For a while now I have been studying wine, taking courses and really immersing myself into tasting the stuff. When I got to the Port section I realized that much like Sherry- there is so much to learn, so many different styles, so many different flavors. I bought three basic types to compare- a Ruby, a Tawny and a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV). I will explain all three for the newbs.
Ruby Port is where it all starts. A short fermentation to get between 5-9% ABV and then the wine is fortified, stopping the fermentation and leaving a sweet wine with lots of unfermented sugar. The resulting wine will be have approximately 20% ABV and will be matured in old oak vessels or stainless steel, to minimize oxidation. Once matured this Ruby Port is bottled and sold. Some wine is left to age further and is bottled with a vintage date several years after vinification. This is an LBV. Some Ruby Ports, in exceptional vintages, are further aged after vinification and bottled by the third year. These are Vintage Ports that don’t get produced every year. They will last for decades in bottle and will usually need decanting.
Tawny Port is an oxidized version of Port that has been matured in oak barrels called Pipes. They are tawny in color, versus ruby- how bout that? After tasting three different styles (I did not get a Vintage Port btw), I can say I prefer Ruby over LBV and my least favorite is Tawny. I will confirm my opinions again and again as I love Port and will find other brands. Here are the tasting notes, Salut:
DOW’S FINE TAWNY PORT
Semi opaque, almost red in color. Nose is medium intensity with aromas of dried cherry, dried red currant , sweet prune, red licorice and old oak. The palate is sweet but not as unctuous as I was expecting. The flavors are of medium intensity and mirror the nose with the addition of almonds and some green bitterness. The tannins really grip the top of my gums- they are very well integrated. Acidity is good and balances the whole package. I’m not sure that this is my favorite style of Port but it’s a new experience that I’m enjoying. 89 points. $18
SANDEMAN FINE RUBY PORT
I know it says ruby, but it really looks purple in the glass. I would say it is deep, ie. opaque. The nose is sweet with stewed plums, smoke, cooked blueberry, chocolate, and cigars. The palate is sweet, no doubt. The acidity is quite high and the tannins are medium. This wine has a medium body and the alcohol is high for a fortified wine (19.5%). The flavor intensity is medium (+) and I get the cooked blueberry, stewed plums and chocolate with some smokiness. The finish is long and satisfying. This wine is drinking nicely and may age a bit longer. I would say I prefer this style over Tawny port, it is fresher and more fruit driven. 91 points. $17
DOW’S LBV 2015
Deep purple in color, it has a nose of stewed blackcurrant, prunes, raisins, cooked plums and blueberry pie. The palate is obviously semi sweet with good tannic structure, juicy acidity and full body. The heat from the 19.5% ABV is noticeable initially, but it blows off after a while. The flavors correspond to the aromas but there is a bitterness that bothers me on the mid palate. It’s the same sensation I get when biting into an unripe, green almond. The finish is mid length and chock full of luscious stewed fruit. A nice bottle worthy of 90 points. $26