If there is a time of year to drink port, it is right now.
Made in the Douro region of Portugal, port wine has been a hot commodity for centuries. The British have played a major role in its production and evolution, as indicated by brand names such as Graham’s, Churchill’s and Taylor.
Native producers have been equally important, as have other foreigners such as Dutchman Dirk Niepoort.
Vintage port is king. Made only three times a decade, in the very best years, vintage-dated wines can outlive a Subaru. Tawny ports are aged in oak for an extended period and can, at the 30- and 40-year levels, cost just as much as vintage port.
Then there are late-bottled vintage ports, which are made in many vintages. LBVs spend more time in wood than vintage port, though less than tawny, and they age more rapidly and cost less. However, if you just want to get a well-crafted bottle to sip on cold, rainy nights over the next few months, finding what is essentially an elevated ruby port made by a very good producer is the way to go.
Typically made from several of the big five grapes — touriga nacional, tinta barroca, tinta cão, tinta roriz and touriga francesca — they are fruity, spicy and fresh, and reflect the style of the house.
Here are four of the best on the market:
Some of these ports can be found through Arlequin Wine Merchant, Beltramos Wines & Spirits, K&L Wine Merchant, San Francisco Wine Trading Co., Solano Cellars, The Wine House, Cask, Cheese Plus, Noe Valley Wine Merchant, Paul Marcus Wines, The Spanish Table and William Cross.
Pamela Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.