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Calem LBV 2011 vintage port review
In a nutshell: A mature ‘late bottled vintage’ (LBV) from an excellent year with much of the character of a proper vintage port.
Calem is one of the biggest names in Portugal, though comparatively unknown in Britain where the market is dominated by the Taylor’s and Symington, which is a shame because it makes some lovely wines.
The firm was founded by a Portuguese man called Antónia Alvares Cálem in 1859 at at time when the trade was very much in the hands of the British (and to a lesser extent the Dutch, Germans and Scandinavians).
As you’d expect, the north Europeans had their home markets pretty well sewn up so Calem concentrated on Brazil which, though independent from Portugal, still maintained strong links with the mother country.
Shipping wine from Porto, he brought back wood from Brazil, some of which you can still see in the warehouses in the Douro. Many old casks are made of tropical hardwoods rather than oak.
The firm continued in family hands up until the 1960s and vintage ports from this period are particularly prized. It’s now owned by Sogevinus who also own the respected Barros, Burmester and Kopke (one of the oldest port houses, originally German).
The one I’ve chosen is an LBV, which stands for ‘late bottled vintage’, a style that was invented by Quinta do Noval in the 1950s to bridge the gap between basic ruby ports and expensive vintages. An LBV comes from a single year and is aged in oak for between four and six years (a proper vintage only spends two years in oak) before bottling.
This extra time in oak, as well as the less powerful wines used, means that it is sold ready to drink and doesn’t require years to soften. However, the best LBVs will improve with time in bottle.
The extra ageing also means that this wine has a sediment, so it’s worth decanting it. This really opens up the wine, revealing a green fennel note very typical of the region and lots of heady, dark fruit. The tannins are now really soft and leave a lingering leathery finish.
Definitely one to serve at the end of a meal with cheese such as Stilton, manchego or the classic Portuguese Estrela de Serra.
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