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Looking For Something Different And Sophisticated?
Try Port Wine
Trying new wines is always fun; there are fabulous red wines like Shiraz, Tempranillo, Malbec and Merlot that are always lovely to drink, and there are some great white wines like Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Vinho Verde that are the perfect accompaniment for creamy and spicy dishes. Rosé wines are an absolute delight any time of the year.
But what do you do when you get a little bit bored of drinking wine? Beer might not be your thing, and cocktails may be a little too “fluffy” for your liking, and maybe you think that after-dinner liqueurs aren’t right for you. So what should you try to expand your knowledge of alcoholic beverages?
Well, the solution may be to look to the past and see what your grandparents would have after a nice fancy meal with friends. Drinks that we may think of as bit stodgy and old-fashioned are making a big comeback and many people are enjoying these drinks again. Fortified wines are becoming popular on fine restaurant and bar menus; Sherry, Madeira and that old staple, Port wine, are all basking in the limelight. If you’ve never tried a fortified wine before, then Port wine will probably be a great wine to start with. Here is everything you need to know about one of Portugal’s most famous products.
Port wine or Porto, which is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley of Portugal, is a fortified wine. Fortified wine is a wine to which brandy or another distilled beverage has been added. Usually it is a sweet red wine that is served after a meal as a dessert or along with a dessert. Although most of the varieties on the market are sweet, it can also be dry or semi-dry. Furthermore, there are white ports available on the market that are also very good and make for a nice change.
Port-style wines are also produced in other countries; however, only bottles from Portugal are labeled with the words “Dão”, “Oporto”, “Porto”, and “Vinho do Porto”. Port-style wines from elsewhere will only be labeled as “Port” wine.
Port wine is made from grapes that are only grown and processed in the demarcated Douro river region. In order to stop fermentation at the appropriate time to keep the sweetness level high, a spirit called aguardente is added; it must be noted here that that aguardente is not brandy; it is a neutral grape spirit. The spirit bears no resemblance to commercial brandy at all. The wine is then put into barrels and aged in cellars, which are called caves. The wine, after aging, was then brought to the mouth of the Douro River, the city of Porto. From here, the wine was exported, and the wine was named after the seaport city.
The Douro river region is the oldest regulated and demarcated wine region in the world; the microclimate on the hillsides makes the area perfect for the cultivation of grape, almonds, and olives. Some of the most picturesque areas along the Douro River also happen to be the most productive: São João da Pesqueira and Pinhão feature farms that cling to incredibly steep slopes that seem to drop off into the river. A favorite spot for many tourists who visit the area is the small city of Régua which is very beautiful.
There are more than one hundred varieties of grapes that are allowed to be used in the production of port wine; however, most producers stick to the five most common ones, which are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (also known in Spain as Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. The most desirable of the five grapes is the Touriga Nacional, but it is very hard to cultivate and produces small yields. White ports are made with Donzelinho Branco, Esgana-Cão, Folgasão, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho. The most expensive Port wines come from the Quinta do Noval area.
Common Types of Port Wine
Ruby Port is the least expensive port wine on the market. The wine is usually stored in stainless steel tanks before bottling in order for it to keep its characteristic deep red color. It doesn’t improve with age.
Tawny Port is Port wine that has been aged in wooden barrels in order to oxidize and evaporate somewhat. The flavor mellows, and the color changes to a golden brown. Tawny Port is characterized by a nutty, sweet taste; in sweet or medium-dry versions Tawny Port is usually consumed as a dessert wine. If the age of the wine is not indicated on the label, the wine has been aged for two years in the wooden barrels.
Crusted Port For those who can’t afford a Vintage Port (which are the most expensive), a Crusted Port is of higher quality than a Tawny Port and is will give an aficionado a good idea of what a vintage will taste like. A blend of various vintages, the wine is bottled unfiltered and sealed with a cork that is driven. It must be decanted before drinking. Crusted Port improves with age, and the date on the label refers to the date the wine was bottled, not the date of the harvest. This version of Port wine must be aged in the bottle for three years before it is allowed to be sold. It can be consumed immediately after purchase if one so desires because most sellers will let the bottles age in their shop cellars for an additional amount of time before selling.
Vintage Port This style of Port is made entirely with grapes of a single declared vintage year; Vintage ports only account for 2 percent of all Port wine production in Portugal. Vintage however, is not declared every year in the Douro Region and every port house declares their own vintages. Some port houses will declare every year except for disastrous years as vintage, while the more conventional houses will generally only declare 3 vintages every ten years. Vintage Port wines must be aged for at least 2 and a half years in wooden barrels; the wine must further be aged for a minimum of ten years in the bottle. The most expensive Vintage Port wines need to be aged for at least 40 years.
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