[From time to time, my dear friend Kristy sends us an entry for the happyrobot. She is one of our west coast robots and has been in the wine & spirits business for many years.]
Need the gift holiday cheer? Check out these gifts that keep on giving ...
Ruby: The least complex style, with no bottle age. It is a blend of the youngest ports aged in barrels for 2-3 years keeping it fruity and straightforward.
Tawny: Young and Aged. The young ones are like the Ruby - uncomplicated and tasty. The Aged ones will show 10 or 20 years on the label, which means they are a blend of ports aged at least a minimum those years. That makes them a bit tawny in color and more nutty, brown sugary in flavor with a soft silky texture. *Look for OTIMA 10 or 20 Year -- amazing stuff in a sleek sexy bottle.
Character Ports: Fonseca's Bin 27, Warre's Warrior, Graham's Six Grapes, etc. These ports all have a name and are a blend of really good, but not great port wine that has spent 4-6 years in barrels. These are not really expensive and make great gifts.
LBV's - Late Bottled Vintage Ports: Port from a single vintage year, aged in barrel for 4-6 years, then filtered and bottled. They lack the sophistication of a true Vintage Port, but are made from pretty good port wine.
VINTAGE PORT: This is where you can really drop a dime. They are only made in the best years from the best grapes, and these wines only do 2 years in barrel and make up their aging in the bottle. They are usually unfiltered, so the older they are, the more sediment they throw. These are also the most fragile, if you open a bottle - drink it with family and friends, it will begin it's decline rapidly. But a great Port can be an amazing experience. They shouldn't be opened for at least 5 years or more after the vintage year to get your money's worth, so open the wallet and buy an oldie. 2000 was one of the best vintages in a long time, if you can find any. Great years are also 1955, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997
Also of note are Sherry and Madiera -- amazing in their own ways.
Sherry is from the south of Spain with styles starting out in Manzanilla, the most delicate and dry, then moves to Fino, then Olorosso, Amontillado, Cream (for Grandma only), and finally, the sweet king Pedro Ximenez. Fino and Manzanilla are always bone dry, Olorosso and Amontillado are medium sweet and nutty, then Pedro Ximenez is the sweetest.
Madieras are unbelievable and date way back to the turn of the century. I could go on and on here, as they are my favorite aperitif. The best thing to note is that they come in dry to sweet forms and will never die once you open the bottle -- their flavor holds on as long as you do. We'll cover these another time, but for now, here is my tasting note for a sherry I had recently:
Dios Baco Pedro Ximenez – this wine is liquid coffee/chocolate in color
with the thickness almost of syrup. It looks prohibitive and the teeth
groan with the thought of a sip, but when it glides onto the tongue
with that lush texture and rich flavor of dried raisins, dates, figs and
roasted hazelnuts, it makes the eyes sparkle. Then it goes down the
hatch, leaving a warm balminess that lingers forever. Amazingly, it
isn't as heavy or sweet as it promises to be since the alcohol balances it
out quite nicely. Quite a hit with my blue cheeseball and stilton plate.