Winter is dragging out and it seems forever until spring warms up the days. However, this is an excellent time to explore winter friendly wines such as the greatly underrated Port.
Port is a wine that has been fortified with brandy, which results in a wine with about 18 to 20 percent alcohol. Port is quite full bodied and fruity so the resulting wine is well balanced.
Port hails from Portugal, but many other countries produce Port style wines such as Australia, South Africa and Canada. The real Port has the consistent flavours and quality that wine lovers look for in a fortified wine.
The production of Port is an interesting process. Port is a blended wine made from grapes that are indigenous to Portugal. These include Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional , not exactly household names but excellent for Port production because the berries are small and full of sweet and concentrated flavours.
The grapes are fermented for a short period of time and then the fermentation is halted by the addition of brandy which kills off the yeast and halts the process. The aging of Port is very important as it needs time to properly knit together to make a smooth and concentrated wine. The wine can be aged in large barrels for a long period of time resulting in a style of Port called Tawny. If the majority of time is spent in the bottle, the resulting style is named Ruby. Tawny Ports are lighter in colour almost like a copper or light orange and exhibit flavours and aromas of dried fruits, raisins and nuts. Ruby Ports are very dark red in colour and show blackberry, plum and spicy flavours.
Ports are a very versatile dessert wine. Chocolate and Ruby Port is a match made in heaven. Any sweet desserts can be paired with Tawny or Ruby Port. Ports can also match quite well with strong and hard cheeses, especially blue or green veined cheeses such as Stilton or Gorgonzola.
Since Port is a wine high in alcohol and sweetness the usual serving size is about three ounces. The good news is Port is available by the half bottle of 375 ml, so it is ideal for a dinner party of four guests. A good port in the smaller bottle should not cost more than $22 to $30.
I have reviewed a few Ports below that are widely available in BC.
One of my favourite styles of Port is Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) Port. It packs the most punch for the dollar. The Fonseca LBV is available in the 375 ml bottle and displays, black cherry, prune, dark olive and clove flavours. It is nicely balanced with a refreshing sense of acidity on the finish to counteract the sweetness.
Fonseca also produces a tawny Port in the smaller bottle. The Fonseca 10 Year Old Tawny has all the hallmarks of a classic tawny. Ripe silky raisin fruit with golden brown sugar and Christmas cake spice. The finish is long and extremely pleasant. This is an excellent way to end a meal.
Rounding out the 375 ml selection is a ruby Port. Graham Six Grapes Vintage Character is loaded with plum, cherry and spicy tobacco flavours. Generous fruit in the mouth leads to a nicely balanced and warm finish.
The next time you create a special meal for friends or family don’t forget to add a splash of Port to the ending of the meal. Your guests will leave with a smile on their faces!