WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

The place for all things wine, focused on serious wine discussions.

Moderators: Jenise, David M. Bueker, Robin Garr

WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 12, 2007 11:08 am

Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Few wine-related images are much more enduring than the sparkling glass decanter half-full of Port or Sherry. This sweet, strong wine would customarily be opened for Christmas and then left sitting on the sideboard for occasional celebratory tastes at Easter, the Fourth of July (or Queen's Birthday) until the last dank, oxidized dregs finally go down the hatch at Thanksgiving.

You don't have to be much of an expert to see the problem here: Good wine simply doesn't keep for long in an open bottle, where it deteriorates quickly upon exposure to air.

Because they're sweet and fortified to unusual alcoholic strength with a dose of brandy, Port and similar dessert wines do survive longer after opening than everyday table wines; but their useful life after opening should be measured in weeks, not months or years.

But just how long can you go? You'll recall that I opened a bottle of Osborne 2000 Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port back in October, then re-tasted it a few days later and found to my pleased surprise that it was still going strong, perhaps a bit more mellow and smooth than it had been upon opening.

Last night, six weeks later, I uncorked it again. Did it survive?

Well ... sort of. It's definitely showing some signs of deterioration now - its inky, blackish-purple color shows some haze, and a telltale walnutty, Sherrylike aroma betrays increasing oxidation. Yet somewhat to my surprise, the wine is still palatable. On the nose, simple dark stone fruit, plums and prunes remain dominant, with the Sherry character as a back note, secondary to the fruit. In the mouth, the first taste seems softer, smoother, sweeter, perhaps a little more simple than when the wine was first opened. But still, as the wine crosses the palate there's plenty of acidity and a distinct touch of licorice. Comparing notes with my Oct. 22 tasting, I'm more surprised by the similarity than the difference. The original subtle hint of hazelnut has moved over to a more apparent, darker walnut character, and the wine's a bit softer and may have shed some of its complexity; but to be frank, this modest LBV wasn't all that complex to begin with.

Do I recommend keeping Port in an open bottle or decanter for six weeks or longer? Well, no. The wine has changed, and from a strict analytical standpoint, not for the better. But it's certainly still drinkable, even to a critical wine "geek."

Nor would I try this with an expensive true Vintage Port: There, you're paying the price for subtle complexity, and those ethereal nuances will be the first to disappear when the invevitble deterioration begins. Enjoy it within the first week, and share it with friends if you need assistance.

On the other hand, fortified wines in naturally oxidized styles could last even longer than this LBV. Consider sweeter Madeira (Malmsey or Boal), Sicilian Marsala, or the more sweet and full-bodied Sherries, from Oloroso upward; or tawny Port, although again here I'd stick with the more modest types rather than trying to keep a pricey, complex 30-year Tawny around for months.

Still, the longevity of this simple Port suggests that for fortified wines at least, it's safe to challenge the conventional wine-geek wisdom, at least a little. If your primary interest is simply enjoying a glass of Port every now and then, there's certainly no reason not to buy a bottle of modest Port, sweet Sherry, Marsala or Madeira and keep it around, taking a small glass from time to time when you're in the mood.

I'd like to hear your experiences, for better or worse, with keeping fortified dessert wines longer than the usual rules allow. Please feel free to post your comments here as a response to this topic.

<center>Subscribe to The 30 Second Wine Advisor</center>
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 16984
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Kevin O'Connell » Wed Dec 12, 2007 11:31 am

Even if you think you've kept one a bit too long, I find it will always work great as a reduction in a pate.

Kevin
User avatar
Kevin O'Connell
Wine geek
 
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 5:52 pm
Location: Maryland

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 12, 2007 12:03 pm

Kevin O'Connell wrote:Even if you think you've kept one a bit too long, I find it will always work great as a reduction in a pate.


Really interesting idea, Kevin! Although I use leftover wine in cooking a lot, for some reason I've rarely thought about using Port or other fortified wines, other than maybe a splash of Sherry in a sauce or subbing for Chinese wine in an Asian dish. Must try this ...
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 16984
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Steve Bloch » Wed Dec 12, 2007 2:47 pm

I've been using a wine-preservation gas (Winelife, with nitrogen and carbon dioxide) and it seems to keep a bottle of port for several weeks. I don't notice a significant drop in taste, nose, or pleasure.
Steve Bloch, blessed to be living in Carmel Valley
Steve Bloch
Just got here
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:59 pm
Location: Carmel Valley, CA

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 12, 2007 2:50 pm

Welcome Steve, great place here and lots of good folks. I am a vacu-vin believer but more people seem to using the gas method. I am going to give it a try!
Your name is familiar, which other forum do you post?
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9498
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Tim York » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:55 pm

Quite coincidentally we have just finished a bottle of MAS AMIEL PRESTIGE 15ANS D’AGE which we first opened a week ago.

