PORT is historically regarded as a thoroughly British tipple.

But now a North Yorkshire liqueur-maker is changing centuries of tradition by producing its own version of the sweet wine-based libation - a fixture at Christmas and formal dining occasions.

Blending damsons from its orchards in Leavening, near Malton with the fortified wine created exclusively in the Douro valley in Portugal, Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods has created the first British-made port.

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Wine buffs have been so impressed with the first several thousand litres the firm has bottled that the drink became one of only 153 products nationally out of 10,000 entered to land a hat-trick of gold stars at the 2014 Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Foods.

The competition's judges, who include food and drink critics Nigel Barden and Charles Campion, said Raisthorpe Manor’s port - which has undergone three years of testing - had "a gorgeous deep damson shade, lovely aromas of fruit skin with a hint of damson stone".

They continued, "the palate is fabulous - pure, clear, simple in the sense of having great fruit clarity, yet complex from the hint of fruit stone.

"A wonderful balance of sweetness - just enough to carry the fruit flavours through to a glorious finish."

Farmer's wife Julia Medforth, who launched the firm in 2008, said while the wine base for the drink was imported, she had intended to capture an essence of the county in a bottle.

She said: “We pride ourselves on sourcing ingredients from the farms, fields and hedgerows in and around our 1,500 acre estate, including sloes, damsons and raspberries.

"Because our product is packed full of fresh fruit, each batch can change minutely from season to season given different weather conditions, but we feel this brings the drinks alive in a way that fresh produce can only do – and we’re delighted the Great Taste judges felt the same."

Port factfile

* The Douro valley, where port wine, which has an alcohol content of 19 to 23 per cent, was produced was established as a protected region in 1756, making it the world's oldest defined wine region.

* The popularity of port in England soared following the Methuen Treaty in 1703, allowing merchants to import it at a third lower duty than French wines.

* Yorkshire wine merchant Baron Joseph Forrester campaigned against fortifying the drink until his boat capsized in 1862 and he drowned, weighed down by his moneybelt.

* Port contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and can help protect against prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and heart disease. Former Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger was given port for gout and is said to have drunk a bottle a day from the age of 14.

* British tradition at formal dinners dictates port should be passed to the left and for the bottle or decanter not to touch the table. If a diner fails to pass the port, others at the table may ask them "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?".