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20 Year Old Tawny Port

November 7, 2011
Question by: Felice, Singapore

Q:

I bought a bottle of WARRE'S 20 yr old TAWNY PORT and it was bottled in 2002. May i check with you what is its 'age' actually? Is it a good Vintage?  How long can i keep it?  Thank you.

A:

Hi Felice, Tawny Port is different from Vintage Port.  To answer your question very briefly, it is a non-vintage wine and is meant for consumption when bottled and sold.  That said, if it has been kept in reasonably cool, dark conditions, it should still be enjoyable - but do not hold it for ageing!  Invite friends round, and enjoy it. Tawny Port is excellent with fruit and nuts, also creamy desserts such as a crème brulée or fruit or nut based desserts.

Now to explain a little further:  Classic Vintage Port - what this site is all about - is wine made from a single year's harvest, aged in large wooden casks for about 18 months, then bottled.  Because this wine has had little exposure to oxygen, it retains a powerful red and black fruit-driven character in its early years.  It is a wine which is meant to age in bottle and its character will change as it matures - you can read all about that in our article about the Lifecycle of Vintage Port in Bottle, under the Enjoying Port menu tab above.

Tawny Ports with indication of age on the bottle - for example your Warre's 20 Year Old - are blended from several different wines from different vintages, which result in an average age in the blend of at least 20 years.  The wines which will be used to make Tawny Ports are aged in smaller casks of only 550 litres.  Because of this, the wine is subject to micro-oxygenation - the penetration of oxygen through the pores of the wooden cask - which rapidly changes and mellows the character of the wine away from that powerful red and black fruit taste profile, to something more redolent of dried fruit, perhaps with citrus notes, nutty flavours of almond or hazelnut, caramel and toffee, and in older wines tea and cigarbox and even occasionally a chocolate edge.  Charles Symington, our head winemaker, works with our vast stock of ageing tawny wines to blend a consistent style of 20 Year Old Tawny every time we bottle, so there is no "vintage variation".

If you want to know a bit more about the blending process, the Graham's Blog has an article about the experience of some visitors who were challenged to duplicate the blends in each a 20 Year Old and a 10 Year Tawny, given the component wines.



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