I really can’t understand why Tawny Ports aren’t a massive hit across the entire world! Actually, when I allow myself to think about it long enough, it aggravates me. I mean, it has so much to offer to all kinds of consumers: that is for novices it has a moderate sweetness that makes it easily palatable and not at all “bitter”; for those purely looking for punch per bottle, it has a fair alcohol content guaranteed to give you a slight kick; and for the seasoned drinkers that are all about nuances, it provides complexity and finesse. What more would you want out of a bottle?
Tawny port starts off as red grapes and begins the fermentation process. Before all the sugar can be used up to form alcohol, spirit (at times referred to as Brandy spirit) is added to the ferment to kill off the yeast and, as a result, arrest fermentation in a process known as fortification. This results in about 19% alcohol by volume (ABV) and a higher than dry residual sugar content.
Following this, the fortified wine is added to barrels and left to mature until the wine loses its red colour and turns amber/ brown/ tawny. This occurs through oxidation, where wine evaporates from the barrels (known as the Angel’s share) and in the process allows oxygen in. Barrels are also often racked meaning the wine is transferred to a different barrel or container and then back into the original barrel there by allowing for oxidation too. This process further softens the wine and rounds it out, giving rise to nutty, spicy and dried fruit characters.
The duration of barrelling varies greatly, with blends from different vintages being used to ensure a consistent house blend/ taste profile from the producer. As can be imagined, the longer the maturation the more complex and smoother the wine. Some bottles do have age demarcations of 10, 20, 30 or over 40 years which show the average barrel maturation of the different batches that have gone into the bottle. They are known as Aged Tawnies. Colheita Tawny Ports or Vintage-Dated Tawnies are alternatively from a single vintage; that are only declared in exceptional years producing exceptional individual (as opposed to the house blend) wines!
The date of bottling should be stated as tawnies are ready for consumption once bottled and shouldn’t be left in the bottle to age.
Ordinarily they would be consumed as a digestive after a meal, but are also as good as an aperitif (to stimulate your appetite before a meal) or simply by themselves. It can either be consumed at room temperature, slightly chilled or on ice as you please. However, once opened, placing them in the fridge will give you about a month out of the remainder, though older matured wines should be consumed quicker.
Lastly, Tawny ports are ordinarily great value for money considering their laborious making, their excellent quality and ridiculously low prices (I have an inkling that few if any producers actually make a profit selling Tawnies). There really is no excuse not to have one seating in your dining room.
NB: just as Champagne, Portugal has legally trade marked the name “Port” and thus new producers like Argentina, Canada, India, South Africa and United States must come up with alternative names to call it.
- Tawny colour Courtesy of http://badassdigest.com/2013/01/09/badass-beverage-please-pass-the-port/
- Different age demarcations Courtesy of https://quentinsadler.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/tawny-port-with-food/