Ruby is the entry-level port style, the most approachable, affordable, youngest and easiest-drinking. It does not have a vintage (i.e. it is not from a specified year), but is generally aged for 2 - 3 years before being bottled.
While vintage and tawny ports need decades to mature, ruby is a wine for drinking young rather than laying down.
The grapes for all types of port, usually a mixture of indigenous Portuguese varieties with thick skins that can withstand the heat, are grown in the Douro valley and trodden by foot in lagares to gently extra colour and flavour. Part-way through fermentation, neutral spirit is added, taking the alcohol level up to around 20% and retaining plenty of unfermented sugar for sweetness.
The wines will then be separated into those intended for long aging as vintage or tawny ports and those for drinking young as ruby, Regardless of the final style, all port is strong and sweet; ruby's characteristics are fresh, fruity, youthfulness.
Port is one of the great wines of the world. And yet it is somewhat falling out of fashion, along with other sweet-yet-complex wines like Madeira, sherry and German Riesling. This makes it so much a better bargain for those of us who do appreciate it.
It is not just a Christmas wine, but Christmas is a great time to drink port.
With flavours of ripe dark fruits and spices, ruby works best with cherry and chocolate torte or Christmas pudding. Or just keep a bottle on the go for after-dinner sipping.
If you want an introduction to the ruby style or just a good bottle of something sweet, complex and inexpensive, the Taylor's is a benchmark ruby and especially good value whilst on special offer at the Co-op (until 1 January, 2021)
For the bargain-hunting wine geek who appreciates the mellow harmoniousness that only aging can bring, the Lagarada is an interesting curio; a bin-end from Oakley Wine Agencies in Colchester with around a 50% discount, it is mature in a way that ruby port is perhaps not intended to be. But all the more interesting for it.
Taylor's Select Reserve Port (£10.75, The Co-op) a blend of tinta çao, touriga nacional, touriga francesa, tinta barroca and tinta amarela; ripe, up-front black fruits, liquorice, cherries and vanilla spice with eucalyptus; warming figs and raisins with cinnamon and cocoa; fresh, supple, substantial and long.
Barao de Vilar, Lagarada Ruby Port (bin-end from Oakley Wine Agencies, also at TJ Wines) lifted, dried red and black fruits, minty eucalyptus and aromatic roasted spices; fresh, supple, complex, substantial and harmonious. Being a bin-end, there is now a little bricking of the colour, the flavours are more evolved and the tannins are mellowing.