Made for M&S by Taylor’s brilliant winemaker, David Guimaraens, this is the kind of Tawny Port that makes grown men (and women) cry. It’s a very fine fortified, with a delicious balance between nutty, figgy fruit, added spirit and mature, barrel-aged rancio notes. Very sweet and very long on the palate, it would make a perfect Christmas treat.
Red Varietal: Touriga Franca
2011 Tanners Douro Red, Douro Valley( £7.95, 13%, Tanners )
Produced for Tanners by the impressive winemaking duo of João Portugal Ramos and José-Maria Soares Franco (who used to make Portugal’s most famous red, Barca Velha) this is an impressively well balanced Douro red at an attractive price, with subtle, spicy oak, good minerality and acidity and tarry, brambly fruit. Half bottles at £4.45.
2011 Taste the Difference Douro, Douro Valley( £8.49 down to £6.36, 14.5%, Sainsbury's )
Taming the heat of the Douro Valley is the key to making balanced red table wines (as opposed to more fiery, fortified Ports) and Manuel Lobo of Quinta do Crasto has done that with consummate skill here. The wine is rich and flavoursome, all right, with notes of violet, blackberry and spice, supple tannins and youthful vigour, but it has good acidity and freshness, too.
2003 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port, Douro Valley( £68, 19.5%, Ocado )
It’s always hot in the Douro, but it was really, really hot in 2003 and I think it shows in the wines. This is a big, if slightly pruney style with more than a hint of Douro bake. Packed with black fruits and liquorice and pretty serious tannins, it needs more time in bottle to sweeten up and shed some of the sturdy backbone.
Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Douro Valley( £18.99, 21.5%, Fortnum & Mason, Ocado, Tanners, Waitrose )
The received wisdom (at least round my gaff) is that 20-year-old Tawnies are better than the 10-year-old versions, but this wine challenges that. It will improve further in bottle, but it’s remarkable now, an intense, nutty, figgy fortified with more tannin and concentration than commerical Tawnies at lower price points. In short, it’s worth the extra cash: a sweet, yet structured, wood-matured Port with impressive palate length.
1997 Quinta do Noval Colheita Port, Douro Valley( £39, 21.5%, Fine Wines Direct, Ocado, SH Jones )
If you’re a fan of vintage dated Tawnies (aka Colheita Ports), they don’t come much better than this. It’s endearlingly, palate-stimulatingly spicy, with real intensity and focus, an impression of heat and figgy intensity, a faint undertone of spirit and a finish that lingers on the palate for minutes. The wine is drier than many examples, with the structure that is the hallmark of Noval’s wood-aged Ports.
1996 Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha, Douro Valley( £25, 20%, Majestic )
This may “only” be a single quinta wine, supposedly from a non-vintage year for Port, but it’s still delicious. It’s great to drink right now, with lots of spice and heat, succulent red and black fruits, some fig and dark plums and a thrust of spirit. Just the thing to drink with blue cheese.
NV Warre's Bottle-Aged Late-Bottled Port, Port( £19.99 down to £14.99, 20%, Waitrose )
LBV Port covers a variety of styles and levels of seriousness, but this is right up there with the very best examples. It was bottled in 2005 and matured for a further four years before release and the result is a wine of great balance and spicy concentration. Smoky, peppery and fine with no obvious rough edges of spirit, just finesse, depth and complexity.