Christmas ports

decanterPort is the wine match of choice for Christmas cake and other seasonal puddings and pastries. But all port tastes sweet, the fortifying dose of brandy sees to that. Adding neat, naturally sweet, alcohol to a normal Portuguese table wine lifts the alcohol level to around the 20 per cent level and increases the rich flavours of the resulting drink.

Now known as a fortified wine, the port must be matured in large wooden casks to smooth out the complex flavours resulting from the low/high alcoholic mix.

Ruby port is aged for three years, the shortest period within the port categories, and is a great drink for those who don't like the more usual jammy, raisin and brown sugar flavours found in many fortified wines.

Next port up the quality category ratings is Reserve port. This superior Ruby gets a couple more years of cask ageing than the bog-standard stuff - this adds chocolate and smoky overtones to Ruby's fruity flavours.

If you can wait a decade, or two, for your port then the result is a lightening of flavours that moves port from a hearty dessert-matching wine to one best enjoyed sans cake.

PG Wine Tips

£5.99 and under

There are a few fruity, slurpable wines among the forgettable masses.

Sainsbury's Ruby Port
£5.87 Sainsbury's

Excellent value at around a fiver and tastes like a concentrated and slightly sweetened Cabernet Sauvignon.

Costs a bit more, but tastes great

Sometimes a bottle of wine tastes so fab it's still a bargain whatever it costs.

Marks and Spencer's Finest Reserve Port
£7.99 Marks and Spencer (down from £10.99 until December 31st)

MarmiteDrinking this is like sucking on a violet liqueur chocolate that's had a smear of Marmite added.

Marks and Spencer's Pink Port
£7.99 Marks and Spencer

Yes pink-coloured port. Its lighter than usual colour is reflected in the flavour, not raisins but rose water Turkish Delight flavours. Best served chilled over ice.

Warres Otima 10 year-old Tawny
£9.97 Asda and £12.49 Waitrose

A decade of ageing has lightened the rich raisin flavours into butter, toffee, ginger and almond notes. Warres' Optima tastes so crisp and light that food seems unnecessary.

Taylors portTaylors  Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) 2004
£9.97 Asda, £9.99 Sainsbury’s (down from £12.99 until December 31st) and £9.99 Waitrose (down from £12.99 until December 7th)

Aromas of Christmas cake with flavours of liquorice, brown sugar and milk chocolate.

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1996
£23.74 WaitroseWineDirect

Complex flavours of crème brûlée topped with blackberry and Veno’s cough mixture.

This article has appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on Mature Times