Drinking Vintage Port
This is the fun bit! You have spent decades nuturing your port, keeping it corectly cellared and now you want to open it. After all of this time, a little extra effort will greatly improve your experience.
Drinking Tawny Port
If you have a colheita or tawny port, these have been aged in wood and have undergone a degree of oxidisation in the barrel. There will be little or no sediment so there is no need to decant these bottles. Many will come with a T-stopper and these should be stored upright. We would recommend serving Tawny ports slightly chilled - perhaps about 14 degrees C.This temperature will help to bring out the sweetness and flavours of the dark red wine, but just chilled enough that the alcohol is not overpowering. It is not unusual for there to be some cloudiness to the tawny but this should not affect the quality. The oxidisation the port has undergone in the barrel will mean that it will keep for many months once opened. We recommend storing in a cool place and drinking within three months. However, this is just a guideline and your tawny should not deteriorate significantly if you keep it beyond this time.
Drinking Vintage Port
Drinking Vintage Port is a true pleasure and to get the most from your bottle you need to put a little time into the preparation.
Stand your bottle upright for a few days. Vintage port contains sediment which can be bitter and affect the taste - the older the bottle - the more sediment it will contain as over time, the particles in the liquid agglomorate with the sediment. By standing your port upright gravity will cause the suspended sediment to fall to the bottom of the bottle.
Uncorking One of our biggest sources of complaint is corks crumbling on opening. Soft corks are normal for a port that has been cellared well where the liquid has been in contact with the cork for decades. Modern corkscrews tend to be short and have a narrow thread and have a tendency to rip the cork out. We would recommend using a Butler cork extractor which are two prongs taht slide down the outer part of the cork which can then be twisted out. The alternative is just to simply push the cork into the bottle.
Even if the cork crumbles - it is inert and will not affect the quality of the wine. This does not mean that the wine is 'corked'. Corked wine is a term for a wine that has become contaminated with cork taint. Cork taint is not simply the taste of a cork. Rather it is caused by the presence of a chemical compound called TCA. Any cork pieces can be filtered out during decanting.
Decanting Your port has been kept confined in a bottle for decades - it needs to breathe! I recommend decanting through a sieve or neutral filter (e.g. unbleached coffee filter). Once the sediment starts to get heavy it is better to decant the small remainder into a glass. For the bulk of the liquid we recommend a breathing time of around 4 hours before serving.
Serving Serve from the decanter or bottle (if you are going to put the port back in the bottle - wash out the sediment first!). Serve at room temperature. We do not recomend using small port glasses (the ones that are about the same size as a shot glass). We do recommed serving these in a tasting glass or even a small wine glass. This allows the 'bouquet' to collect in the above the port and which you inhale when tasting. This adds to the sensory experience.
Keeping when open Unlike tawny ports, port will not keep for an extended amount of time. 3 days is around the limit. It is interesting to follow the evolution over this time. I have opened and put aside bottles which I have thought to be tainted - only to find the next day they have developed into a beautiful port.