Two impressive unfiltered LBV Ports
Late-bottled vintage (LBV) is a category of Port that has been devalued a bit in recent years. The idea is that these are Vintage Port in style, but more approachable, with slightly longer in cask - ready to drink when released. [See my introduction to Port for more on this.] Yet promotional activity has meant that LBVs have become cheaper and cheaper in recent years, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
A few companies have broken clear of the pack and are making serious LBVs that sell for around £11 a bottle. These are frequently designated 'unfiltered' or 'traditional' to set them apart from the rest, and these are wines that can develop further with bottle age. The best are usually those from Noval, Crasto and Niepoort. These wines taste like mini-Vintage Ports and are great value for money. They're sealed with the same driven natural corks that are used for Vintage Ports, rather than the T-tops that are often found on cheaper Ports.
Two I'm trying now are both really good. They're both from the 2003 Vintage, which was excellent for Port (although, sometimes, you get brilliant LBVs from slightly less good, non-declared years because if a Vintage Port isn't being made the grapes from the best vineyards end up in the LBV).
The first is the Barao de Vila LBV 2003 (Laithwaites £11.39), which is concentrated, dense, spicy, rich and really tannic. It's a mouthfilling, grippy wine which is as good as many Vintage Ports, so at this price it's a bargain. I'm often a bit disappointed by Laithwaites, but they've done well in sourcing this. The second is Quinta do Noval's Unfiltered LBV 2003 (£11.49 Oddbins, but the website only has the 2001; Tesco also stocked the 2001), which, when I opened it, was a bit shy and flat. After a while, though, it's qualities start to emerge. This is an aromatic, floral, linear style, with focused dark fruits and some firm tannic structure. It is, however, a little closed at the moment, with brooding intensity waiting to emerge. In two years I reckon this will have put on some weight, and will be singing. For now, though, the more rough and ready (and more concentrated) Barao de Vila will deliver the most vivid experience.