Let me clarify from the beginning this last minute gift guide is about true port from Portugal. Don’t get me wrong, port style wines from various regions certainly have their place in the hearts and cellars of their supporters, but not in an article about port. They do not belong in this article/post because it would be like comparing Apples to Oranges or even harder Tawny to Ruby or Colheita to Vintage port. The one great thing about gifting port is even if the giftee does not drink they can re-gift it or even better show up at a New Year’s Eve party where the host was expecting them to bring something lame and blow everyone’s mind. That’s what I call a win-win; yeah you can never go wrong with port. Worst case scenario it gets used for culinary applications. The following is a short list of some of my favorites. Included are reviews of the newly declared 2011 vintage. My advice for this Port vintage would be to buy them while they are young and keep them as long as you can. For immediate consumption the first three reviews are drink now selections that have been around long enough and consumed by this taster on several occasions. All three have earned their place on this list.
Kopke is a widely distributed Port brand that is often overlooked by the novice port drinker. When it comes to Colheita’s they stand tall and proud and are unique with their ability to define the word rancio. The style and grace of this wine reigns above others. Bold and expressive the nutty caramel flavors that exude from this vintage are everything someone who enjoys Colheita is looking for. The bouquet announces fluently what will come to the palate like a serf announcing a royal. Loud and precise a roasted almond and vanilla component overshadows the spice nuances declaring their presence in an unyielding manner that makes the experience distinctive.
Rating: Excellent (92) | $110 | 19.5% ABV
Ramon Pintos 20 Yr Tawny Quinta Do Bom Retiro
A perfect blend of savory, nutty and a touch of sweetness that carries orange peel, hazelnut and fresh scraped vanilla bean essence, this port delivers an experience that tantalizes the senses in every way possible. The finish is as smooth as the initial impression upon the palate bringing a pleasurable event full circle. Dried Oregon Cherries and Roasted Marcona Almonds with Triple Cream Cheese would be a traditional pairing. If you want to try something outside the box combine a recipe for southern pecan and pumpkin pie. You will find it is a perfect pairing.
Rating: Outstanding (95) | $70 | 19.5% ABV
This wine is mind blowing awesome in its ability to deliver a tasting experience that will benchmark every Tawny you will ever taste. The complexity and brawn “Brings it” gangster style all up in your space like it owns you and for that moment it does. This wine delivers a rock solid vintage tawny port tasting extravaganza beginning with dried apricot, honey, roasted almonds and fresh grated nutmeg on the finish. Enjoy the dried orange peel notes with a freshly torched Crème Burlee.
Rating: Excellent (92) | $55 | ABV 20%
Available At K&L
A better example of the style of port wine I prefer other than this Croft 2011 Vintage would be very hard to find. When I am looking to drink something besides a Colheita this is the style I seek. Fruity to a fault and balanced by dried orange peel citrus essence. The mouth feel on entry is seductive and the aromas are a mélange of sea air overt and sinewy leads to a heady scent of violets reflecting the avalanche of flavor to come. That parade on the palate includes blackberries so ripe they would fall apart if you touched them with nuances of fig and cardamom. Roasted sweet peppers, grilled bread with Basque Cheese and Chorizo makes for a great reason to open this at the start of the meal.
Rating: Excellent (94) | $70 | ABV 20%
Beguiling and seductive in a way a young wine should not be able to express. It is easy to see the reason 2011 was declared vintage. Rich fragrant dark fruit aromas dominate the faint violet floral notes. The finish is powerful and memorable delivering more than what could be expected. This port is a great way to start or finish a meal; savory or sweet, it will be the star.
Rating: Excellent (93) | $90 | ABV 20%
“Wow” was my first impression. Seldom do declared vintages only two years after bottling express the lush textures and soft full flavors this wine is already achieving. There is a sit up and take notice seriousness about this wine that represents a style to be recognized and enjoyed, now or later.
Rating: Excellent (96) | $90 | ABV 20%
This wine will appeal to those who appreciate an exciting ride that redefines what young Tawnies can be. The caramel is sweet but not so tame and the nutty character a bit edgy and brash. I would say try pairing this with any Dominican or Honduran cigar. A Southern Vanilla Wafer pudding will also work.
Rating: Excellent (90) | $30 | ABV 20%
If you need a gift (or several), buy Port–you will not regret it. Many of these will be available at your local retailer right up until Christmas Eve. Even if you have to deliver a gift late, Port still works and do not forget to try all these wines yourself in the coming years. If you are lucky one of these are already stuffing a stocking on your mantle.