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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

18 Under 30 Part 8: Ramos Pinto 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Hands up then. Honestly, how many folks out there regularly buy either port or sherry?  One, two, three, four... any more??  The sad fact is that as wonderfully scrumptious as they are, those few of you with their hands up are very much in a minority.  Outside of the festive season, port is rarely seen in anyone's glasses, save for a few ruddy old chaps reclining in wood panelled drawing rooms, after a long, coma-inducing three hour lunch.  And as much as we love gastronomy, something is quite remiss here. 

Similarly, the large proportion of port is bought from supermarket chains in the run up to Christmas to be enjoyed alongside the Christmas pudding and obligatory truckle of ripe Stilton cheese. Nothing wrong with this, but when the damn thing has been left in a steaming hot kitchen for the day, it's never at its best...

Oh the injustice! Or something like that, we snigger.  Seriously, we're not that precious about how, when, or indeed why people buy port, we're just thankful that they do, because we bloody love the stuff and Christmas gives us yet another reason to pick up a couple of unusual bottles, offered at bargain prices.  

To give the supermarket chains their credit, the first shelves worth scouring for interesting bottles of port are the big boys.  Sainsburys, Aldi and Tesco have all recently stocked more than their fair share of fruity, fortified bang-for-buck blockbusters:  Tawny port aged in oak, Late Bottled Vintage, single quinta bottlings and crusted port -  one of our biggest discoveries in the past several years for its layers of complexity at a price that doesn't require a platinum Amex.   

However this edition of 18 under 30 focuses on a rather spectacular wine from a certain port house which we visited several years ago and totally fell in love with: Ramos Pinto

Ramos Pinto is one of Portugal’s most highly regarded names in the production of port.  Founded in 1880, RP's vintage bottlings carefully blend together wines made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca grapes and are then aged for minimum 18 months in oak or chestnut casks.  Alongside their exceptional wines, their artistic bent is very much stuck in the 1920's, which pleases us greatly, as signified by this little gem to the left. But it is the winery's tawny ports that have impressed us the most: oaky, rich and exceptionally balanced they veer effortlessly between ripe red fruit, citrus zest and spicier dried fruit.  

Perfect for a festive tipple then? Oh yes, but given a little time in the fridge, (which we'd urge you to try with any tawny port - especially this Christmas) they're also perfect fare for a long lazy summer afternoon in a hammock, watching your neighbour trying in vain to light his barbecue.  

Anyway, back to the subzero December temperatures, tinsel and festivity.  This Christmas, if you discover just one new drink... make it a tawny port.  It's the gift that keeps on giving... 

Ramos Pinto -  Tawny Port - 20 Years Old - 19.5% 50cl

Nose: Hints of plum, honey and warming spices all mix together with a delicate vanilla note on the first nosing. The oak is very well behaved and in return for your patience, you'll find a continued spiciness, mixed with some orange zest, a little fragrant pipe tobacco and blackberries propping up the rest of the glass. 

Palate: Exceptionally smooth, but with just the faintest note of dryness, your mouth is treated to candied dried fruits, ripe figs, plum jam, some tannic tea notes and and a really pleasant oakiness.  After you've guzzled down the first glass, the second will bring you more honeyed sweetness, ripe vanilla and a very well rounded dried fruit note.  Sensational stuff. 

Finish: Incredibly long, with more dried fruits, cereal and hazelnuts.  All in all, an excellent tawny, which has really benefited from a long, woody maturation.  Everything you'd expect (or indeed- hope for) is in there, alongside so much more.  

Ramos Pinto 20 year old tawny is available for £29.95 at The Whisky Exchange

Stay tuned, as we visit some exquisite sherries in our next round of 18 Under 30!