After dinner I often like to relax in front of the fireplace with a nice glass of Port. Out in the woods I actually keep a 25 litre barrel of Port handy just in case of emergencies. You never know when you’ll be snowed in, of course. The other night while enjoying a comforting glass of Port, it reminded me of an article our friend Joe wrote for a newspaper a year ago. I thought it might interest our readers, so here it is. If you haven’t tried Port, talk to our staff – you’ll be forever grateful!
THE WONDERFUL WORLD of WINE
More wine lovers in North America have come to know the pleasure of Port wine in recent years, however, many have yet to experience the unique enjoyment of this great wine.
The cultivation of red wine grapes has been carried out in the valley of the Duoro River in northern Portugal since the Romans introduced it 2000 years ago. The vines are grown on quintas (farms) on steep terraces and the grapes are harvested by hand.
The most celebrated grape from which fine Port is made is the Touriga Nacional, however, it is difficult to cultivate and has small yields. Consequently the Touriga Francesa grape is the most widely grown for fine Ports. Port is a sweet fortified wine, having brandy (distilled grape spirits) added to the fermenting wine prior to the sugar being completely converted. This intensifies the flavour and increases the alcohol content to approximately 20%. The wine is then shipped to the producers’ caves in Vila Nova de Gaia at the mouth of the Duoro River for blending, ageing, bottling and shipping to the world.
The fortifying of red wine in Portugal started in the early 18th century during the British/French wars when England couldn’t obtain French wine so English wine merchants financed the production of Port in Duoro. To this day, many of the original English Port wine companies are still among Portugal’s leading Port wine producers.
Vintage Port is produced from the best wine from a single vineyard and usually declared “Vintage” only in every third or fourth year. It is aged in oak casks for about two years, bottled and requires ten or more years ageing in the bottle to achieve perfection.
Other Ports such as Tawny, Ruby and Late Bottled Vintage are stabilized, filtered and bottled. No ageing takes place in the bottle and they are ready to drink when purchased. Excellent Tawny, Ruby or LBV styles can be crafted at home by wine lovers, from wine juice kits.
Port is usually served with the cheese or dessert course or as an after dinner drink. The British navy and army established a tradition that the Port bottle is passed clockwise from the head of the table until it is empty and should never be recorked. It is not suggested that this tradition be observed if there are only 2 or 3 diners !
Joe Mein at The Home Vintner