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“The perfect finish to any meal” – Taylor-Fladgate’s CEO, Adrian Bridge, explains Port wine and Port

Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor-Fladgate (credit: Taylor-Fladgate)

No serious wine collection is complete without a Port wine section. Centuries-old traditions in Northern Portugal’s Douro Valley have cemented Port’s domination of the fortified wine world. Port wine is sweet and has higher alcohol (about 20%) than regular wine. This allows Port to last and age much longer than regular wine.

To help us better understand the Port world we interviewed Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor-Fladgate. Taylor-Fladgate (founded in 1692) is one of the largest and most well respected port houses in the world, considered as a benchmark for Vintage Port (the highest class of Port).

Sell Wine Guide: It’s very common to find great port wine in old wine collections. However, a lot of the focus at auctions houses goes to Bordeaux and Burgundy. What are some of the most sought after vintages of port wine?

Adrian Bridge CEO of Taylor-Fladgate: There have been a great number, but the highlights in the past 50 years would be the 1963, 1970, 1977, 1992 and 1994. If you wish to go further back then vintages like the 1955, 1945, 1948, 1935 and the legendary 1927.

Sell Wine Guide: Taylor Fladgate is one of the oldest and most important port houses, can you elaborate on the different kinds of ports, and also which ones are most commonly cellared?

Adrian Bridge: The only style of Port wine to be cellared is Vintage Ports. All other styles of port are aged for you and when bottled they are ready to drink and will not benefit from any further time spent in the bottle.

Sell Wine Guide: There are many different styles of port wine, which can be paired in ways that perhaps many people may not have considered.

Adrian Bridge: Full bodied, fruity red Ports. These include Ruby Ports, Reserve Ports and Late Bottled Vintage Port. Although offering different degrees of complexity and sophistication, these port wines share a deep red youthful color and intense fruity flavors reminiscent of cherry, blackberry and blackcurrant.

The perfect finish to any meal, these wines do not need to be decanted. With their diversity of flavors, there is a wealth of sublime opportunities for pairing with cheese – more, indeed, than any other wine. But do not feel that you have to stop there. If you have more of a sweet tooth than a savory one, try a sumptuous chocolate tart, or dark chocolate mousse with some red-berried fruit – heavenly!

Rich and Mellow Tawny Ports. These include the sumptuous 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old tawny Ports whose delicious nuttiness and aromas of butterscotch and fine oak wood intensify the longer they spend in wood. When served with slightly chilled, these pair beautifully with the rich, nutty and fruity characters of a Comté or an aged Pecorino - if you are serving cheese – or with a dessert – try an almond tart, pecan pie, crème brûlée. Or better than that, an apple crumble with some vanilla ice cream.

A 20 Year Old Aged Tawny Port has a wonderful acidity to the wine and pairs beautifully with Foie Gras and brioche at the beginning of a fine dinner.

Vintage Ports. Walnuts are an excellent accompaniment to Vintage Port, as are blue veined and other richly flavored cheeses. So too are dried fruits such as apricots or figs. Alternatively, simply savor the rich and complex flavors of the wine on it's own in a generously proportioned glass with good company.

White Port is made in the same way as ruby Port, but using white grapes rather than red. They are rather good served chilled as an aperitif. Or drink it as guests do when they visit Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas – poured over ice in a tall glass, topped up with tonic and a leaf of fresh mint. Accompanied by salted almonds or olives it is the perfect summer drink.

Taylor’s white ports are also rather excellent when drizzled into a warm soup, adding some wonderful depth to the soup on a cold winter’s day.

Sell Wine Guide: what’s considered the most sought after Taylor Fladgate vintage year?

Adrian Bridge: The most recently sought after vintage would have to be the 2011 vintage.

Sell Wine Guide: What are the best ways to cellar a port collection? Many people experienced seepage and label stains from old port bottles, does this mean the wine inside was damaged or exposed to heat.

Adrian Bridge: These days few of us have proper cellars so storing Port wine at home can be a problem. Don’t despair. All you need is a cool, dark, vibration free cupboard and a constant temperature, ideally no more than 15ºC (60ºF). Anything outside these parameters will see the wine age quickly and flatly. It basically becomes cooked and without life.

A Vintage Port bottle should rest on its side, with any visible splash of white paint uppermost. This keeps the cork moist at all times.

Splash of white paint on Taylor Vintage Port - the white paint should be facing up when cellared for best results

The ideal would be to have your Port stored professionally. Good wine merchants will undertake this and arrange for your wine to be insured for its steadily growing replacement value. Bottles that appear to have seeped will not always be damaged, but rewaxing could help prevent further seepage and reduce any possible oxidation of the wine.

Sell Wine Guide: What are some of the tips you can offer for people who are looking to sell their aged vintage ports?

Sell through a reputable name to try and ensure you get the best market price for your wines and very important is to have the original intact case. It is always harder to sell split cases.

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