“Give me wine to wash me clean of the weather-stains of cares.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

'Tis the season to be jolly and what better way to get there than with a glass or two of vintage port? You may have guessed from previous columns that I’m a tart around any fortified wines, and the pinnacle of this style of winemaking is produced in the Douro valley.

The reason is quite simply that vintages are only declared two or three times a decade when the wine produced is considered to be the highest quality. Compare that to another bastion of quality in the wine world, Bordeaux, where the top growths produce a vintage every year and you understand why vintage port doesn’t tend to come cheap.

Port gained popularity in the 18th Century when the constant wars with France meant our supply of claret was closed off. The long voyage to the UK often created spoiled wines until one of the shippers decided to fortify the wine with brandy, creating a new full-on style of wine. In a nutshell, port ain’t for the faint of heart and your first taste can be a bit of a toe curler, but served at the right temperature, it’s like coating your tongue in fruity velvet.

One thing to bear in mind with the vintage ports, however, is that they will invariably require decanting as they are bottled unfiltered to allow for continued and lengthy bottle ageing. Personally, I don't faff around with a decanter, so I pour it into a jug through a filter, wash the bottle out and then pour it back into the bottle for serving, but whatever you do, always serve it at room temperature.

Watford Observer:

Graham’s Malvedos Single Quinta

Black cherries, warm plums and herbs on the nose with a rich, dark fruit and chocolate palate. Great with hard cheese or Christmas pudding.

Wine Rack £27.99

Watford Observer:

Tescos Vintage Port 2007

Rich, vibrant fruit with hints of figs and cocoa on the palate all rounded off with soft juicy tannins. This really is a blockbuster but it shouldn’t come as a surprise given that it comes from the Symington stable. Perfect with blue cheese or rich puddings.

Tesco £20