Because vintage ports are the most coveted of fortified wines, they also tend to be the most expensive. For a bottle to be classified as a vintage, the grapes used must come from a single exceptional year and be certified by Portugal’s Port and Douro Wines Institute (IDVP). The wine must then be bottle aged for 2 years and released in the third year, at which point it is still too young to drink. Only when a vintage port has been aged—usually for decades—does it come into its own.
Late-bottle vintage (LBV) ports, on the other hand, while still IDVP certified, can be declared in any year, are aged for 4 to 6 years before bottling, and are meant to be consumed upon release. They usually contain no sediment (so do not need decanting) and are priced dramatically less than vintage port. Yet they possess much of the red-fruit flavors and balanced tannins of vintage port. Here are five of the best recently released 2008 LBVs—all of which are ready to drink now.