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Chocolate or cheese with a glass of port is a delicious indulgence to enjoy at home. We try simple and hedonistic matches with the Taylor’s range to wonderful effect.
As the temperature starts to drop and the nights draw in, people’s attention naturally turns to port. But port is much more versatile than you would think, and is a great drink to have around the home, as it makes the perfect accompaniment to staple foods like cheese and chocolate.
The language of port – single-quintas, aged tawnies, LBVs and the like – may appear daunting at first glance to the inexperienced, but after a little testing (and tasting), you’ll see that while there are marked differences between the various styles, you don’t need to be a wine buff to enjoy their multifaceted charms.
Oh, and please don’t make the mistake of thinking that once opened, a bottle of port needs to be drunk up in one evening. One of the many benefits of being a fortified wine is that it will last a week (or even up to three weeks for tawny ports) in the fridge, making it a perfect treat if you just fancy just a single glass one weekday evening to unwind after a long day.
But to drink port on its own seems rather like a wasted opportunity – it goes well with a myriad of different foods, and part of the joy in food and wine matching is the fun to be had in trying new dishes and seeing which ones work for you.
It is well worth experimenting to find matches that suit, but the eight matches here, based on chocolate and cheese, are tried-and-tested combinations that will show you just how diverse and rewarding a glass of port can be. Take a look at some of our matches, and see for yourself why port is so much more than just a special-occasion drink, and a wonderful sweet alternative to the countless dry wines we drink.
Cheese match: Camembert
Sweet match: Galaxy Minstrels
First Estate – named after the very first estate bought by the company, back in 1744 – is the perfect introduction to the Taylor’s diverse line-up of port, and the ideal choice for port novices. Aged for four years in oak vats, First Estate displays deliciously fresh, vibrant berry aromas, while on the palate, expect plenty of luscious black-fruit notes, and a rich, round flavour. When pairing with food, its full body and youthful fruitiness go perfectly with chocolate, and in this case, Galaxy Minstrels – the sweet chocolate notes balanced by the fruitiness of the port. When it comes to cheese, First Estate has enough richness and complexity to withstand a creamy, full-bodied cheese such as Camembert de Normandie.
Cheese match: Comté
Sweet match: Green & Black’s 70% Dark Chocolate
Taylor’s was the first company to develop the Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) style, which is richer and more robust than First Estate, and more akin to vintage port. Just like vintage port, LBV is blended from wines from a single year, but while vintage port only spends two years in wood, LBV is aged in oak for four to six years. Taylor’s LBV is marked out by its approachability and early-maturing style, but when matching it with food, it’s important to recognise its slightly firmer side compared with First Estate. With that in mind, Comté, with its strong, distinctive nuttiness and tangy notes, works perfectly with the LBV. The Green & Black’s chocolate is a great match because of its high cocoa content which provides a bitter, intense flavour, marrying beautifully with the sweetness and fruitiness of the LBV.
Cheese match: Leagram blue-cheese tart with roasted pears and walnuts
Sweet match: Gü chocolate praline pudding
Tawny ports have a slightly different flavour profile to LBV and vintage ports, but are equally delicious. As they age slowly in barrel, they lose the traditional ‘ruby’ colour, and begin to take on an amber/copper hue known as ‘tawny’. At the same time, they develop lovely spicy, nutty aromas, which opens them up to new, exciting food matches. Here, Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny is matched with the sumptuous Leagram blue-cheese tart with roasted pears and walnuts served at Mayfair’s Le Gavroche restaurant, with each component a great match for the port. And with the sweet match, the nutty notes of the praline in the Gü dessert are the essential link that works so well with the 10 Year Old Tawny. Tawny port is delicious when served lightly chilled.
Cheese match: Roquefort
Sweet match: Cardamom-scented bitter chocolate mousse with spiced dried fruits
Our final match is grand indeed. ‘Single-quinta’ ports are made in exactly the same way as vintage port, but only using grapes from a single property, trodden on the estate. Taylor’s has owned the beautiful Vargellas property for more than 100 years, and single-quinta ports are only made here in very good years. Single-quinta ports benefit from several years’ ageing, and the 2001 Vargellas is coming into its prime now, although it will continue to improve over the next 20 years. The perfect accompaniment is one of the kings of blue cheese: Roquefort.
Blue cheese always works well with fortified wines, particularly those that have a little richness and sweetness, and in this case, Roquefort is a noble pairing with such a complex port. And Le Gavroche’s decadent cardamom-scented chocolate mousse (made with 65% cocoa dark chocolate) is another stunning match – the dense, rich chocolate perfectly judged against the complex notes of the port.
(with special thanks to David Galetti and his team at Le Gavroche for creating the blue-cheese tart and chocolate mousse)
This feature was published in the autumn 2012 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.