Friday, December 19, 2008

joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, December 14, 2008: Tawny Port - the unsung hero

Something to go with the stilton; something for the chocolate pudding, mince pies, panforte, stollen, nuts and figs; something to sip after dinner; a last-minute Christmas present; an unusual aperitif. Five different wines? No, just one: port. But not the usual. Instead of LBV (late bottled vintage), the default choice of the harrassed at Christmas, try an aged tawny (aged meaning matured, rather than elderly, and pronounced accordingly).

Aged tawny – labelled, ten, 20, 30 or very occasionally 40 years old - is the unsung hero of port in Britain. We think of port as dark red, rich, powerful and sweet, but tawny isn’t dark - it’s, er, tawny. And, although it’s as sweet and alcoholic as other styles, it’s lighter in body. The taste is different, too. Tawny is matured for years, sometimes decades, in wooden casks until it ends up with mellow flavours of dried fruit, toasted nuts, roasting coffee, spices and caramel.

Two other key differences are that tawny, unlike vintage port, has no sediment, so it doesn’t need decanting, and it should be served lightly chilled (an hour or so in the fridge depending on its temperature).

Taylors Ten Year Old Tawny Port, £18.99
Classic tawny with an enticing fillip of freshness (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Oddbins, Majestic).

Warre’s Otima 10, £10.99 for 50cl
Stylish, contemporary bottle for an equally polished tawny (Asda, Thresher, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose).

Noval Ten Year Old Tawny Port, £18.50
Textbook nutty, dried fruit flavours with a hint of chocolate (Fortnum & Mason, 0845 3001707).