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Port – the Wine that is Easy to Love

Port or Vinho do PortoPort or Vinho do Porto is a fortified wine produced in northern Portugal’s Douro Valley. This sweet, red wine is known throughout the world simply as Port, and it is a wine that is extremely easy to love – even for beginners.

The Making of Port

Port can be made from a wide variety of grapes, but the five most widely cultivated varieties are Tempranillo, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga Nacional. Of these five, Touriga Nacional is considered the best grape for Port.

Port is one of the many wines that are fortified. This means brandy or some other grape spirit is added to the midstream during the fermentation process. This allows the wine to retain the original flavor and sweetness of the grape so that each sip is smooth, round, and rich. Once the wine has been fortified, it is stored and allowed to age in oak barrels.

Port ages well and it continues to improve with time, wherever it is stored. As it ages in the vat, the cask, or the bottle, it loses some of its firm tannins and fruity flavors, but it acquires a mellow smoothness.

Port is produced in the Douro valley, the oldest protected and demarcated wine region in the world. This area was defined and declared protected in 1756, and some of the wine produced in Nacional, an area within the Douro Valley, count among the most expensive vintage Ports.

Epicurious mentions this extensively in The Story Behind Portugal’s Most Famous Export. , “The jewel in the crown, these can only be labeled as such when the year they were produced is declared vintage by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto. Comprising only 2 to 3 percent of all port production, it’s a blend of grapes from just that year and only the finest vineyards…”

Epicurious has identified certain years as vintage years for Port; the Port produced during those years are extraordinary, Outstanding declared vintage years include 1955, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2003.” 

The Magic of Port

The love for Port has been around for a long, long time. During the Regency and the Edwardian era, it was customary for men to enjoy cigars and a glass of this wine after dinner.

This wine has retained its appeal to the present. As Taylor’s Port Wine puts it, much of Port’s charm lies not only in the way it suits just about every palate; it is also very versatile.

One of the fascinating aspects of Port wine is its variety ofdifferent styles, each with its own characteristic flavours, from the intense berry fruit flavours of a Reserve or a Late Bottled Vintage to the rich mellowness of an Aged Tawny or the sublime complexity of a Vintage Port. More than any other wine, Port offers endless opportunities for pairing with food…”

Pairing Port with Food

Tracy Byrnes, of Fox News has enthusiastically said that Port wine is a “brownie’s best friend”.

She says, “Traditionally it is served towards the end of the meal with cheese, as a dessert wine or as an after dinner drink although some styles, like white Port, can also be enjoyed as an aperitif. Many creative chefs also enjoy pairing Port wine with main dishes and it is one of the best wines to enjoy with chocolate or a fine cigar. Port is regarded as one of the most civilized and sociable of wines which will help to make any occasion special, whether a quiet evening by the fireside, an informal gathering of friends or a sophisticated formal meal…”

In a post entitled “6 Classic Perfect Pairings with Wine”, Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly lists a piece of Stilton paired with Fonseca Ruby Port as a truly perfect pairing, one that is so right it will send thoughts of a diet right out of the window.

Fionna Beckett and other wine lovers have their own lists of other foods that would go well with Port.  As the world continues to favor this old favorite, more and more pairings will surely be added.

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