ALISTAIR GIBSON: Pass the port – to the left, of course

No need to decant

No need to decant

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If there’s one wine more synonymous with the festive season than any other, it is port.

People who don’t drink it for the rest of the year suddenly feel the need to buy a bottle to have in the house to serve with that other great Christmas tradition, Stilton.

An Aussie take on tawny port

An Aussie take on tawny port

It reminds me of the annual rush for barbecue charcoal as soon as the first glimmer of summer sun emerges.

I was told recently that more than 75 per cent of all port sold in this country goes through the check-out in the run-up to Christmas.

This is an amazing statistic and not one I am sure most businesses would like to operate under.

Taylors is probably the most famous port house of all.

It was Taylors which first created the idea of LBV – or Late Bottled Vintage – port in the 1970s.

Now Taylors LBV is the most popular premium-style port in the UK, accounting for a staggering one in five of all port purchases.

It is in essence a ‘mini’ and, of course, a more affordable vintage.

However, unlike vintage port which spends up to a couple of years in-barrel before being bottled where it continues to age, LBV port remains in-barrel for between four and six years, before being bottled and is ready to drink on release.

Taylors LBV 2010 (widely available and on promotion including Waitrose £12 on offer from £15) is a reflection of the Taylors’ house style, and very much the quintessential LBV port.

The 2010 is widely available, but if you can find the 2011, which is just coming on to the market, so much the better.

It has a lovely deep colour with cherry, plums and black fruits and violets on the nose, followed by a concentrated palate with more dark fruits, firm but ripe tannins, coffee spices and a long, sweet finish.

There’s no need to decant this, or indeed any LBV.

Serve it at room temperature at the end of the meal with crumbly cheeses including goat’s cheese and that Stilton.

And now, as they say, for something completely different. Well, in truth, not completely different but obviously port can only be produced in the Duoro region of Portugal, but there are other wine areas in the world which produce port-style wine.

So if you would like something slightly alternative this Christmas, how about Penfolds Father Tawny NV (Laithwaite’s £19.99, frazierswine.co.uk £16.99 ) an Aussie take on tawny port.

This is a blend of barrel-matured wines with an average age of 10 years. It’s wonderfully nutty with notes of orange peel, fruit cake and coffee, followed by a soft, sweet palate that shows real elegance and great length. It’s very drinkable. Serve slightly chilled with a chocolate dessert or with the nuts and dried fruits in front of the fire after Christmas lunch.

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