When planning the founding of our company, we had an idea of concentrating mainly on bubbly. What a surprise! We had identified a gap in the market here in the Nordics for high quality sparkling wine other than Champagne, and a base of consumers, who were increasingly curious about these wines. Maybe it was Christmas coming with dark, candle-light evenings calling for something different than a fresh bubbly, but soon ideas started flying around to include some other categories of wines, like “interesting” reds and also Port wine. Then a friend of us from Denmark introduced us to Luisa de Borges, a young and passionate winemaker from Viera de Sousa wines, and we suddenly found ourselves, arranging for boxes and boxes of Port wine from Portugal.
Port wine was a new area for both of us. Yes, we have both tried Ports before, but I at least didn’t know much about them. What is Port? How is it produced? And most important, what kind of food could it be paired with? We thought that it would be wise to take a deep-dive into the subject. So where else to start these days but google, and so we started surfing to find out more about it. Here is what we found out:
Port is a fortified wine, a wine to which a neutral grape spirit, similar to brandy is added, and it originates in Portugal. Port has been produced in the Douro Valley region for centuries. It’s typically enjoyed as a dessert wine, but there are countries which serve it as an aperitif or choose to use it for cooking. It pairs beautifully with a variety of dessert dishes and cheese. Port ranges between 19-21% in alcohol.
There are two main types of Port; wood-aged and bottle-aged, with many sub-categories of each. To keep it simple, the Port types have been broken down into white port, ruby port, tawny port and Garrafeira port. While most use the same type of grapes, the way in which they are selected, vinified, stored, and aged are very different. The five key grapes used for the majority of Port types are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão (Completely new grapes to me). Of course there are many other grapes that can be added to the blend and each grape adds a unique touch to the wine. Port,like any other wine, changes and develops with age. So you can store them (in the right conditions) and have some beautiful vintages to enjoy after some years of patience.
Some pros and cons of Port I have thought of along the way. Port is quite a strong wine, so finishing a bottle is not something at least I would do very easily. In a household of two, its requires a larger group of friends to open one of those beautiful Vintage Ports, that are at their best only for a few days after opening. However, some Ports, like Tawny Port, can keep its quality up to several months after opening (if stored correctly); so that’s kind of nice, sipping through a bottle during Christmas holidays as a dessert. Another feature that requires some work is the decanting of Ports. Some Ports, not all, require decanting before you can serve them. Bottle aged Ports have the dead yeast (“sediment”) left inside, and that is something you really don’t want to drink. There is a lot of writing about the rituals of decanting port, but it really doesn’t need to be a complicated process. It just requires a small effort. Here is a link to some good instructions I found. Last but not least, Ports, especially young Vintage Ports, require some airing before they reach their prime, and that can be up to 12 hours. So if you want to get the most out of your Port, it’s an event you should plan for. Port is not an entirely spontaneous drink.
This was just a scratch on the surface of Ports. If you are interested in reading some more, I found a pretty good site I would recommend to visit, here is a link for For the Love of Port. Let’s see where this road leads to. But for now, we are planning a trip to Portugal to meet Luisa and see her wonderful vineyards. Perhaps, if we are lucky, her ports will be available through The Winecurious for purchase in 2015.