Grown from the grapes around the world, Port offers a fuller, more flavourful wine. This rich red wine works well with desserts, but some drinkers are deterred simply by its sheer number of styles. You aren’t required to know every style to enjoy port, but it will benefit you to understand the difference between its two major styles: Tawny and Vintage.
Tawny Port (now Tawny)
Tawny is named for the orange-brown colour this style of production imparts to its eponymous port. It is a sign of a wine aged for a long time in porous wooden casks, taking decades to develop its fine nutty flavour. For its complex character, with diminished fruitiness and subtle sweetness, tawny pairs well with such savoury deserts as nut cakes and hard cheeses. The ideal age for a tawny to be tapped is twenty years, the point at which the tannins begin to turn soft. Try Mr Pickwick Tawny Port if you are interested in this style.
Vintage Port (now Vintage Fortified)
Vintage is aged for only two years in oak barrels before being bottled, retaining the rich red colour and subtle sweetness of this ideal dessert wine. Aged in the bottle instead of a barrel. If you come across a late bottled vintage, that simply means it has been aged for a few years longer than classic vintages and can be drunken immediately upon bottling. True vintages are rarer and of higher quality, their early bottling ensuring freshness as they mature over decades to an ideal drinking window with long-term cellaring in mind.
There are two broad styles of Port method wines, wood aged and bottled aged. Within each of these two categories there is a myriad of Port style wines kicking about that are as versatile as they are enthralling. Wood aged ports (think tawny) are generally released after an extended time maturing in cask and are ripe for drinking on release. Bottle aged wines spend less time in cask (two to four years) and can age gracefully in bottle for not only years, but decades and even centuries.
It’s worth pointing out here that for a wine to be called Port, it can only come from Portugal. Australia has a long history with fortified wine production and until recently many producers referred to their wares as Port. EU geographical protection legislation put a stop to that and now producers outside of the Duoro are banned from using the world Port to describe their wines.