The normal bottle of supermarket plonk that will do for an evening with the neighbours may be scoffed at by a "wine guru".
Of course, there's always flowers and chocolates, and the intrepid might read the blog for inspiration, trying to find a favoured bottle.
But the slightly more creative (or let's call it spendthrift) guests who arrived this weekend, brought a bottle they'd treated themselves to but hadn't yet had a chance to open.
And what a bottle it was!
Born in 1961 this wine was older than all of us assembled for it's grand opening. (Note: I sent the remains home with it's kind donors for them to enjoy. It would have been a tad too greedy to hold onto the bottle. This style of Tawny could be safely sipped and enjoyed once opened, for a lot longer than other wines or Ports - some say up to a year, though I would encourage them to enjoy it within a couple of months. It wouldn't last that long chez moi).
Graham's 1961 Single Harvest Tawny Port.
Port is generally blended over a number of years, to create a "house style" and reduce variation. In this, it was one of the first "branded" wines, so that customers might favour one Port house over another.
Most Port houses only declare a "vintage" in exceptional years, to produce a classic product based on the best grapes available. In general, though, Vintage Port is a different style of Port to Tawny Port, hence the declaration of Single Harvest on the label. Are you confused yet?
Trust me, there's more to Port than most people know: White Port, Ruby Port and even Pink Port are hitting our shelves alongside Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage, and finally Tawny (with our without age declaration). If you're interested, there's a brief guide which I won't try to replicate here. If you've decided you don't like Port, perhaps trying another style might help.
What makes our bottle special, though? It's not traditional for Tawny Port to made with grapes from a single harvest. In general, the age declaration is an average age of the grapes within, e.g. 10, or 20 years.
Even more special is the fact that it was made in such a limited quantity (3 casks only) and just 712 bottles were released to the public for sale. You can start to imagine that this is a pricey bottle, even aside from the padded leather tube, and the solid oak lid, which doubles as a display plinth. (See left).
And a hit it was.
Incredibly fresh acidity meant it was mouthwateringly zingy despite it's 50+ years. I hope I've got as much verve when I pass my 50th year. Fantastic flavours of caramel, smokey cinder toffee and vanilla with hints of nuts, clove and perhaps orange peel sing in the mouth. The flavour (and the smell) lingers intensely meaning a small glass can be sipped and savoured for up to an hour. A fantastic treat, and a real privilege to experience, I'm more than pleased to have had the opportunity to have this taste of history. Sadly, I won't be treating myself to a bottle any time soon as a blogger's income doesn't run to such delights.
I've linked to the Tawny Port I most often purchase below, should you wish to try one which is considerably less expensive.
Still a whippersnapper compared to the oldest wine ever to enter Chateau Purple Teeth, it's highly likely to keep it's second place for the foreseeable future. But I'd love you to prove me wrong.
If you get the chance, or perhaps you have a "luxury" bottle you're saving, my advice is to drink it. Enjoy your wine today. You never know what tomorrow holds.