ALISTAIR GIBSON: Why not push the boat out a little with some quality port?

It must be Christmas because suddenly port is being reviewed in newspaper columns across the land and, yes, here's another one.  Â

Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 9:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 10:43 am

    An amazing fact for you '“ nearly 80 per cent of all the port sold in this country is sold during the months of November and December. 

It's not much of a business model if you're a port producer, but it does show that it's almost as traditional as the tree and the turkey.

Of course, it goes down very well with both chocolate and stilton, surely two items that are found on every Christmas table?

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I was lucky enough to be in the Douro Valley last year for the port harvest, and  if  there was one thing I learned it was  t awny port is a  style that is really underappreciated  .

It's   generally really good value, especially for aged t awnys,   and  I now keep a bottle in the fridge all the time.

Yes, drink it chilled  as it  really does  style off so much better.

If you want to push the boat out a little ( and why not, it s Christmas after all?)  then  Kope Colhieta 1999, Port (Waitrose £32.99)  would make a very nice bottle on the festive table. This is basically a t awny p ort from a single  vintage '“ which in essence is what the word colhieta means '“ and should not be confused with a vintage port.

A c olhieta has to be aged in old o ak cask for a minimum of seven   years, but in most

cases it is far longer and this port was only bottled this year.

It is a gorgeous colour with notes of  nuts, caramel and red fruits on the bouquet, followed real intensity on the palate, still very fresh  with great balance, dried fruits, walnuts and caramel before a very long finish.

 I'd be very happy contemplating this wine as I crack a few walnuts at the end of the meal.  Possibly the best value port this Christmas is  Maynard's 10-Year- Old Tawny (Aldi £9.99).

 To be honest,  Maynard's is not a producer I know much about,  although  they have been producing port since the 17th century.

And this is delicious.

There is lots of dried fruit and nuts on the nose, followed by caramel, figs and  spices on the palate, before it finishes with a nice sweet, syrupy after-taste.

  Another wine to finish   the meal with or serve it with some vanilla ice cream as you digest everything else.

My final wine this week is not a port at all but a wine that has a very close place in my heart.

  Nuy Red Muskadel ( £10.95) is something of a South African speciality, in many ways an old  fashioned style of wine.

Like port,  this is fortified but made from Muscat grapes. However, unlike  the wines abov e, this is aged only briefly in tank and then bottled quite early.

 It's a very pretty pale pink colour in the glass and the nose almost assaults you with barley sugar, raspberries and a  touch of spice, before a very luscious, long mouth- feel. Serve this slightly chilled and maybe think of an African sky.

T his is a wine that will certainly be finding a place on my Christmas table.


'¢ Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail  [email protected]