Let’s start February off with a simple question:
Good morning, Mr. Ferdinand,
What is a Port wine?
Thank you, Jacques, for your brevity. Let’s get down to business!
Ports are an underrated, very particular type of wine made in the Douro Valley, Portugal. Personally, Jacques, I think Port is a miracle. These grapes have been through a lot, as Portugal’s climate can be unforgiving for vines—whether it’s the wild temperature swings between seasons, or the way vines need to be forced as far as 26 feet deep in their search for water (in certain areas, like the Baix Corgo region).
Because of these different terroirs, there is a spectacular range in the country’s Port wines. What makes them similar, however, is not just their origination in Douro Valley. No, Jacques, Port wines are bound by their creation process. See, Port wines are fortified. This means that after the grapes have been crushed and fermented, the small farms of Douro add a neutral spirit to the wine, which adds more alcohol to the beverage, sure—but more importantly, it acts as a natural preservative, killing the remaining yeast and leaving residual sugar in the juice.
What does that mean for us, the drinkers? Well, it means that Ports last longer. You can enjoy a glass after dinner one night, then enjoy another glass weeks later—from the same bottle.
Ports are usually reserved for a post-dinner pairing with dessert—or maybe as a pre-dinner apéritif. The good thing about Port is its variety. They can be tannic, fruit-forward, nutty, red, white—there’s really no limit with a Port. Although you may only see the lower-priced, fruit-forward reds, Jacques, know that if you look harder at your local shops, you’ll be able to spot the finer, better aged alternatives. And, better yet, if you have an occasion in mind—say, tasting fine cheeses—you can find a sweet Port that provides the perfect complement.
Take advantage of Port’s natural varieties and find the wine perfect for your evening, Jacques! And although I am a table wine purist, I must recommend using a sweet Port in a wine cocktail. If you’re going to be mixing wine in with other ingredients, Port might just be the one!
Keep your questions coming in, folks. Until next week!
-Sommelier Ferdinand. 01.02.22
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