Sure, this classic great wine isn't made for a sunny, commuting populace. But that doesn't mean we should ignore one of the world's iconic wines. True Port Wine is meant to be shared, so start sharing!
After attending a private preview of the upcoming releases of 2016 Vintage Ports from all the top port producers, I became even more impassioned over these rare, affordable classic wines. I wondered why we southern Californians couldn't seem to fit them into our personal wine agendas, even once-in-a-while.
Sure, we don't have a cold climate, and Port wine certainly is a delicious fortification against the chill. And after drinking a few bottles of high-alcohol dry wines for dinner with friends, a lot of us are too toasted to add one more.
But never? How can a wine lover go through life without experiencing the joys of true Vintage Port wine--or any other Port, at least now and then?
So here are 10 reasons I came up with to get you to consider working these works of art into your life.
- True Port wine--also called Porto--is one of only a few truly great traditional wines in the world, certainly the equal of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Hermitage, Barolo, German Riesling and Spanish Sherry in terms of complexity and ability to improve with age.
- Port is made in different styles, and most, if not all, Port houses produce a range of styles: tawny port, ruby port, reserve port, crusted port, late-bottled vintage port, single-quinta ports, and Vintage Ports.
- True Port wine comes from a specific place. The grapes--mostly a collection of traditional Portuguese red varieties--are grown in Portugal's picturesque Upper Douro Valley where they are crushed and vinified. The wine is transported downriver to the historic cities of Oporto (hence the name of the wine) and Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river, near where the Douro flows into the Atlantic, where it is selected to age into tawny port, reserve port and in with the best grapes in the best years, Vintage Port. A small amount of white port is made from white grapes.
- Some port wine--mainly white port and young tawnies--can be served chilled, and make delicious aperitifs--before dinner drinks, although most port is much better served at the end of a meal, as a regal coda to a shared experience.
- When those people get to drink quality Porto, their appreciation of Port wine rises dramatically. Almost everyone in the U.S. has had very limited experience with top true port; our low opinions have often been a result of consuming cheap knockoffs or very basic quality ports served in poor condition.
- Vintage Port goes through three stages of life, and all stages provide thrilling experiences. The first is the primary fruit stage, where plush, rich and powerful, fruit-forward aromas and flavors dominate during its first 15 years. The second stage is where the color begins to lighten, tannins soften a bit and secondary scents of spice and caramel begin to assert themselves from 15 to 35 years. The third stage--where vintage port has aged over 35 years--is where the wine continues to evolve, the color losing its purple, going to ruby, then to amber as it ages, and aromas pick up more spice and nutty aromas, and the flavor and texture achieves a silky-smooth, immensely complex, other-worldly deliciousness that declares its greatness alongside the truly great wines of the world.
- Tawny port--especially those that are 20 years and older--are a less expensive way to experience some of the great qualities found in a much older vintage port.
- Since three ounces is considered a serving, there are 8 servings per bottle, enough for everyone at your dinner party to experience the pleasures of port. Older Vintage Port should be consumed in one setting to get the most out of the bottle, as you would with an aged Bordeaux. Wines with a T-top cork enclosure are made so they can be consumed over weeks, and even months.
- Aged Port is still available in the marketplace thanks to the dedication of a handful of remarkable families who continue the traditions of the past, despite resisting more economical and expedient winemaking. Families like the Symingtons and Guimaraens, for example.
- Why wouldn't you want to share something that tastes this amazing with those you want to treat?