A Perfect Drop

A Perfect Drop

Vintage Fortified (previously Vintage Port) is an exceptional wine ideal for collectors and wine enthusiasts who appreciate the complexity and depth of flavour that can come with aging. While it's an absolute delight to drink it can be a little tricky when it comes to storing, caring for and knowing when to drink it and how to decant it properly. Luckily, we're here to help to ensure you get the best out of your bottle of Vintage Fortified.

Vintage Fortified is a well-known wine, admired by many and worshipped by collectors and enthusiasts.

We all have that friend/relative with some magnificently rare bottle in the cellar they like to brag about but cannot be convinced to draw the cork.

In the past, young Vintage Fortified was tough, tannic and not worth serving. It needed many years to soften and mature. You will, however, find that today's Vintage Fortified is quite different. It's rich and fruity, with tannins so finely married to the ripe texture that you can start drinking it after only about five years. Enjoy it chilled with a selection of good cheeses, and you've got dinner sorted.

However, if you've got the willpower and the patience, today's Vintage Fortified is likely to age just as long as in the past. That can be 20 or 50 years, or sometimes even longer, depending on the Vintage and how the bottle is stored.

A typical well-aged Vintage Fortified will have intense dark fruit flavours, such as blackberries, cherries, and plums, and notes of dried fruit, raisins and figs. You'll also find hints of chocolate, coffee, and spices, such as cinnamon and clove. In terms of aromas, you'll find an intense bouquet of dark fruit, floral scents, and hints of leather and tobacco. A Vintage Fortified's tannins are typically high, giving it a firm structure and a full-bodied mouthfeel.

Yes, all that time and patience will pay off, and you will be rewarded with the fruits of your labour, but alas, not all Vintage Fortified stories have fairytale endings!

While you could leave everything up to pure chance (you shouldn't), there are a few golden rules to follow when storing your precious bottles to ensure you get the best from your Vintage Fortified.

Let's start with storing. The ideal place to store Vintage Fortified is a cool, dark, and constant temperature environment. Some key factors to consider when storing the bottle include:

Temperature: The bottle should be stored at a constant temperature between 12-16°C. The key word here is 'constant'; fluctuations in temperature can cause the wine to spoil or age too quickly, and like Goldilocks, a Vintage Fortified doesn't appreciate being too hot or too cold.

Humidity: The bottle should be stored in a location with a relative humidity of around 50-70%. Too much humidity can cause mould and spoilage, while too little humidity can cause the corks to dry out and let air into the bottle.

Light: The bottle should be stored in a location that is dark and protected from light. Light can cause the wine to deteriorate and lose its flavour and aroma. Think of it as a tiny vampire. It even pays to purchase a wooden coffin crate to keep the bottle inside.

Vibration: The bottle should be stored in a location that is protected from vibration, which can disturb the sediment in the bottle and cause the wine to spoil.

Orientation: The bottle should be stored on its side, which keeps the wine in contact with the cork and helps to prevent it from drying out. Of course, a wine cellar or a wine refrigerator are ideal places to store wine, as they provide a controlled environment that meets all of the above requirements.

Suppose you don't own a wine cellar or wine refrigerator. Suppose your significant other thought money was better spent on a new kitchen, a pony, or children. If that is the case, you can also store wine in a cool, dark closet or a basement, as long as the temperature remains constant and the wine is protected from light and vibration.

Now we wait. But when do we open? That is one of the most difficult decisions with a Vintage Fortified.

Some enjoy the taste of a young Vintage Fortified, while others prefer a more mature flavour. This is something for everyone to decide for themself. There is no right or wrong time to open a bottle of Vintage Fortified, but of course, there will come a time when either the wine or yourself will become too old, so don't wait too long. A rule of thumb is to drink a Vintage Fortified at about 15 to 25 years old. Some keep longer, and others will mature faster.

Say the stars are all aligned. The moon is full, and your favourite people sit around an open fire with empty glasses but plenty more to contemplate and discuss. Luckily you had the foresight to predict this very moment, and a few days earlier, you had raised the bottle from its cool, dark and vibrationless slumber and had sat it upright to allow the sediments to reach the bottom of the bottle (well done!).

Your next challenge is to draw the cork. You may have waited 15-25 years for this day and bought and taught yourself how to use heated wine tongs in the lead-up. What a show you'll put on heating the tongs over an open fireplace and applying them to the neck of the bottle before wrapping a cool towel around it, causing tension in the glass that allows you to gracefully remove the whole bottleneck in one swift twist. God/Goddess status: unlocked.

Or, you could use something simpler such as a twin-prong cork puller, also known as a Butler's Friend or an Ah-So. In most cases, however, it is possible to carefully use a regular corkscrew if wine theatrics is not your thing.

After the cork is out, we decant. Decanting a Vintage Fortified can be tricky the first time you do it. Special filters are available to stop the sediment from following the wine into the decanter, but a clean, unused cloth or coffee filter can work just as well. Keep a candle or a flashlight under the bottle when you decant the wine so that you can see when the sediment reaches the bottleneck and it's time to stop pouring.

The important thing is to get a clear Vintage Fortified with little sediment. Typically, about five centilitres of sediment is left in the bottle—sometimes more - sometimes less. The amount does not have anything to do with the quality of the wine.

By now, after all this, you'll be thinking that this damn wine better be exceptional, exquisite and otherwordly. We're nearly there! There is just one more thing to consider. The glass! To appreciate the Vintage Fortified at its best, you should serve the wine in a glass that can be swirled. A tulip-shaped glass is best.

Finally, it's time to enjoy. If you've followed the golden rules, you should now be sipping on something akin to God's nectar and feeling grateful that many decades ago, you signed up as a member to Stanton & Killeen's Vintage Fortified Club* and, as a result, have a cellar, wine fridge or closet full of gorgeously aged wines.

It seldom happens, but if, for some reason, you don't manage to polish off the bottle, you can keep it for a few days and, on the odd occasion, up to a week.

Well, I've had fun but that's enough from me. I hope you now feel a little more confident when it comes to enjoying Vintage Fortified.

And hey, if you're not yet a Stanton & Killeen Vintage Fortified Club member, perhaps you ought to, it would be a shame for all this newfound knowledge of yours to go to waste. Click here to join: https://www.stantonandkilleen.com.au/wine-club

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