Vintage Port Deconstructed
Nov 10, 2020
"Vintage Port Deconstructed!" It's an elixir that is divine and sublime. For one night only, join Cynthia Opsal, Port wine specialist and me, as we deconstruct Vintage Port - one of the most famous wines in the world. You'll tour the Douro Valley visiting some of the oldest producers and finest vineyards. You'll discover what differentiates Single Quinta Vintage Port from Classic Vintage Port. Watch as Cynthia demonstrates how to open older bottles with Port tongs. You'll learn how to open an old bottle, decant and serve. It'll be a night to remember.
If you are thinking of opening a vintage port during this session, please read the detailed 'How to Handle' posted below.
7:30 pm (PST) which is 10:30 pm (EST)
on Zoom lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bring a Bottle
Bring your bottle of Vintage Port, grab a fresh glass, invite a curious friend, order the Good Cheese Bag and get ready to tour the Douro Valley from the comfort of your home using the power of Zoom!
Reserve Your Spot
Credit Card: You can also reserve your spot using our online store.
E-Transfer: You can reserve you spot by sending an e-transfer to email@example.com for each session you wish to attend.
Much is made of decanting Vintage Port, that it may scare people off, but fear not, there are a few ways you can master this ritual & impress your friends.
REMOVING THE CORK
Double Hinged Corkscrew
- If it is a bottle of Vintage port which is 8 or more years old, especially if it’s been laying on it’s side, stand it upright for 1-2 days so that the sediment can settle to the bottom of the bottle. Otherwise, younger ports don’t need to be stood upright for any length of time.
- Use a corkscrew with a long spiral & sharp point. A double-hinged corkscrew works best by twisting down the spiral ¾ of the way into the cork & placing the first hinge of the corkscrew on the lip of the bottle. Then extract the cork slowly & gently. Then twist the rest of the spiral into the cork & place the 2nd hinge of the corkscrew on the lip of the bottle & extract the balance of the cork.
- It is possible the cork will break, especially if it’s dry & crumbly in an older bottle. If this happens, you’ll need to remove the cork with 2 tries. Crumbly bits may fall into the bottle, but when decanting, you can catch these bits in a mesh sieve.
Cork Pull “Extractor” –
- Start by cutting the foil under the lip of the bottle
- Firmly holding the neck of the bottle, slide the extractor prongs between the cork and the inside of the bottle neck
- Shimmy the prongs down using a left to right motion while applying light force to the handle
- Once fully inserted, twist the extractor and pull upward to remove the cork
- To remove the cork from the extractor simply slide it out from between the prongs
- Wipe the lip/rim of the bottle before decanting.
Port Tongs – we’ll demonstrate during our Vintage Port session. View this video:
- Have a very clean decanter ready, no musty smells inside it. The splash of white paint sometimes found on the bottle tells you which way up it was cellared; this mark should be uppermost when starting to decant. Use a fine mesh sieve to pour the port wine through so it can catch any sediment or cork bits. Keep pouring, don’t place the bottle down & then pick it up again as this may disturb the sediment on the bottom of the bottle. Stop pouring when you see sediment moving into the bottle neck.
- If light is available to illuminate the back of the bottle while decanting, you’ll be able to see when the sediment starts appearing. If in doubt, when getting to the end of the bottle, shift the pouring into a spare glass – that way if there is sediment, you’ve not poured it into the decanter, on the other hand, if the wine is still clear, you can empty the glass contents into the decanter.
- Let the vintage port breathe for 2 hours if it’s younger – less than 40 years old. If it’s more than 40 years old, 30 minutes is fine.
NOTE: Vintage port has had very little exposure to air during its lifetime. For the first two years, it was aged in large wooden vessels. Tens of thousands of litres in size and then it was bottled. When you open the bottle and pour out the wine, the port will naturally react to the sudden exposure to air.
With young to prime-of-life mature ports – anything up to 40 years of age – the exposure to oxygen works to open up the powerful and concentrated character of the wine.
With older wines, 40 years or more, you should decant just 30 minutes to an hour before drinking. At this age, the wines have moved on from their youthful density and power, to more delicate and nuanced elegance, and there isn’t the same need to “open up” the wine with exposure to oxygen.
The other thing to be aware of is that at this age, the scent of the wine when first opened can be off-putting – it can smell a bit reduced. Do not worry, this is not a fault, it is common and natural for such an old wine. Decant it, and within 20 to 30 minutes the oxygen will have worked its magic and the aromas will blossom. But do plan to start drinking within the hour after decanting, and then enjoy the development of the wine in your glass over the course of the evening.
Vintage Ports are best served slightly below modern room temperature: 16° to 18° Celcius (or 61º to 64º Fahrenheit). Too cool (e.g. straight from the cellar) and the wine will not release all its aromas and flavours, too warm (20° or more) and it may appear unbalanced or a little spirity on the nose.
Like all great wines, Vintage Port should ideally be enjoyed within a day or two of opening. Use of a Vacuvin™ wine stopper may extend its life a little further. Older wines, more than 40 years, tend to be more fragile and are likely to lose their freshness and complexity after a relatively short period of time, and should be enjoyed on the occasion of their opening.
The Appropriate Glass
The pleasure of Port comes from being able to savour its lovely aromas which are a large component of our taste sensations. The ideal Port glass is tulip shaped and will allow you to swirl and air the wine in the glass. The specialised Vintage Port glasses developed by Riedel are ideal or when in doubt a white wine glass is fine. Port is a wine and can be treated as such with the usual sniffing & swirling that goes on when appreciating a wine. Sit back & savour this beautiful elixir! Remember
“All wine would be Port….if it could”