July 8, 2014

Port and Vintage Beer

Just got back from a trip to Porto, Portugal. The wine region famous for making their fortified cellar-worthy wines. As a fan of positive oxidation flavors, days of tippling decades-old Tawnys and Colheita’s was a real treat. I highly recommend that any fans of aged barleywines definitely take a foray into Port. The main thing that separates it from normal wine is its higher alcohol content and the increased amount of time it spends in the barrel.

And just like vintage beers, Ports age well for a variety of reasons, but foremost a high ABV (typically 20%) and a high amount of residual sugars. For those not familiar (i.e. me just a few weeks ago) the typical types of Port you’ll come across are:

Ruby: Fortified wine that has spent 2-3 years in a foeder (in a concrete tank for the cheapo brands). These have lots of young, fruity wine flavors, and very little oxidation (caramel, dried fruits, etc) aspects.

Tawny: A ruby port that has been further aged in a barrel. Typically for seven years, but also for longer. The bottle label should indicate the amount of time. In my experience, the older the better (and unfortunately, the more expensive). Most of the young fruity flavors of the Ruby have faded and been replaced by a rich oxidation character. And just like vintage beer, time has greatly mellowed the alcohol presence, which can be quite boozy in a Ruby. They are absolutely fantastic, and anyone serious about cellaring beer should check them out if for no other reason than to sharpen their vintage flavor palate.

Colheita: This is essentially a Tawny, but comes from a single vintage rather than a blend of multiple years. The label should read Colheita and the year. Only the best Tawny barrels and vintages become Colheitas, making these akin to Tanwy Reserves. Was able to try quite a few of these, and just blown away by the complexity. And as far as these things go, they are not outrageously expensive, being around $50-$75 for a bottle of 25 year aged.


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