This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20111216.php.
This winter warmer won't wear out
We've all known the frustration that comes with an excellent bottle of wine that's too much to finish in a sitting but, to be honest, too good not to.
This frustration can only increase when we're looking at a bottle of Port or other "fortified" wine that's been dosed with brandy to kick up its alcohol content to 20 percent or so, resulting in a delicious strong wine that's really too much for a responsible individual or even a couple to knock back in a sitting.
In the past, our parents and grandparents may have been perfectly happy to keep a decanter of Port or Sherry on the sideboard from Christmas through Easter, but that won't work for most of us who recognize the deterioration that comes so quickly to wine in an opened bottle, even if we stick the cork back in.
The issue becomes acute during winter and the holiday season, when many wine-loving households see an increased likelihood of a bottle of Port being uncorked.
Well, here's good news: While Vintage Port, despite its alcohol, begins to lose its subtlety after only a few days in an open bottle, its more casual sibling Tawny Port will keep on ticking, just like the iconic Timex, only more elegant.
What's the secret? Tawny Ports are aged in wood casks until they are completely mature, losing their rough edges while acquiring a "tawny" golden-brown color and complex aged aromas and flavors.
The Website of Porto Kopke ("cop-key"), producer of today's featured tasting, adds, "Where vintage ports have immediate air shock upon opening the bottle wherein they were aged and have a shelf life of only a few hours to a week; tawny ports have had air working on them through the cask during all the years of aging, giving them a shelf life of a month or longer. Lighter and drier than vintage ports, the tawnies are immediately understandable and enjoyable to the novice and an ongoing pleasure to the experienced port drinker."
What's more, Tawnies, like many Ports, are available in 375 ml "half-bottles," an option that cuts the price roughly in half and offers a portion that makes a little more sense for consuming in the shorter term.
Try a Tawny for the holidays and see what you think. And while you're at it, feel free to share your thoughts and tasting notes in our monthly Wine Focus conversation in our WineLovers Discussion Group. To join in, click to the forum topic "December: Holiday Sweets"
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Today's Tasting Report
Porto Kopke 10 Years Old Port ($17.99/375ml)
Clear bright reddish-umber, dark bronze with a purplish hue. A distinct and delicious note of pecans on the nose is backed by a whiff of black plums. Warm and gently sweet on the palate, dried plum flavors and good acidity; appropriate sweetness for a dessert wine, but it's not as toothache sticky as some Ports; just a good balance of fruit, pecans and warmth, smooth with its tannins largely resolved through time in barrel. A fine sip for a wintry night. U.S. importer: Wineworth, LLC, Bellevue, Wash. (Dec. 14, 2011)
FOOD MATCH: Perfectly fine by itself as a dessert in its own right, it nevertheless went well with traditional Port snacks including walnuts, dried purple figs and, in lieu of the traditional Stilton, Point Reyes blue cheese. Each goes well individually; put them together and it's a match made in wine heaven.
VALUE: Take note that this price is for a 375 ml half-bottle, but we find that's plenty to provide two evenings of pleasant sipping for two. It's a decent value at that price.
WHEN TO DRINK: In contrast with Vintage Port, Tawny Port is ready to drink when you buy it, and for many, that's an advantage. However, it will certainly keep, and possibly gain added depth and complexity, for years in a well-managed wine cellar.
WEB LINK: Here is the U.S. importer's Porto Kopke page, with additional links to tasting notes on Kopke's Ports including the 10 Years Old Tawny. Kopke's Website is published in Portuguese, Spanish, English and French. This link goes to the English-language home page.
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