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Blending My Own Tawny Port - by Elton Potts



One of the great things about incorporating winery tours into your travel is the ability to learn and experience new tastes and approaches to great wine-making.


In my Gentlemen’s Room at home is a 20-liter neutral oak barrel of tawny port. I certainly don’t have the skills of a great winemaker, so this is my low-risk way to dabble at blending. When entertaining, we love to bring our guests to the Gentlemen’s Room after a nice dinner to enjoy dessert and a night cap. A flourless chocolate torte and a glass of 30-year aged tawny is a beautiful way to tie a bow around a great evening.


The inspiration for my barrel of tawny came from Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley of Australia. The Seppeltsfields moved to the Barossa in the 1850’s to escape religious persecution in Prussia. To celebrate the building of a large new barn that took 12 years to build, the family set aside a hogshead of tawny port to not be consumed for 100 years. I call that taking the long view.


The third floor of that barn from the 1870’s is full of hogsheads of tawny port by year. All of them are patiently aging to become the 100-year release. Storage for tawny is different than wine as the longer it stays in the barrel, the better it gets versus aging wine in the bottle. Temperature is also not a consideration as the top level of this large barn is not temperature controlled. A 20 year aged tawny has more complex flavors than a 10 year aged tawny, and their 100 year aged tawny is simply magnificent. It is thick and rich and lingers on the palette for over a minute.


I acquired my 20-liter barrel about 15 years ago. There is a critical process required to move a dry barrel into use including soaking it in water for a few days so the wood expands to fill all cracks. I purchased a nice selection of 10 to 50 year aged tawny from Portugal and Australia and tasted a blend that I liked. That initial blend resulted in a blend aged 20 years. After topping up the barrel with the right blend, you wait.


Since I am not very good at waiting, we enjoy a nice glass of tawny several times each year. The volume in the barrel is checked a couple times per year and topped up with older tawny bottles when the barrel approaches half empty. With the 15 years of age on our blend since we started, our barrel is now a 30 year aged tawny and it is fantastic.


A good friend raves about our tawny. For his recent birthday, we poured and corked a bottle for him. This makes a thoughtful and touching gift that reminds him of the great evenings we have shared together over a glass.


Within the community of Vine Vault members and our Sommeliers on staff, there are wine lovers that are passionate about tawny, others who have their own vineyards and wineries, others still that buy a barrel in Burgundy, and those that simply enjoy collecting great bottles of wine. This knowledge base created by these amazing wine lovers can help a member with their next wine project as well. Whether you need to ship or store a few cases or need us to pick up your most recent vintage from your vineyard in Mendoza or that barrel from Burgundy when it clears customs, or simply want to talk about where to find that great bottle, Vine Vault has the experience and capabilities to properly transport and store your wine.


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