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Port Serving Made Easy At Christmas

Port Serving Made Easy

So, you’ve just received some port as a Christmas gift, or you’re actively delving into the fascinating and delicious world of fortified wines, but you’re stumped as to whether it should be decanted, drunk from the bottle, or even on how it should be stored. The know-how around port can be daunting for a lot of people, so this guide will simplify things for you to enjoy your bottle(s) to the fullest.

Serving port

Storing unopened port

As with most wines, port should be stored in a cool, dark place with minimal disturbances and low humidity. TOP TIP: Storing your bottle upright helps prevent the cork from becoming damaged - particularly useful in the case of vintage ports which can have more brittle corks.

To decant or not to decant?

Put simply, decanting is the process of filtering the natural sediment from a port, that is, dead yeast cells used in its crafting and, in vintage port, particulate matter from grape skins, seeds and stems. In the majority of cases, ports are filtered before bottling, meaning they can be opened and enjoyed straight away. As a rule of thumb, these will have cork stoppers on their bottles.

Some, however, have driven corks (which need removing with a corkscrew), and will generally be unfiltered. For example, vintage ports mature with the sediment in the bottle, and will therefore need decanting prior to serving.

Decanting port before serving

Decanting guide

You will need: a clean decanter (alternatively an empty wine bottle or a jug), and ideally a decanting funnel to aid the process.

Step 1: If there’s time, stand the bottle upright for a few hours prior to serving. This will allow the sediment to settle which can make decanting it a little easier.

Step 2: Keeping the bottle steady, remove the foil and wipe the top of the bottle clean.

Step 3: Gently ease the cork out. The older the port, the more delicate the cork will be. Do not fret if the port cork crumbles as this can be removed using a decanting funnel.

Step 4: Steadily pour the port through the funnel and into your decanter. Do this in front of a light in order to see where the sediment lies in the bottle. Vintage ports will often have a white dot on the bottle, which should face upwards when decanting.

Step 5: Once the sediment approaches the neck, stop pouring. TOP TIP: do not throw this away, as it is rich in flavour and can be used to enhance many soups and stews.

How long will it last?

Port comes in many different styles with a wide variety of flavour profiles, making it a deliciously versatile digestif. These will each have a different shelf life once opened.

  • Ruby port, smooth and fruity style, will need to be drunk roughly within 4-6 weeks of opening.
  • Tawny port, complex and nutty from its barrel aging, should be consumed within a month in order to keep its notes intact.
  • Vintage port, a blend of multiple vintages with a minimum of 10 years in the barrel, should be consumed the fastest within 2-3 days.
  • Late bottled vintage (LBV) port is an interesting style which has simultaneously been aged for 4-6 years while still being intended to be drunk young, and therefore should be consumed in a similar time frame to ruby port: around 4 weeks.
  • White port, perfect with tonic or as an aperitif, is best drunk within 2 weeks when its fresh citrusy flavours are at their best.
  • Colheita port, an aged tawny port from a single harvest, released a decade from its crafting, should be consumed within 2-3 weeks in order for its highly-sought after complexity to be retained.

Storing port wine

Storing opened port

Once port has been opened, it is exposed to oxygen which can affect its flavour and vitality. Storing it in the fridge with a stopper or cork will allow it to remain fresh for longer, and if you happen to have a wine fridge - even better!

And there you have it, a quick and simple guide to serving and storing your new port. If you would like more information about specific styles, take a look at our other blogs and products for details about their houses, notes, food pairings and more.

Next article Port Types