The perfect port, whether the weather is tropical or freezing.
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All the best things are tawny: owls, ports ... okay, two of the best things are tawny. And one of the best of the latter is Kopke's 20-year-old version.
But first, the reasons why tawny ports have particular advantages over their ruby cousins. One is their suitability to drink at any temperature, which is especially pertinent when you are writing from a tropical climate for a readership that is mostly in a freezing one. Tawnies may be served at the same temperature as a vintage port if you require some internal combustion on a frosty evening, but they are equally suited to fridge-cold sipping over a sunbaked lunch.
That makes it suitable for year-round drinking here in Singapore, although port of all hues remains closely associated with the Christmas season.
A second distinct advantage of tawny ports is their durability – as Jancis notes in Favourite strong and sweet wines 2022, 'opened bottles of the tawny ports can be kept for up to eight weeks'. Although that sounds more like an endurance challenge along the lines of Touch the Truck than it does serving guidance.
Either way, nowhere is the temptation more irresistible than with the Kopke 20 Years Old Tawny, in its handsome old-fashioned bottle, still apparently stencilled by hand.
History is integral to this brand, which proudly calls itself the oldest port house and is not far off its 400th birthday. Age-statement tawny is similarly historic, being a multi-vintage blend of cask-aged ports that add up to represent the typical character of a given age. The most common are 10- and 20-year-old versions, but 30-, 40- and 50-year-old bottlings exist.
In my experience, the 20-year-old version is optimal for most palates, since it combines the silver-haired wisdom of mature complexity with the beating heart of youthful exuberance. Ten-year-old tawnies can seem simple by comparison, whereas the older ones tend to follow the law of diminishing returns.
With Kopke 20 Years Old Tawny, everything is just so: fig, plum and black-cherry fruit alongside cinnamon, clove and anise spices. It basically sounds like a Christmas candle, but one that you can drink. And it's probably cheaper, too.
The candied-nut and milk-chocolate flavours that are classic for the style have a lingering persistence, schmoozed along by plenty of sweetness – Kopke's notably excellent website advises that there are 121 grams of sugar per litre, which is slightly on the higher side of the port spectrum but it does not compromise the wine's balance.
It is the perfect Christmas present for my dad, who can drink it gradually over the post-Christmas season (although surely within eight weeks), the perfect present for me (in case anyone's wondering), and the perfect present for you too, dear reader. So wherever you are, whatever the weather, grab yourself a glass and pop open a Kopke.
Take a look at well over 100 ports reviewed on JancisRobinson.com this year alone.