Kopke 10 Year Old white port


From €15.12, £17.95, 185 Danish krone, $29.99 per half bottle 

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This shapely half bottle of well-priced, fortified, intense deliciousness comes beautifully presented in a wooden box. Not that the box adds to the pleasure of drinking the deeply burnished golden liquid but it would make it a lovely present. The producer suggests it will last at least a couple of months once opened but I really can’t see it hanging round that long. Not in my house. 

It would be very easy to sip this on its own, at just about any time of day (maybe after 11 am), for contemplation or after a meal, or it would go well with most tangy hard cheeses (it was fantastic with parmesan), or a good book. It’s really too intense for any sort of aperitif.

White port without any ageing tends to be drunk rather inconsequentially, in port country typically mixed with tonic water as a long drink. Serious age-dated white ports such as the Kopke 10 Year Old have been permitted only since 2005 although vintage-dated colheitas were always allowed, and Kopke have a treasure trove of older white ports such as the 1935 that I tasted in London last year.

This 10 Year Old is a blend of Viosinho, Folgasão, Rabigato, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Cerceal and Arinto grapes from the steep slopes of the Douro Valley. The grapes are apparently treated ‘as if they were red’, with longer maceration and more extraction of tannins, colour and aroma from the skins than is usual for a white port in order to increase the wine’s ageing potential. Unusually, the grape spirit used to fortify the wine is added in three or four stages – very different from the way a tawny is fortified – because this improves the integration of the alcohol without losing the aromatic complexity of the wine.

And aromatic it is, both from the grape varieties and thanks to the maturing process that takes place in 50-year-old wooden casks (usually 620 litres) in Vila Nova de Gaia. When I first came across this wine at the Oddbins tasting in London I found intense aromas of spiced, dried apricots and something a little like almond paste. On a later occasion, there seemed to be an aroma of walnuts. It was so fragrant that it stood out even at the end of a long tasting. There are Seville-orange flavours on the palate and hints of baking spice. The intense sweetness (the residual sugar is 118 g/l) is finely balanced by decent acidity (pH 3.42) and a slightly chalky texture. I find some 10 Year Old tawny ports to be marked by their high alcohol, sometimes slightly harsh, but although this 10 Year Old white comes in at 20%, the spirit is extremely well integrated.

Kopke explain that the oxidative ageing process for a white port has to be particularly carefully controlled. Their cellar dedicated to white ports, with its earthen floors and constant temperature of around 16 ºC, is the coolest of all their cellars and they have three people dedicated to looking after their aged-dated and colheita whites.

The wine is widely available in Europe, as wine-searcher results show, but also in the US. In the UK it is stocked by Oddbins, Hedonism Wines, Harrods, Spirited Wines, Nichols & Perks, Cambridge Wine Merchants and The Wine Company but the sharpest price at the moment seems to be from Hennings Wine (reduced from £19.95 to £17.95, plus delivery if you buy on line, until 15 Jan 2016).

Kopke also produce 20 Year Old, 30 Year Old and 40 Year Old white ports but this 10 Year Old is exceptionally good value for an extremely complex wine.

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