amber colour. Graham’s is known for its rich, elegant house style. This ten-year has a full, nutty bouquet, the classic Graham’s richness and a soft lingering finish where you will also find almond, marzipan, brown sugar and maple. $43.90.

I just have to say that those tiny “port glasses” are awful and should all go in the blue recycle bag; instead, use a normal chardonnay-sized one. It is not about the serving size, but the ability to appreciate the aroma and bouquet.

We stock ten, 20, 30 and 40-year-old tawnies and, to be totally honest, I do think that the 20-year-old presents the overall best value, at $73.70.

James Suckling describes it in this way: “A gorgeous tawny with dried figs, caramel, dried raisins and coffee beans. Full-bodied, sweet and delicious. This shows such length and beauty. I love the crème caramel and cooked apple tart on the finish and some pecan pie. Crazy. Drink now. 94/100.”

You may have heard my stock answer when I am asked how long a bottle of wine will last once opened: “In our house, no more than half an hour.” But seriously, an advantage of these tawnies is that when they are opened and recorded and put in the fridge they keep well for at least two months or more.

I would be remiss not to mention that we also have the rather unbelievable Taylor’s Scion 1855 Tawny and their Single Harvest 1863 Tawny. These historic and magnificent wines are packed in handblown decanters that are in a beautiful wooden gift box.

Rating it 100/100, Robert Parker writes of the 1855: “This is unbelievably fresh and vibrant with an almost Sauternes-like quality on the honey-glazed, hazelnut-tinged finish. It has unbelievable length. Simply stunning.”

He gave the 1863 98/100; only 1,800 bottles were produced, of which 280 went to the US. Either one is yours for $3,793.

If you wish to enjoy what some folks call the world’s greatest wine — a fine vintage port — then serve it with stoned-wheat crackers and Stilton that has been out of the refrigerator for two hours.

You may know that vintage port takes many years to reach a point where it reveals all its glory and, hence the custom of presenting a baby with a recent vintage in the hope that you will be there for their 21st birthday when it is ready and they open it.

Our Taylor’s 2003 Vintage Port should be ready to drink now and here is what Parker thought of it in 2013: “The 2003 Taylor’s has a lovely ripe, primal bouquet of blackberry, raspberry, vanilla and marmalade that shows slightly better delineation than others. The palate is medium-bodied with very composed, refined tannins that belie the heat of that summer. There is wonderful focus here and fine tension, the finish offering precise notes of black cherries, mulberry, cloves and white pepper. This is one of the finest ports of a precocious vintage. 95/100.” $104.95.

If you prefer to go back further, how about Graham’s 1994 Vintage Port. I share Parker’s comments made in 1996: “In a port tasting, tasting Graham’s is almost like tasting a big, rich, succulent merlot after a group of blockbuster, tannic cabernets. Sweeter and more obvious than many ports, the opaque purple-coloured 1994 is fruity, powerful, and rich, with an addictive hedonistic quality. It will be ready to drink in eight to ten years and keep for up to 30. As always, this is a showy, flamboyant port that has the advantage of being slightly sweeter than other 1994s. A great Graham’s. Anticipated maturity: 2002-2035. 96/100.” $131.70.

I suggest that if you purchase a vintage port that you stand it up for a few days before opening as it will have considerable sediment and needs to settle before carefully decanting.

Please do not take a shortcut by straining it through a coffee filter or muslin, as you tamper with its very reason for being such a fine work of art.

In the words of the King (Elvis), please “have a cool yule and frantic first”.

•This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm