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A Good Value Ten Year Tawny and a Little About Port Wine

CIMG2351We love port wine, or at least I do.  My son has gained an affinity for tawny, while I tend to favor vintage port but still love a good tawny as well.  In general I consider port to be one of the great values available in the wine world, considering you can buy a 30 – 35 year old bottle from a great vintage for less than $100, and sometimes a lot less.  I just added a 1977 Sandeman’s to the port rack for less than $70.  That’s great value, because nothing is like a really old vintage port.  The color alone is mesmerizing, sometimes going towards a pale, pinkish maroon right out of the bottle that is just beautiful.  The flavors are incredible, the result of all those years of being stuck in the glass container with no where to go.  You can’t fake 35 years of bottle age.

Yet this blog is more about tawny port, which comes close to faking all those years of bottle age.  Port is produced in various ways.  Vintage spends some time in wood but then gets transferred to the bottle, where it will do the bulk of its aging.  This takes a lot longer to develop those wonderful flavors I mentioned above, but the wait is worth it.  Tawny spends a lot of time in wood, and when it is bottled it is essentially ready to drink.  It is generally a blended port as well, assembled by the wine maker from various lots of port using  the reserves of the house.  The age of the tawny on the bottle is an average age (usually), so a ten year tawny could have twenty or thirty year old wine in it, albeit likely in small proportions.  All that time in wood barrels allows some slow oxidation, and the wine develops nutty and caramel flavors to accent the fruit.  It also develops a wonderful smoothness.  It’s not quite the same as an old vintage port, but it has some similar qualities and is really, really good.  They do make wonderful old tawny port from single vintages as well, although fewer produce this style.  These will be identified as Colheitas and will have the year on the label.  Some Colheitas can be ridiculous values.  Look for 1970, 1977 and 1983.  Also 1963 and 1966 if you have a few more dollars to spend (these years were all excellent vintages – so look for vintage port from them as well).  Keep in mind Colheitas depend on the grapes of that particular vintage for their foundation of quality, they can’t be blended to a specific style like a traditional tawny.  Also important to note is that there are great wines from many years other than those unilaterally considered to be great.  Don’t be afraid to try ports from less heralded years, I’ve had many excellent bottles.

Which to buy can be the question.  On the tawny side, I’ve had many, many ten and twenty year tawnies, and I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad one.  I’ve also had 30 and 40 year tawnies, and while they are certainly not bad either, that’s where the price to quality ratio falls apart.  The twenties in general are noticeably better than the tens, and really exhibit what old tawny is all about.  When you get to thirty the differences are more in style, and the overall wine strikes me as not worth four times the price, or more.  The forty year old juice gets very pricey.  For a 10 year tawny you’re in the $25-$30 range.  The 20 will push you $40-$50.  The 30 year old is pushing the $100 – $110 range and the 40 year old juice is approaching $200.  These price ranges are for standard 750 ml bottles.

The bottle in question here is a 10 year old Messias Tawny Port.  This to me is excellent value, as it demonstrates the qualities of a good tawny and still comes in around $21, which is certainly on the very low end of the price range.  The color is a beautiful golden amber.  While sweet it is not over the top.  The traditional nutty, caramel and dried fruit flavors come through on a smooth flavor profile which finishes nicely.  It keeps the streak of never having a bad bottle of ten+ year tawny intact.   It makes the value list.  It is, in fact, a very good example of this type of wine and I recommend it if you’d like to try the style.  You should.  Tawny port is one of life’s little pleasures.  One of my favorite things is to finish off a great meal at a restaurant with an excellent cup of coffee along with a glass of good tawny port.  They compliment each other beautifully.  I also like to add a hot fudge sundae, and then it becomes perfection.

A votre sante!

2 comments to A Good Value Ten Year Tawny and a Little About Port Wine

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