What: This is not your father’s port. Your father or grandmother would recognize it as port, but the Warre’s Otima 10 is made in a lighter, more modern style.
If you are looking for something to add a little zest to your holiday parties, or for something to finish holiday dinners with a bang, this port is just what you’re looking for. There is nothing better after a great meal than a glass of port.
When I am asked what my favorite wine is, I often forget to mention port, even though it is the wine I drink as a special treat. Because it is fortified (usually around 20 percent alcohol) I tend to forget that it is a wine.
Port and sparkling wine tend to be wines we put in the category of special occasion wines, and that is a shame. You could drink both every night and be very happy. Port is especially good for turning an ordinary meal into something special.
The Otima 10 looks like Warre’s attempt to bring this traditional wine into the 21st century. This is a 10-year-old tawny port, a classification that has been around a long time, but the style of the wine and the sleek, clear, modern bottle are designed to appeal to younger drinkers.
The bottle definitely is a break from the old-style port bottles that have been standard for decades, and it seems to be marketed to a younger generation. Once people of any age open the bottle they will be captivated by the rich aromas and luscious fruit flavors.
Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley of Portugal. It typically is sweet and dark red, though there are some variations. Fortified wines made in the same style are produced around the world, but only the wine from Portugal may be labeled port or Porto.
Ruby port spends more time in bottle than in barrel, and the color is a deeper red. The best ruby is vintage port, which is only produced in exceptional vintages, and is the tastiest, heaviest and most expensive type of port, often running $100 a bottle or more.
Tawny port is aged in barrels and released ready to drink. Aged tawny ports are made from red grapes, but as the wine gradually oxidizes it becomes a golden-brown color. The oxidation also produces a nutty flavor. Tawny ports can be sweet to medium dry.
The 10-year designation is a target age profile and indicates a blend of vintages. When producing an aged tawny the port house is aiming more for a style or characteristics than for a certain number of years. Each house has its own style that is derived by blending several different wines.
There are also 20-, 30- and even 40-year tawnies. As the age goes up, the port tends to lose the fresh, fruity flavor but gain in intensity.
Tawny ports are growing in popularity in the U.S. market.
The Warre’s Otima 10 is made from grapes typically found in the Douro Valley, which includes Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cao. The Otima 10 has a subtle nose of dried fruits and walnuts, leading to classic flavors of ripe fruit and nuts. Everything is in balance in the wine, with a pleasant acidity leading to a long finish.
The wine comes in a 500 ml bottle instead of the standard 750 ml wine bottle. You don’t have to worry about finishing the bottle the same night you open it. You can refrigerate it and it will keep for several weeks.
Winery: The wine industry tends to honor tradition, and no wine is more steeped in tradition than port. Warre’s, the oldest English port house in Portugal, traces its origin to 1670 when two Englishmen opened trading offices in northern Portugal.
By 1729, the company became known as Messrs. Clark, Thornton &Warre with the addition of William Warre, born in India in 1706. His parents and grandparents were members of the East India Company. The Portuguese company later became know as Warre &Co., and later Warre’s.
Andrew James Symington was an English citizen who arrived in Portugal in 1882 and became a partner in Warre &Co. in 1905. He became the sole owner in 1908 before acquiring shares in another port producer called Dow’s.
Sons and grandsons followed Symington into the business and bought vineyards to assure a supply of grapes. Eventually the family owned Warre, Dow’s and Graham’s, and about 220 acres of vineyards.
The Symingtons also were part of the Portuguese expansion into non-port wines, offering their first DOC wines in 2000. In 2009, Wine Spectator, the industry bible, scored Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port a perfect 100 points and two years ago the magazine picked Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port the wine of the year.
Goes With: We had the Warre’s Otima 10 after dinner in front of a warm fire in the fireplace one night last week. Pre-Christmas weeks are always hectic, so it felt great to sip this port with the fire in front of us and the Christmas tree behind us.
My wife, Teri, loves port, and my son Michael, the millennial, practically smacked his lips when I told him we were going to open a bottle of port after dinner. He fits the profile of the younger drinker enjoying tawny port.
I ate walnuts with the wine, but it is a wonderful drink by itself. We served it room temperature, but you could serve it chilled. This port also could be served in a cocktail or over ice.
If you really wanted to have fun you could serve this at a holiday dessert party. Port goes well with cheese, fruit and nuts, and tawny port is perfect with desserts. Just stock up on seasonal delights such as spiced cookies, gingerbread, pecan and pumpkin pies, mini cheesecake bites or anything chocolate. Then pour the port and enjoy.
Wine tasting. 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5; (803) 279-9522
Wine tasting. 5-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; new wines weekly; free; (706) 619-3420
Wine and beer tasting. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, 3-6 p.m Saturday, Dec. 17, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463
Wine tasting. 5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road.; five wines with snacks; $5; (762) 333-0260