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UK Wine Show 29 Taylor's Port with Rod Smith MW, Mentzendorff

This show was published 15 December 2006


This week we are talking about Taylor's Port. We interview Rod Smith MW from Mentzendorff. Mentzendorff is part owned by Taylor's and is the importer of Taylor's into the UK. Taylor's has a number of names but their official title is Taylor's Fladgate and Yeatman, known as Taylor's in the UK or Taylor's Fladgate in the US. Taylor's are one of the biggest producers of port and own a number of brands including Taylor's, Fonseca Delaforce and Croft.

There are many different types of Port but they all follow the same recipe:

2/5 red wine

2/5 unfermented grape juice

1/5 grape spirit or (Brandy)

The main types of port are:

White Port which is made from white grapes and tends to be a drier style.

Red Port has a number of different styles. If it is aged in barrels for a short time it creates ruby port, if it is aged for a long time it creates Tawny port.

Tawny Port is usually an older port with the average age of the wine on the front of the bottle such as 10,20,30 or 40 years old. These are usually a tawny colour and go well with nuts and Roquefort cheese which is salty and has high acid which tends to cut through the sweetness of the Port.

LBV or Late Bottled Vintage Port is wine from a single vintage that is bottled after the wine has aged in barrel, similar to a Tawny port but released at an earlier age.

Vintage Port is the highest quality port. In general vintages are declared approximately three times every decade and not normally two years in a row. In a non-declared vintage the top fruit goes into a Single Quinta port, and these can be a bargain when there has been a run of good years. Such as the 2004 and 1996 Single Quinta ports.

Food Matching

Because of the high sugar levels in port and often high tannins, food that is normally quite hard to match with food, such as chocolate, goes very well with red ports. Chocolate matches red ports as it has a sweetness to go with the chocolate and the tannins give a bitterness to go with the bitterness from the cocoa.

Vintage port and Stilton go well together because the Stilton has bitterness from the blue veins and hence goes well with red port

Serving Temperature

In general, for most ports with tannins you need to be careful about the temperature you serve it at. The lower the temperature of port the more bitter and noticeable the tannins become. Likewise too high a temperature can result in the alcohol being overly obvious. The best temperature is around 16 degrees celsius. Some ports such as tawnies and white ports, which do not contain tannins, can be served chilled. At lower tempertures the acidity is more obvious and can hide some of the sugar in the port creating a very unctious wine.

Ageing Port

Vintage Port require 15 to 50 years aging in bottle. But the corks may not last that long. You should look to put a new cork in the wine after 30 years or drink it, and don't forget to keep the bottle on its side with any white mark facing upwards. Vintage port often has a white mark on it to indicate which way up it has been stored in the bodega, so you should look to see the white paint mark on the top when the bottle is lying down.

Keeping port once opened

Port is not as stable as most people think. You should treat it like a slightly more stable red wine. It will still oxidise so try to keep the wine away from air if you wish to preserve it. It does take longer for the port to turn to vinegar however because of the high alcohol and sugar which act as a preservative, perhaps for up to a week, if it has been kept chilled and sealed with something to keep the air our such as a vacuvin. Tawny ports are an exception as they are more stable to oxygen. After all, they have spent years in a barrel, exposed to air, and they have the high alcohol and sugar levels so they take longer to turn to vinegar.

Decanting Port

There are two reasons to decant a bottle of port. Decanting helps to oxidise the wine which will soften tannins and acids and open up the flavours. The second is that vintage ports and older ruby ports will throw a sediment which is made up of tannins and colouring from the port. These are bitter and best not drunk, although they are fantastic to cook with in stews or pasta sauces. By decanting the port you can effectively remove them from the wine. Try using a funnel plus a coffee filter paper or muslin cloth to catch the sediment.


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The UK Wine Show is sponsored by ThirtyFifty. Our team of wine tasters are busy entertaining and educating UK consumers to help them get the most out of wine.


The music used for the UK Wine Show is Griffes de Jingle 1 by Marcel de la Jartèle and Silence by Etoile Noire.

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