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LBV ... Traditionally
Ramos Pinto 1995 Traditional Late Bottled Vintage Porto
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LBV ... Traditionally

Just when we thought spring was finally on its way, a late-winter blast of snow flurries and freezing cold reminded us that there's still a bit of life left in Old Man Winter. What to do? We holed up at home, fashioned a pot of warming soup and a loaf of fresh bread, and after dinner saluted a frosty evening by opening a bottle of Port.

Last month we talked about Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port as a relatively affordable (and early-drinking) alternative to Vintage Port, which is an arguably great wine but a fairly expensive item that really requires aging before it's ready to drink.

LBV, as you'll recall, could be considered Vintage Port's "little brother," usually made with grapes from younger vines, or in less successful vintages; it's held in wood for four to six years, compared with just two for Vintage Port, the additional wood aging resulting in a somewhat softer and more approachable wine that's ready to drink when you buy it.

The label on today's LBV, however, bears the extra word "Traditional," and that's a term worth looking for. Here's why: LBV Ports are normally filtered before bottling, a practice that ensures a stable product that won't deposit substantial sediment in the bottle and thus need not be decanted before serving.

Vintage Port, however, is neither "fined" nor filtered ... and neither is "Traditional" LBV. Many wine lovers believe that fining (using various materials to clarify the wine) and filtration may strip trace elements from a wine that confer nuance, texture and ageworthiness. "Traditional" LBV, then, may be a step closer to the high-end Vintage Port, and these wines are considered to be more ageworthy - and potentially more interesting - than filtered LBV.

Elly and Herman Gerdingh, the friendly publishers of http://www.infoportwine.com, an online magazine about Port in English and Dutch, put it this way: "The traditional Ports are bottled unfiltered, become significantly better after decades in bottle, form a substantial crust and oxidize quickly after opening and coming in contact with oxygen. On the bottles they are indicated with Unfiltered, Traditional or Methode Traditionell."

This one from Ramos Pinto is a good example. Still too young to have much sediment, it's enjoyable now as an LBV should be; but the way it blossoms with time in the glass demonstrates that it has a long life expectancy.

Ramos Pinto Ramos Pinto 1995 Traditional Late Bottled Vintage Porto, bottled in 1999 ($18.99)

Inky dark garnet, almost black. a bit closed, leathery and plummy fruit. tight on the palate, too, tart and rather tannic for an LBV. Quite "vintage" in Style, but eventually opens up to fruity accessibility with swishing and swirling. U.S. importer: Maisons, Marques & Domaines USA Inc., Oakland, Calif. (Feb. 27, 2002)

FOOD MATCH: Dessert wine, sipped alone.

VALUE: Near-Vintage Port quality for less than $20 rates as a steal. Buy one to enjoy soon and another to put away for a few years.

WEB LINK: An information page on Ramos Pinto is located at http://www.aevp.pt/associados/arpinto.html. It's in Portuguese, but even if you don't speak the language you should be able to pick up the contact information and maybe get the gist of the wine-related commentary.

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Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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