1. To drink as an aperitif
In some countries, people buy a sweeter style of Port to appreciate as an aperitif. In France or Belgium, for example, a light, supple young tawny Port, such as Taylor Fladgate’s Fine Tawny is often enjoyed as pre-dinner drink.
Rosé Ports also make stylish and original aperitifs. Taylor Fladgate does not produce a rosé Port but we can recommend Croft Pink, the first rosé Port ever produced and still by far the best.
2. To match with cheese
Port and cheese is one of the best gastronomic associations. Taylor Fladgate’s Late Bottled Vintage Port is an excellent buy to accompany a cheese selection. Its intense fruity flavours, full body and firm structure make it an excellent match for most rich, soft cheeses, particularly blue veined varieties such as Gorgonzola or Stilton and soft goat’s milk cheeses such as a fresh Valençay or Sainte-Maure.
Hard ripened cheeses, such as mature farmhouse cheddar, can pair well with an aged tawny Port, such as Taylor Fladgate’s 20 Year Old Tawny.
3. To pair with main dishes
Port is normally enjoyed either before or towards the end of the meal. However it can be paired successfully with many savoury dishes. The rich flavours of foie gras are perfectly complemented and enhanced by a mellow white Port such as Taylor Fladgate’s Fine White. Rich red meat or game dishes pair well with a young vintage Port, such as the Quinta de Vargellas Vintage 2001. A game terrine matches perfectly with an old cask aged Port such as Taylor Fladgate’s 10 Year Old Tawny.
4. To accompany desserts
There are a large number of successful pairings of Port with desserts. For desserts based on chocolate or red berry fruit flavours, buy a fruitier style of Port such as Taylor Fladgate’s Late Bottled Vintage or First Estate Reserve. To match dishes with almond, walnut, coffee or caramel flavours, try an old cask aged Port such as Taylor Fladgate’s 20 Year Old Tawny, which pairs well with many classic desserts such as a crème brûlée or a tiramisù.
5. To pour after a meal
Port comes into its own at the end of the meal and any red Port can be enjoyed as an after dinner drink. Port is one of the most sociable of all wines and its rich and intense flavours make it the perfect finish to any meal, whether formal or relaxed.
For the ultimate after dinner drink, buy a mature Vintage Port, such as the wonderfully rich and complex Taylor Vintage 1985. Vintage Ports taste best when enjoyed on the day that the bottle is opened and should always be decanted. Decanting Port is a simple and enjoyable process and being able to appreciate the colour of a Vintage Port in an attractive decanter will provide additional pleasure for the guests. There are a number of interesting traditions associated with serving Vintage Port.
Another sublime way of finishing a meal is to buy an old matured Port such as Taylor Fladgate’s 10 Year, 20 Year, 30 Year or 40 Year Old Tawny Port. During the long period of ageing in seasoned oak casks, these old wines become soft, smooth and mellow and their rich and complex aromas become increasingly concentrated. These are wines to be slowly sipped and contemplated.
Taylor Fladgate’s Late Bottled Vintage is an excellent buy for an after dinner Port. More accessibly priced than a Vintage Port, it needs no decanting. It will remain in good condition for several weeks after the bottle is first opened so it is a good choice when there are too few guests to finish the bottle.
6. To enjoy with chocolate
Port and chocolate make one of the most pleasurable combinations. The most successful marriages are between dark chocolate or truffles with a high cocoa content and fruitier styles of Port such as Taylor Fladgate’s First Estate Reserve or Late Bottled Vintage.
7. To relax with at home
An aged tawny Port, such as a Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old, is an excellent Port to buy and keep at home for pouring by the glass in moments of relaxation, such as when reading a good book, watching a favourite television programme, chilling out with friends or enjoying a fine cigar. The mellow smoothness and sumptuous opulent flavour of an age tawny Port make it the ultimate meditation or relaxation wine.
8. To celebrate a special occasion
Port is a wonderful wine to buy with which to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday, christening, anniversary, wedding, graduation or a personal or team success. There is no better way to mark a birthday or anniversary than by decanting a Vintage Port from the year which is being celebrated. For a list of Vintage Ports bottled by Taylor Fladgate, see the vintage years section of the site. Taylor Fladgate’s 30 and 40 Year Old Tawny Ports are a magical way of celebrating 30th or 40th anniversaries.
Port is very often the wine chosen in which to drink a toast. In Britain it is traditionally used for the Loyal Toast drunk in honour of the reigning monarch. Unusually, in the Royal Navy this is drunk sitting down as the low beams of sailing ships made it unwise to stand.
9. To use in recipes
Every cook has their favourite magic ingredients that can be relied on to give a dish an extra dimension. Anchovies are one; balsamic vinegar is another. And Port is another.
Does this sound like a recipe for domestic disaster, a way of turning the kitchen into a battleground for custody of the decanter? Cooks are ruthless creatures, and quite capable of seizing Vintage Port from the dining room to add to the stockpot. So maintain domestic harmony by buying a bottle of Ruby in the fridge just for cooking.
Port is useful in cooking because of its strong, fruity flavours, and because of its sweetness. It’s a natural pick-me-up for game dishes, but adding a slug of Port to the juices of roasting beef or lamb works, too. The British (and, indeed, the Germans, the French, the Persians…) have always like the combination of savoury meat and sweet fruit. Port as a seasoning in cooking falls simply and subtly into that tradition.
Then there are the sauces based on Port, where it’s not just an invisible improver but a key ingredient. And then there are desserts, where Port gives a grown-up dimension and an added silkiness. The trick, as ever, is not to overdo it. Port in the kitchen is best kept slightly mysterious. If your guests start asking if it’s LBV or Tawny they can taste, it’s time to rein back.
10. Buy Port as a christening present to lay down
When laying down Port for a person when they are born, to enjoy when they are older, the best choice is to buy a Vintage Port as a christening present, if possible from the year of the person’s birth. Vintage Ports have a remarkable capacity to continue to improve with age and can be enjoyed by the recipient well into adulthood and, in the case of a classic Vintage, into old age, providing a warm and fond memory of the giver.