Port style wine is usually richer, sweeter and heavier than unfortified table wines. Leaving the grapes on the vine to sweeten and develop full flavours in the height of summer, gives our wines the characteristic full flavour for which Talijancich Wines are known. The addition of distilled grape spirit (brandy) to fortify the wine means that the wine retains some of the natural sweetness, making it rich, rounded and smooth on the palate.
There are many styles of port produced in Portugal and Spain, but three of the main types are Ruby, Tawny and Vintage. There are also around one hundred varieties of grapes officially listed as acceptable in the production of port; we primarily use Shiraz and Grenache.
Our famous Peter’s Ruby is a ruby port and the youngest of the port styles. A ruby should be bright in colour, medium bodied and fruity. The old vine Shiraz and Grenache grapes are picked at around 15º Baumé (20º Be or greater for a liqueur), crushed and fermented. Spirit is then added to halt fermentation and it is then stored in old oak for up to four years, while also preserving its bright colour.
The wine is filtered before bottling and does not improve with age in the bottle. It is best consumed within 12 months of opening. A small oak barrel can be filled with Ruby as a starter for further ageing and blending for many years.
When a port is described as tawny, without an indication of age, it is a traditionally a blend aged ports that have spent time in oak barrels. A tawny port is usually aged between 10 and 40 years and can be sweet or medium dry.
The Talijancich Rare Tawny is made from Shiraz, Grenache and small amounts of Verdelho and aged in old spirit barrels for an average of 30 years, which exposes them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. As a result of this oxidation, they gradually mellow to amber or ‘tawny’ colour. The exposure to oxygen imparts a nutty characteristic, while the use of old brandy casks for ageing leaves our tawny with a spicy, drier finish. Ageing in wooden barrels allow them to become more viscous through evaporation. This loss of volume is known as the 'angel's share'.
A true Vintage port sits between a Ruby and a Tawny in style. It appears like a heavy red wine in the glass, with a brick-red like colour and must have high levels of concentration early in the process. It is matured in oak for a short period (up to 3 years) and bottled early - traditionally sealed with cork- where it will mature for between 10 and 40 years. Wines matured in sealed glass bottles (without exposure to air) experience what is known as reductive ageing. This process leads to the wine losing its colour very slowly and produces a wine which is smoother on the palate.
Vintage port must have good levels of tannin and extraction but finish medium dry, the finished wine has about one third the sweetness of our liqueurs, but remains rich and concentrated. The Shiraz fruit was harvested at a Baumé of 15.5º and left in the cool room for a week while the stalks dried and the berries’ flavour concentrated. The fruit is then crushed and fermented as normal and topped up throughout the year with brandy.
For the first time in 18 years we are moving back to proper cork so this wine can be cellared for many years, or enjoyed as a young wine. All going well, the wine should be bottled around June 2018, then corked with a proper wine cork and laid down for further maturation. This is a Port style that does all of its maturation in a bottle and not in oak like a Tawny.
This is the first Vintage fortified wine that we have made since 1982, and James will be releasing it to commemorate his 40th vintage at Talijancich Wines.