Late Bottled Vintage Port: a sweet gift

taylor_lbv“I always thought port was gross,” a friend told me after I poured him a port that he actually liked. “But I guess that’s because I always had it at my uncle’s where the bottle had been open since last Christmas.”

Indeed, port is not gross; in fact, it can be delicious. This year I’ve tried some excellent vintage ports, some with several decades of age on them, which makes them fantastic. The only trouble with vintage port is that it requires so much patience, usually two decades’ worth. Many of the top vintage ports currently on the market run close to $100 a bottle.

There’s another way to get the vintage character with a discount and put it in the express lane: Late Bottled Vintage or LBV. To qualify as vintage port, the wine must be bottled within about two years of harvest and do much of its aging in bottle. But the port houses age some of the port from one vintage longer, sometimes up to six years in cask, and then bottle it as LBV. It’s vintage character port that’s ready to drink.

The Taylor-Fladgate LBV 2003 is an excellent example. The vintage was outstanding and the producer it top notch. The port in the glass has a vibrant red-purple hue, lovely sweet and ripe aromas, and an unctuous, viscous, multi-layered palate that has a pleasant spice on the finish. We tried this with some friends who happened to have some Roquefort on hand and it really was one of those classic, perfect pairings. All we needed was a roaring fire!

Here’s perhaps the best part: I asked that friend how much he would pay for the port, with it’s handsome embossed bottle. He said $50. It’s actually under $20 (find this port). What a great gift!

The Quinta do Noval LB won lots of praise at two events where I poured it recently. Another top producer, this port doesn’t state a vintage, opting instead for the LB. It’s under $20 as well (find this port).

A little port does go a long way so it’s probably best to open when you have people over. As to the freshness of LBVs, I find that they can keep for a few days (maybe five), but shouldn’t sit around for too long after opening. Don’t be like my friend’s uncle and keep it too long and then foist it on unsuspecting guests!

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8 Responses to “Late Bottled Vintage Port: a sweet gift”

  1. I can imagine how you enjoyed! Low temperatures outside make Port even more inviting and what better period than Christmas to taste a great Port?!?

  2. Port is greatly under-appreciated here in the New World. Warre’s, Taylor Fladgate, Niepoort and others produce some great value-priced ports and you do not even have to go beyond the common non vintage variety. I always have a bottle of Warre’s Warrior or similar on hand for those winter nights snuggling in front of the fire with a nice selection of cheeses….heaven. For clarification, when I say snuggling, i obviously don’t mean i snuggle the cheese….or the port.

  3. Tyler, I’m interested to hear. Do you have any horror stories when it comes to receiving wine like that for yourself?

  4. I was lucky enough to have grown up on the Iberian Peninsula – 5 years in Spain and four years in Portugal. I learned at a very young age how good and yummy Port is…It seems to taste even better when it is cold outside. LBV is the best value out there, but if you can afford some good vintage Port, you will be duly rewarded.

  5. Dylan – Fortunately not. It’s probably port and sherry that are most often served bad–but maybe some spirits too since they only last a certain amount of time (a year?) and sometimes bottles can linger in cabinets for too long (it’s certainly happened in my own cabinet). So, no, not wine that’s too old. Now corked wine is a different matter entirely…

  6. Great call on the LBV! Port still remains an area of confusion for many young wine drinkers… they think it’s just a drink for grandpa, not a dynamic wine that comes in lots of different styles.

    The Winos just ran a tasting of Portuguese wines, and we discovered a delicious Late Bottle Vintage Port for $14!

  7. If LBV ports are aged for up to 6 years in cask, do they begin to take on more of a tawny character?


  8. Tyler, if you allow me to answer, I would say that LBV never ages for such a long period in cask. It must be bottled between the 4th and the 6th year after the harvest and usually stays for a couple of years in oak. The LBV can continue to age for some years more in bottle, it has a deep ruby color, full bodied and still has a lot of tannins when goes to bottle. So, though the oak makes it a little bit easier to drink young, the time it spends in casks is not enough to get a tawny character.


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