This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill, thought by many to be the ‘Greatest Briton’ that has ever lived. We thought we’d start the celebration of his life with a glass or two of his favourite tipple – port.
Traditionally known to be the perfect accompaniment to blue cheeses (Churchill’s cheese of choice was Stilton) port is in fact far more versatile and can be served with a wide selection of hard and soft cheeses, as well as being an excellent match for chocolate.
Port is a fortified wine dating back to the 17th Century and the techniques for making it have changed very little. To be called a port, it has to be produced in the Upper Douro region of Northern Portugal. It starts off being fermented, then the process is stopped by the addition of “aguardente” (a Portuguese brandy), which allows the wine to retain its rich, sweet characteristic colour and flavour.
There are many types of port, however, they fall into two main categories, ruby and tawny. Ruby ports are young, easily drinkable blends which have a lovely, intense ruby red colour, whilst tawny ports are matured in casks before bottling, giving them a lighter colour and dryer style.
In the year of an exceptional harvest, port producers agree to declare a vintage and the Port Wine Institute stamps its seal of approval. These vintage wines are bottled within two years and laid down to age and improve, being ready to drink years later. More recently the “late bottled vintage” (LBV) concept has been developed. These wines are produced from exceptional grapes and are aged in cask for between four and seven years, then bottled and ready to drink immediately. They represent an excellent balance of quality and maturity, giving a glimpse of the style of a full vintage.
Kings Hotel, Cotswolds (Chipping Campden) – Awarded Two AA Rosettes
Taylor’s LBV ruby port (available by the glass):
The floral bouquet and black cherry fruit offer a great accompaniment for many of their fine cheeses. Of particular note are the Stinking Bishop, Bosworth Ash and Sharpham Brie, all of which would be very compatible on the palate. A more daring choice would be port with the chocolate and cherry torte.
Wyck Hill House Hotel & Spa, Cotswolds (Stow-on-the-Wold) – Awarded Two AA Rosettes
Sandeman’s LBV ruby port (available by the glass):
This spicy wine with intense bouquet would be the perfect match to have with a selection of cheeses from their menu. The Exmoor Jersey Blue, a fine example of a tangy blue cheese, the Tornegus cheese with rustic flavours and the rich, mellow Wigmore are highly recommended to contrast each other and complement the port.
As Churchill once said, “My tastes are simple, I’m easily satisfied with the best.” If like our ‘Greatest Briton’ your tastes tend toward the finer things in life, then, finish your meal with a mouth-watering selection of cheeses paired with port in the heart of the picture-postcard Cotswolds. And make sure you visit nearby Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a World Heritage Site.