Port isn’t just for Christmas, here’s four ways to enjoy it

I’ve always enjoyed a drop of port, but it’s usually just on my December shopping list.

If you only bring out the port when your Christmas hat has wearily drooped over one eye, the cheese board has crumbled with festive fatigue and you’re waiting for the Dr Who special edition to start, I urge you to think again. I’ve been on a learning curve and now I know that port isn’t just for Christmas.

My conversion began at sunset, in a hilltop folly with glorious twilight views of the Douro Valley in Portugal. I was drinking white port and wow, I loved it.

So here’s four ways to enjoy port throughout the year without the added panic of defrosting the turkey.

Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port

This was my white on the top of the hill. Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port (RRP £13.29 Waitrose, www.waitrosecellar.com) makes a wonderful alternative to a G&T.

My hosts at Taylor’s Port had carried ice, tonic water and bunches of fresh mint to the folly.

The port had a toe-wiggling warmth with added knee wobble and there was a fresh citrus tingle which burst in the mouth with a lick of creamy nuttiness.

I christened this drink a “winter mojito” when I was up there, perhaps I’d had a sip too many.

White Chip and tonic would be great any time of year and is delicious on its own too, especially with salted almonds.

Croft Pink Port

What’s this I hear the purists cry! Pink port?

Croft Pink (RRP £14.99 www.cambridgewine.com, www.thedrinkshop.com) lives under the same company umbrella as Taylor’s and is a raspberry embrace. It’s ideal for Girlie Nights.

Croft battled long and hard to create this pink port, mainly against the whys and wherefores of the centuries’ old port-making tradition. Croft eventually succeeded and the result has raspberry-rippled aromas with palate pockets of raspberry, strawberry, a layer of citrus bite and … well, a little bit of a kick.

I’m told a canny New York bar served this in an ice slush machine. So go ahead, simply pour it over ice or add to cointreau and prosecco for a bubbly pink delight.

There are cocktail recipes at www.croftpink.com/

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Taylor’s 10-year-old Tawny Port

Pop the port in the fridge darling! Not something you’d expect to hear. I haven’t the space here to wax lyrical about Tawny 10, 20, and 30-year olds but I will say that Taylor’s 10-year-old Tawny (ranging in price between £20 and £25 at various retailers) is a dream with pudding.

It is rich and warm with figs tumbled in butterscotch, chocolate and a seam of dried fruits.

Pour a glass with caramel pudding, another with chunks of dark chocolate, and finish the bottle with coffee.

My new Taylors pals (I’ll be expecting Christmas cards) tell me that if you pop the Tawny in the fridge as you first sit down to dinner, it will be the perfect temperature by the time you get to dessert.

Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009/10

Ooh, it’ll be chilly when you’re out celebrating Halloween or huddling round bonfire night flames. Try a variation on a mulled wine with a nice bottle of port (Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage 2009/10 is around  £15 and widely available).

Pour into a pan, warm it with an orange, cinnamon, or those ready-made mulled wine packs, add water if you must, and then let it warm you. If you insist on port making an appearance just at Christmas I’ll let you make this for the carol singers.

Published in the saturday extra magazine October 17, 2015

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