Quinta do Infantado Late Bottled Vintage 2009
A lot has changed within the port industry over the last fifty years. First, because sales of port have declined, producers have had to diversify. Up until the 1960s, there were just two styles of port widely available: ruby and vintage. Ruby reserve was created in the late 1960s as a higher-quality but still affordable alternative to ruby. Then in the 1970s, the categories of aged-indicated tawny and late bottled vintage ports were introduced. The latter was an idea of Taylor's, a major producer, as an alternative to vintage port. This is an expensive wine which traditionally requires many years ageing before being ready to drink. Late bottled vintage instead is aged by the producer for four to six years in large old oak casks, releasing the wine when it's ready to drink rather than when young.
The second big change is that the Douro valley, where the grapes for port production are grown, is now accessible. Until 1987, there was no road connecting Porto to Douro - all the wine had to be shipped along the river and aged near the cool coast in Vila Nova da Gaia across the river from Porto. Now that Douro is easily accessible, many producers are based in the valley instead of the city and there are air-conditioned cellars to age the wines. Another effect is that small growers who didn't have lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia used to be unable to sell the small amounts of wine they made; with the area opened up, they can now make and ship their own wine rather than simply sell their grapes to the large producers.
Quinta do Infantado are one such example. Over two hundred years old, the estate has only started making wine in the last forty years. Because they're small, they don't need to buy fruits from growers. Instead, all of their fruit is estate-owned and -bottled, something previously impossible. The estate's ports are made in a slightly different way than most other producers: they're not as sweet with higher acidity and less alcohol added during fermentation. The wines as a rule are therefore a little softer and gentler than other ports.
The LBV is superb: rich, concentrated, and mature. There's a delicacy to the wine coming from floral and fruity aromas, softening the hard tannins and mature dried fruit aromas. It comes in 750 and 375ml bottles - the latter a perfect treat for the winter months.
Price: $14 (375ml)
Grape Variety: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and 10% other grapes
Region: Douro, Portugal
Ageing: 4 years in large, old oak casks
Food pairing: hard cheeses, chocolate