A simple guideline:
Open and decant vintages less than 40 years old two to three hours before drinking. For most of us, intending to drink our vintage ports after a meal, that means opening the bottle and decanting it before we sit down to dinner. Regarding wines older than 40 years, decant them 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
Let the bottle stand upright 10 to 15 minutes if it’s less than 40 years old, and up to 30 minutes if it’s older.
Pour the wine gently into a decanter and stop pouring when you see sediment moving into the bottle neck.
Optionally, you may pour through a funnel lined with a piece of muslin. Avoid filters that have been bleached, as these can impart undesirable flavors to the wine.
If you wish to serve from the original bottle, ensure you rinse the bottle well so as to remove all sediment, before returning the wine.
Relax and enjoy your Vintage Port.
Vintage Ports are best served slightly below modern room temperature: 60°F to 64°F . Too cool (e.g. straight from the cellar) and the wine will not release all its aromas and flavors, too warm (68°F or more) and it may appear unbalanced or a little spirity on the nose. If you are thinking of all the literary allusions to warming Port by the fire, remember that up until the mid-20th century or later, houses were not centrally heated and could be as cold or colder than modern cellar temperature recommendations.
After being opened, a Vintage Port should ideally be enjoyed within a day or two. Older wines, more than 40 years, tend to be more fragile and are likely to lose their freshness and complexity after a relatively short period of time so they should be enjoyed upon opening.
The pleasure of Port comes in large measure from being able to sense its lovely aromas. The ideal Port glass is tulip shaped and allows you to swirl and air the wine in the glass so that the aromas and color can be appreciated to the full. Additionally, before you serve your Port, be sure your glasses have no lingering odors as they will interfere with the aromas of the wine.
Traditionally, Port is passed clockwise around the table. There are several explanations for this, one of which is that this gesture was seen as a sign of peace to the person sitting on the left because, by pouring a glass of Port with the right hand, the server wouldn’t be able to draw a sword or revolver. A much more practical reason is that the majority of people are right-handed, making it easier to pour the wine with the right hand and pass it with the left. Tradition also has it that the bottle should be kept in circulation and not set down again until it has returned to the host.
Port wine is all about pleasure. Pairing you Port with the right foods will enhance your tasting experience. A young to mature full-bodied and fruit-driven Vintage Port is well paired with dark chocolate or with a strong blue cheese, such as a Stilton. Older, more elegant and nuanced Vintage Ports need no accompaniment and should be savored without the distraction of other foods.