30 Second Wine Advisor: Keeping Port

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 Keeping Port
A reader asks an important question after Monday's report on LBV Port: How long can you keep it after the bottle is opened?
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Keeping Port

The question was such an obvious follow-up to Monday's Late Bottled Vintage Port report that I should probably have thought about it myself: "How long will a bottle of LBV like Osborne 2000 keep once it is opened," asked reader John H. "I assume that it should be refrigerated."

Okay, that's actually two questions, but they're good ones. Unfortunately, there's no clear answer more specific than "Not very long" and "It depends."

Here's a somewhat extended version of my response:

First, fortified wines like Port do last longer in an open bottle than table wines, because their significantly higher alcohol content acts as a preservative. Port has been fortified with brandy to an alcohol level of 20 percent. Most table wines, even with today's trend toward higher alcohol, range between 11 and 14 percent.

Second, refrigerating any opened, leftover wine will extend its useful life to some extent, because refrigeration slows the process of oxidation that gradually causes unpleasant changes in the wine and robs its flavor.

With or without refrigeration, quality wines deteriorate fairly quickly once they're exposed to air. Any wine, even a Port, will start showing changes in its aroma and flavor after just a few days, although much depends on your individual taste and the amount of oxidation you'll tolerate. (The oxidized effect comes across at first as a slightly nutty and Sherrylike character that many people enjoy in small doses. Given time, though, this nutlike quality overwhelms all other flavor in the wine.)

Personally, I'd keep a good LBV like Monday's Osborne 2000 Oporto on the counter at cool room temperature for up to a week, and possibly in the fridge for two or three weeks. But I'd check it often to make sure it's not getting funky. And if I refrigerated the wine, I would certainly let a glass warm up to serving temperature before I enjoyed it. Ice cold Port tastes totally out of whack, unnaturally thin and flavorless.

Happily, I had recorked the Osborne, about two-thirds full, and left it sitting on the kitchen counter. We poured a couple of glasses and found, to my delight, that this young wine wasn't the least spoiled, and may indeed have improved a bit with four days' exposure to air. It showed a bit more fruit, the tannins had smoothed somewhat, and there was no Sherry character that I could discern.

The short answer remains: Every bottle varies, and so do individual tastes. But I wouldn't worry at all about holding a good quality, young Port - Vintage or LBV - in an open bottle for three or four days to a week or so. I'll keep this bottle around, check it periodically over coming days, and pass along a brief final report when it finally starts to fade.

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