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Francisco javier Gil oreja

I was wondering how long a bottle of port can stay unopened in a reasonably cool room? What are your thoughts?

Paul

Dear Paul,

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Unopened is the operative word. The answer is: a very long time, generally longer than table wine. Port, the fortified wine from Portugal, has lots of sugar and more alcohol than dry table wine. Both ingredients help shield the wine against the ravages of time (if only they could do the same for humans). Most sealed ports will survive well for decades.

That said, unlike humans, not many will improve with age. Tawny, ruby and late-bottled vintage ports, the most popular styles, typically do not mature in bottle. They're effectively embalmed. The big exception is so-called vintage port, which always carries a year on the label and tends to cost upward of $50. These wines are bottled with their unfiltered sediment, which helps them evolve and yield prized secondary nuances.

Most vintage ports are best cellared for at least two decades and often come into their own after about 30 or 40 years. They're not to be confused with "late-bottled vintage," a fresh-tasting style that carries a year but which is filtered or otherwise clarified before bottling and tends to cost less than $25.

Have a wine question?

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Decanter newsletter and on The Globe and Mail web site.

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