Port, a fortified wine that’s produced in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal and named after the city of Porto, has become famed for a sweet flavour that’s beloved as a digestif and is commonly associated with Christmas.  

But its versatility makes it a winner year-round, whether mixed into a cocktail or enjoyed as an aperitif, with more than enough varieties to keep things exciting throughout the year – including tawny, ruby, crusted and vintage. 

Arguably, vintage port is where the real flavour’s at, which is what you’d expect as the finest, longest-lived and most expensive. Better still, it’s one of the most undervalued wines in the world, with older vintages boasting 30 years of ageing sometimes coming in at under £100 per bottle, making for truly great value for money.  

Lydia Harrison MW, head of education and events at WSET London, which provides qualifications in wine training and spirit education, explains: “Vintage ports are the pinnacle of a producer's offering. Here, the term vintage takes on a greater meaning than its usual interpretation of the year the grapes were harvested, representing the top category of ports – wines that are only made in the best years, are of premium quality and can go on to evolve in the bottle for decades.

"To differentiate them from other ports, you see the word ‘vintage’ on the label along with the year and the producer's name. Hailing from vineyards that are planted on the undulating steep slopes of the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, the black grapes that will go into vintage port – a blend of varieties that usually includes Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca – will be ripened to perfection.

The grapes chosen will come from the producer’s best vineyard sites so that they are incredibly concentrated – full of flavour, sugar and acidity.”

She adds: “Winemaking in Port is different to usual red wines as fermentation is concluded within a couple of days, as opposed to the usual weeks. During this short timeframe, the black grape skins are constantly mixed with the juice to ensure they impart all their colour, tannin and flavour onto the wine quickly.

Aguardente (grape spirit) is added during fermentation, which kills the yeast, bringing an early halt to the fermentation that results in a sweet wine with high alcohol. Vintage ports will be bottled within two years, resulting in a purple colour with extreme levels of flavour.

With time, these wines will evolve with complex flavours of dried fruits, forest floor and caramel, the tannins will soften and the colour will slowly fade. This will happen gradually, over decades, which makes them a great investment or gift.” 

Below we round-up the best vintage port to buy and try that offer taste in spades and plenty of bang for your buck. Decanter at-the-ready. 

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Pocas Vintage Port 2016

This black beauty is aged in oak barrels to deliver rich layers of blackberry, black plum and spices with surprising hints of cocoa and coffee. A fine wine indeed and a cracker at this price.

Buy now £28.99, Waitrose Cellar

Heranca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2019

A superb vintage for port, this 2019 bottle from Heranca is full of flavour with a dense, plummy palate and floral, festive aromas. The ultimate companion to a cheese board, whatever the season.

Buy now £22.99, Virgin

M&S Collection Late Bottled Vintage Port

This vintage port from Marks & Sparks is aged for up to six years in wooden casks for its signature complexity. Expect flavours of fresh blackberry, spice and dark chocolate. Perfect with stinky cheese and comforting puds.

Buy now £16.00, Ocado

Fonseca Vintage Port 2000

Fonseca proves why it’s one of the world’s most renowned port houses with this 2000 vintage that’s deliciously full-bodied with sweet black plum and raisins on the palate. It could be aged for longer, but we think it’s perfect as it is. Plus, who can resist?

Buy now £65.00, Amathus Drinks

Graham’s Vintage Port 2017

If anything is worth a splurge, it’s Graham’s Vintage Port 2017 with luxurious aromas that precede a palate of baked plum and damson followed by a hint of liquorice. It’s fresh and oh-so fabulous.

Buy now £92.50, The Whisky Exchange

Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage Port

This vintage from Taylor’s was developed as a fresh alternative to traditional iterations for more casual occasions, sharing the same rich, complex and fruity character, albeit ready-to-drink without the need for decanting. We’re all for cutting out a step.

Buy now £18.99, Waitrose

Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Port 2017

Full of rich tannins underpinned by dark fruit, chocolate and black pepper flavours, this gutsy vintage from Quinta do Noval is made from a slew of grape varieties, including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, and Sousã. Too good to sit on the shelf.

Buy now £23.30, Master of Malt

Taylor’s Vintage Port 2023

Leather, coffee, spice – and all things very nice indeed – make this 2023 vintage from Taylor’s a joy on the nose, while more spice and chocolate create a luscious mouthfeel with a bitter cherry finish. Worth every penny.

Buy now £79.95, The Whisky Exchange

Croft Vintage 2003

Bottled after 21 months in wood, this vintage from Croft is an oldie but a goodie, complete with aromas of cherry and liquorice, and full-bodied flavours of dried fruits. Lipsmackingly delicious.

Buy now £57.14, Amathus Drinks

Vintage Port Quinta da Pedra Alta 2018

With only a couple of thousand bottles made, this vintage port from Quinta de Pedra Alta – a winemaker based in the heart of the Douro Valley – is a rare treat indeed made with a heady blend of Touriga grapes. It’s intense, fruity and seriously easy to drink. Bottoms up.

Buy now £52.00, Chanctonbury Wines

2018 Berry Bros & Rudd Late Bottled Vintage Port by Quinta de la Rossa

Characterised by concentration, depth of flavour and elegance, this bottle comes from only a handful of ‘declared’ vintages from the last decade. Expect red and black berry aromas and a surprisingly restrained palate of blackberry and raspberry with orange peel and toasted walnuts. Utterly delightful.

Buy now £22.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

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