Not Port but made in more or less the same way as a tawny (fortified and in this case matured 1 year in large glass containers outside and 14 years in large barrels – foudres - in the cellar). It was lovely (no need to say “still”); about half an hour later I still have its fragrant and gently sweet after-taste at the back of my palate. Of course everything was in favour of this wine holding well in the open bottle – the highly oxidative upbringing, use of a VacuVin stopper and storage once open in the fridge – but nevertheless it is a noteworthy performance.

In the sherry Wine Focus, I tracked the performance of an Oloroso Seco for three weeks after opening and here is a re-run of my notes.


Posted on Friday 8th June –

CUCO OLOROSO SECO – Antonio Barbadillo S.A.- Alc.19%- L04K30- NK04674101

“Jerez elaborado con uva Palomino, es el resultado de años de crianza oxidativa sin “flor”, en nuestras bodegas de Sanlucar de Barrameda. »

C: Dark brown like strong tea but with an orange rim. N: Complex and lively with notes of caramel and varnish. P: Deep and rich with sweetness seeming to attempt a break out; complex notes of apricot, tangerine, caramel, coffee and chocolate all in balance with a lively tang, freshness and hints of varnish and showing excellent structural support on the finish and length.

This is a really fine wine of great class and distinctive character. It blended with and even civilized the strong somewhat crude Stilton. (The back label recommends it with game and red meat.) Sadly Gert Claes, from whom I bought this, is no longer offering it because of lack of demand.

About two-thirds of each bottle remains. I will report back any changed perceptions after a few days.



Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:22 pm Post subject: WTN: Barbadillo's Oloroso revisited after 48 hours and 1 week.
________________________________________
Barbadillo’s Cuco Oloroso Seco

I wrote an enthusiastic note about this bottle a week ago. The bottle was not emptied at that session. I put it under a VacuVin stopper, returned it to the cellar and then revisited its contents -

48 hours later

There was quite a surprising and disappointing evolution for a frankly oxidative sherry.

Quite a lot of the brightness and aromatic subtlety had faded, the overall flavour profile was quite dark and a much stronger bitterness was apparent on the finish.

This is at variance with my (possibly fallible) memory of the evolution of previous bottles after opening. It remains to be seen whether it will achieve a better balance with more tertiary flavours in a few days.


1 week later

It seems to have settled down again. N: Aromatic, quite burnished with a fresh acidic edge but varnish hints have disappeared. P: Still very long and rich. The different aromatic strands which I reported in my first note were now difficult to distinguish but there was an attractively integrated complexity combined with freshness. Any nuttiness which other people have noted in Olorosos was very muted. The bitter finish which troubled five days ago had apparently receded and was no more now than welcome structure.

All my tastings so far have been at room temperature but, in view of Robin’s advice to drink Oloroso lightly chilled, I then cooled the bottle slightly in a “Rapid Ice” bracelet. I found the freshness improved but the complexity slightly reduced and the bitter finish a touch more apparent.

Although this wine was still showing remarkably well after one week in a two-thirds emptied bottle, it was undoubtedly at its best on the first night.




Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 2:43 pm Post subject: Re: WTN: Barbadillo's Oloroso revisited after 48 hours and 1 week.
________________________________________
Nearly three weeks after opening.

Tonight I discovered about half a glass of this OLOROSO CUCO at the bottom of the bottle in the fridge.

After warming it in my hands it was still holding up remarkably well compared with nearly two weeks ago, particularly on the nose; subtle, complex and classy but somehow reduced in size as if looking through the wrong end of a telescope.





Of course, the Oloroso Seco lacks residual sugar and an Oloroso Dulce may have held up better.
Tim York
Tim York
Wine guru
 
Posts: 3862
Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 3:48 pm
Location: near Lisieux, France

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Kevin O'Connell » Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:45 pm

Tim York wrote: Quite coincidentally we have just finished a bottle of MAS AMIEL PRESTIGE 15ANS D’AGE which we first opened a week ago.

Funny that, our favorite reduction for pate's for the past couple of years has been the Mas Amiel 1980 Milliseme of which I only have one left. We usually open it with a chocolate dessert and finish it off in a pate.

Kevin
User avatar
Kevin O'Connell
Wine geek
 
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 5:52 pm
Location: Maryland

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby JC (NC) » Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:53 pm

I've kept opened 10-year Tawny Port (Cockburn's) in the refrigerator for three or four weeks and still enjoyed it.
I'm stretching the limit on a couple Zinfandels now (not fortified but high in alcohol nevertheless). I opened one Dec 6th and the other Dec. 7th to compare and then went out-of-town Dec. 8-10 so they have been open almost a week (recorked and in refrigerator.) Will try to finish them off tonight and tomorrow.
JC (NC)
Lifelong Learner
 
Posts: 6040
Joined: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:23 pm
Location: Fayetteville, NC

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Rahsaan » Wed Dec 12, 2007 7:53 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Few wine-related images are much more enduring than the sparkling glass decanter half-full of Port or Sherry. This sweet, strong wine would customarily be opened for Christmas and then left sitting on the sideboard for occasional celebratory tastes at Easter, the Fourth of July (or Queen's Birthday) until the last dank, oxidized dregs finally go down the hatch at Thanksgiving.


