Thicker, richer and sweeter than other wines, port is typically served after meals as a dessert wine, or with cheese. The exception to this is in France, the country with the highest consumption of port, where it is also served as an aperitif, or appetizer.
While port-style wines are made around the world, the term "port" can only refer to wines made in Portugal from local grapes, and these are labeled "porto" rather than port. The origins of port reach into the late 1600's with a story of a monastery in the Douro Valley of Portugal. The monks were adding brandy to the wine during the fermentation process. Somehow this evolved into stopping the fermentation altogether with the addition of brandy, leaving the wine strong, sweet and very fruity.
Vintage port wines are sought after and considered the best of the ports. They also carry the highest price tag. To qualify as a vintage port, the wine must be made of grapes from the same harvest, and bottled with two years of harvest. The next factor in determining quality of a vintage port is the time allowed for aging. It is not uncommon for an excellent vintage port to age from more than fifty years.
Fonesca Vintage Port is considered an excellent vintage with a dense ruby/purple color and exotic bouquet. With hints of licorice, Fonesca Vintage Port 2000 is fullbodied and definitely worth a try once it reaches maturity in 2006 - 2025.
With a smaller pricetag, but excellent flavor, the 1995 Fonesca Port is another good choice. The 1995 Fonesca is known for it's rich fruity flavor, full body, and tannic quality. The 1995 vintage is deep in color with the impressions of dark chocolate, and currants suggested. Other worthwhile vintages include: 1994 and 1968.
The Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port is known as "the connoisseur's port," and sets the standard for quality, drawing the highest bids in auction. Taylor Fladgate is bottled after two years in the cask, resulting in an intense depth of fruit. It has been described as a marriage of concentrated black currant and plum fruit with impressions of licorice, spice and dried fruit. Some excellent vintages include 1997, 1994 and 1977.
Grahams Vintage Port, vintage 1997 is an elegant pairing with cheese as the intense flavors of this less sweet, full-bodied port are an excellent aperitif. With a flavor rich in blackberries and licorice, the Grahams Vintage Port is a unique choice. For excellent value and flavor, try vintages 1997, 1985, and 1966.
Quinta do Noval
As most vintages easily rate excellent scores with the top critics, the Quinta do Noval Vintage Port is a truly outstanding representation of the port wines. Quinta do Noval is superdark and powerful. It's flavor stays in the mouth for a long time, leaving impressions of raisin, coffee and a full-bodied fruity tone. An excellent investment, the 2000 Quinta do Noval will be at its peak after 2012. Some nice vintages include 1996, 1998 and 2000.
The Dow Vintage Port is described as "strikingly provocative" with an intensive and impressive flavor. The Dow Vintage Port is a classic in its field with hints of licorice and blackberries. Try vintages from 1963, 1970 and 1980 for truly remarkable flavor and satisfaction.
Excellent with cheese as an aperitif, or with a lovely dessert, the Vintage port wines are sure to complement your meal beautifully. The rich sweetness, and intense flavors are in a class of their own.