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Port Calling

Port Calling

Port you say? What many generations of people used to embrace is now becoming less dominate in the American food scene. You capture a glimpse of it on the after dinner drink menu or in Grandma's shopping cart on Wednesday afternoons. Like fashion, wine trends may come and go, Port however paved the way for the fortified wine category. It still remains as one of the most iconic and recognizable wines in the same context as Bordeaux and Sherry. 

Port "styled" wines can be made around the world, however real Port is made in the Douro Valley in Portugal, named after their famous town of Porto. Much similar to the term "Champagne" or "Sherry" the term is protected by the EU legislation. 

What is Port?

Port is a sweet, red, fortified wine from Portugal produced from grapes grown in the Douro region. The styles range from Red, White, Rosé and from semi-dry to sweet to luscious. Over a hundred varieties of grapes are sanctioned for Port production although only five are widely planted and used. They are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional. 

What makes it sweet?

They don't add sugar to the wine to make it sweet. The addition of neutral grape spirit stops the fermentation process in the wine, leaving residual sugar in the wine. 

How is Port made?

After harvest, port is traditionally fermented in lagars where people stomp grapes with their feet while the wine ferments. Today, most Port wineries use automatic lagars to "stomp" the grapes. The juice is stored and aged often in barrels and bottled depending on the style the winery is trying to achieve.

The Different Styles

Ruby Port

Deep color red Port which is the least expensive to produce. After fermentation, the wine is stored in tanks made of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative aging and preserve the color. This style is meant to be drunk young and not suitable for aging.

Tawny Port

Barrel aged Port with oxidative, nutty and caramel flavors. They can achieve a mellow golden brown color. Tawny can be made without indication of age or with an age indication showing the nominal years in wood stated on the label. The categories are 10, 20, 30 and over 40 years. 

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

Ports that are bottled four to six years after the vintage date. This provides convenience and access to a Vintage styled Port without the waiting. Typically ready to drink upon release.

Vintage Port

This is made entirely from the best grapes of a declared year (which is not always declared). Vintage Ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of 2.5 years before bottling and require another ten to forty years of aging in the bottle before drinking age. With minimal exposure to the barrel, the wine retains the dark color and fresh fruit flavors. These wines gain complexity and drink very nicely for many years after they are bottled. We recommend two from our selection: Martinez Vintage Port 1991 and Quinta da Romaneira 1987 


One of the great things about enjoying Port is that the wine will keep fresh for 2-4 weeks if kept in a cool dark place. Port is also food friendly and does not only have to be a dessert drink. So get inspired and try a few pairings yourself before Grandma does.

Famous Pairings

-Gouda, pecorino and comte cheese with Tawny Port

-Stilton, roquefort, gorgonzola cheese with Vintage Port

-Grilled sardines with blue cheese in phyllo tartlette 

-Sea scallops with bacon

-Grilled duck breast with fig glaze

-Smoked pork shoulder or leg of lamb with mole poblano

-Chocolate torte

 Contributed by Monica Yu, Assistant Wine Buyer for Plume Ridge Bottle Shop.

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