BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE
I hate to be the one to break the news but it’s almost time to start panicking about holiday gifts. I suppose the reason I enjoy the holiday season so much is that I never have the issues most people experience when deciding on gifts for friends and relatives. My gifts usually come in glass bottles with either a cork or screw cap (Stelvin closure) to keep their elixir safely sealed from Mother Nature’s vinegar-making air from seeping into the bottles. Even if your favorite recipients haven’t revealed their interest in wine, they can always choose to “crack open a bottle” and cook with it.
My ideal tipple of the season is that deep colored, richly textured, sweet nectar known simply as Port. My British heritage has stamped port on my passport of life and when I turn back the pages to Decembers past, port features prominently on them. It is the quintessential dessert wine and fireside quaffer, ideally suited to guests arriving laden with gifts or sitting with the love of your life, albeit wife, husband or tabby cat. So well in advance of the season of gifting here are a few ports to consider:
Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Porto (approximately $32): This port is made from a blend of so many port grapes — Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao and Tinta Amarela. Aged for 10 years in oak casks, the wine doesn’t want to be set aside for aging in your sock drawer. It longs to be enjoyed right now. The flavors bring elements of coffee and Belgium chocolate (definitely NOT Hershey’s and some elements of marzipan) Rich, full bodied and enormously satisfying.
Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old Tawny Porto (approximately $50): Matured in oak casks in Taylor’s cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. The fruit is smoother and mellower with age and the barrel aging has imparted a spicy nuttiness and the type of body most women would die for, full and voluptuous. Like the 10 Year Old, the 20 Year Old is bottled when ready to drink and does not require any further aging.
Foneseca BIN 27 Erik Parker Artist Series (approximately $20): is a Reserve Ruby Port packaged in a holiday-friendly gift box featuring Parker’s inventive water-inspired art. The special packaging highlight’s Fonseca BIN 27’s support of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization that connects and supports local Waterkeeper programs to provide a voice for waterways and their communities — making it an ideal gift for art lovers and environmentalists alike. The wine is produced from the same grapes that created Taylor’s 10 year old. The Bin 27 Artist Series was introduced in 2012. Fonseca Bin 27 was launched 40 years ago as a ruby-style Port blended from reserve wines and aged for four years in neutral wood vats before bottling. There is a dark berry fruit flavor with the most exquisitely satisfying warm and fuzzy feeling after you sip it.
Fonseca Late Bottle Vintage 2008 Porto Unfiltered (approximately $24): is made from a reserve of some of the best full bodied red ports produced at the 2008 harvest, from grapes grown on Fonseca’s own vineyards. These wines are aged in wood vats and then bottled after five years. Late Bottled Vintage is bottled when ready to drink. This port benefits from being decanted before serving, as it is not filtered when bottled. Again, that Belgium chocolate rears its delicious head. There really is no Belgium chocolate in port, but I am struck by the similarity in flavors. There are also some dark berry fruits and a silky smooth velvet feel in the mouth. In a word: “yummylicious.”
Phillip Silverstone’s column appears each week in this publication. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly two-hour podcast heard exclusively on TuneIn radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online on Tunein at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4. “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining