The Douro River originates in Spain and flows through northern Portugal’s Douro valley. The valley is famous for its wines, invented by English wine merchants when England started yet another war with France in 1703.
Up to that time, English imprinted and drank Bordeaux wines. When the war started, the supply was exhausted and English wine merchants, looking for a new source discovered Douro Valley, which at the time was producing light and undistinguished wines.
The merchants knew English wine drinkers’ predilection for sweet wines, and fortified the local wine (for the long sailing from Oporto to London) and thus making it sweet.
In short order, Port wine became famous, and to this day England is one of the best markets for this wine.
Portuguese do not drink much Port. For them it is too heavy. The climate being what it is in Portugal, heavy wines take a backseat to lighter and dry wines.
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, people start drinking Port wines when the weather begins to get cold in October, but come December, consumption ports hits its peak, Christmas being the apogee.
White and red Ports are always fortified (17 – 20 per cent ABV).
Of late many quintas (estates) are switching to red table wine production as Port drinkers started to prefer lighter wines both in the Untied Kingdom, and the USA.
The Valley produces approximately 40 million bottles.
There are several categories of Port starting with
White (aromatic, off-dry or sweet)
Ruby (vibrant, aromatic, young)
Vintage character (high quality ruby Port aged a minimum of seven years)
Tawny (may be 5, 10, 20, 30, or 40 years old)
Crusted (not often made these days)
L B V (Late Bottled Vintage)
Vintage Port production represents only two per cent of the total, and may be marketed only if the vintage was outstanding and approved by authorities. Otherwise the wine of a vintage of good quality is aged for a few years and bottled as L B V.
Recently, in preparation for the Festive Season, I had the opportunity to taste several Ports.
The following appealed to my palate:
Sandeman Ruby Port
Brilliant ruby in colour, with aromas of red fruits, plums and strawberries. Well balanced and rich in flavour, strong and inviting.
Pair with strong cream cheeses, chocolate desserts, or fruit pies.
Quinta Do Noval Tawny
A blend of tinta roriz (tempranillo in Spain), touriga francesa, and tinta barocca, is vibrant, and smells of ripe berries. It is smooth, medium sweet with balanced fruit and richness on the palate and finishes well.
This Quinta is considered to be one of the best estates of the Valley.
Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Taylor Fladgate is considered by many Port wine aficionados as one of the best, if not the best of all shippers in the Valley. This tawny represents a superb example of an aged Port, elegant and mellow, combining delicate wood notes with rich aromas of mature fruit. It is a pleasure to sip this wine between meals, or after an extended dinner.
Warre’s Optima 10 Year Old tawny
Rich tawny in colour, with excellent aromas of nuts and mature fruits. On the palate the wine is smooth with hints of dried fruits. Long finish.
L B V 2007 Taylor Fladgate
Aromas of ripe black berries waft out of the glass, along with discreet herbal and mineral character with hints of liquorice. Complex, elegant, powerful and velvety. Log finish.
An excellent value.
Graham’s L B V 2007
Smells of black berries. Sweet and bursting with flavours of black currants, and with a backbone of firm tannins. In teh mouth it is smooth and finishes well.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.