I've never heard of that image.

Although I'm young.

But was that ever a common practice? In both the US and the UK?

I have seen Frasier pour glasses of sherry from a waiting decanter, which never made a whole lot of sense. But it's just tv, and I figured certain kinds of sherry would be a better candidate for this than port.

Of course it also depends how quickly you drink it. Your 11-month scenario seems a bit extreme. But if you have lots of guests and cycle through bottles every 2 weeks or so, that's a different story.
Rahsaan
Wild and Crazy Guy
 
Posts: 6918
Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:20 pm
Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Dec 12, 2007 9:27 pm

Tim, I have long been a fan of Mas Amiel which I usually buy when visiting mother in London. I am not at home right now so cannot rememer which vintages I have!!

BTW did you see my note on the late harvest tannat from Uruguay?
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9498
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Tim York » Thu Dec 13, 2007 5:16 am

Re: dusty decanters of sherry and port -

This was very prevalent in Britain, Rahsaan, particularly for sherry. Most Britons of my generation recall getting offered glasses by their Victorian born aunts of even DRY sherry several months old from dusty warm decanters.

Indeed memories of this practice is in part responsible for most of my contemporaries turning away from these traditionally British drinks. (I am confident, however, that the connoisseurs from those generations treated them much better.)

It is interesting to note that the same bad practice seems to have been common in the USA.
Tim York
Tim York
Wine guru
 
Posts: 3862
Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 3:48 pm
Location: near Lisieux, France

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby JC (NC) » Thu Dec 13, 2007 12:25 pm

I think I vaguely recall one set of grandparents keeping Port or Sherry in a decanter for months at a time. I was a child then so was not invited to taste the wine.
JC (NC)
Lifelong Learner
 
Posts: 6040
Joined: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:23 pm
Location: Fayetteville, NC

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Steve Bloch » Thu Dec 13, 2007 12:32 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Welcome Steve, great place here and lots of good folks. I am a vacu-vin believer but more people seem to using the gas method. I am going to give it a try!
Your name is familiar, which other forum do you post?


Bob, I too, generally use Vacu-vin for open bottles of wine (assuming that happens :wink: ) but I like the gas method for Port. As far as other posts, I'm not much of a forum participant--I do have friends in Calgary, however, and I have written a book "A Hard Kept Secret." Perhaps that's it...
Steve Bloch, blessed to be living in Carmel Valley
Steve Bloch
Just got here
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:59 pm
Location: Carmel Valley, CA

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Paul Blood » Thu Dec 13, 2007 10:49 pm

I keep Madeira, Port (tawny) and Sherry (medium dry) in the fridge. Not expensive stuff; $20-30 per bottle. I find that it is still very drinkable for months, even thought the flavour gradually oxidises.
Maybe that says more about my taste buds than anything else, but I don't see any other way of keeping a range of stickies on hand for me and my guests.
Paul Blood
Cellar rat
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:25 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Paul Blood » Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:01 pm

Having written that; I went down to the fridge and tried them all. Maybe I was too optimistic about the Madeira. Good thing that Christmas is coming. I'll be drinking them faster for a while.
Paul Blood
Cellar rat
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:25 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Dec 14, 2007 1:46 am

Welcome Paul, great to have another Canadian here! Looking forward to some TNs!
Which tawny do you like?
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9498
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Paul Blood » Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:04 am

Hi Bob,
Right now I favour the Whiskers Blake from Hardy's.
Do you have a favourite (that's available from BCLB)?
Paul Blood
Cellar rat
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:25 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Keeping Port - pushing the limits

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Dec 14, 2007 9:14 am

Paul Blood wrote:I keep Madeira, Port (tawny) and Sherry (medium dry) in the fridge. Not expensive stuff; $20-30 per bottle. I find that it is still very drinkable for months, even thought the flavour gradually oxidises.
Maybe that says more about my taste buds than anything else, but I don't see any other way of keeping a range of stickies on hand for me and my guests.


Paul, welcome to the forum, and thanks for posting!

You make some very good points, and I might have made it more clear in the original article (although I did so in an earlier chapter of this saga, back in October), that I was deliberately subjecting the wine to punishment as a worst-case trial: I intentionally kept it on the sideboard, at room temperature, to replicate Grandmama's old decanter. ;)

Keeping the wine refrigerated would certainly extend its life. Personally, I'm less enamored of the vacuum-pump systems, fearing that a hand pump simply can't create a sufficiently "hard" vacuum to have much effect, but it certainly can't hurt.

Glad you found your way to our Merrie Little Bande, and now that you're here, I hope you'll hang around!
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 16984
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY


Return to The Wine Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 8 guests