Today I read a report that during lockdown, sales of Port have been unusually high for this time of year. In the UK we usually drink these delicious fortified stunners at Christmas time. At Seven Cellars, we can concur with the report - we have also noticed that we have sold more port than we usually would at this time of year I've been wondering why? Perhaps it's because it's sweet and comforting in these worrying times and reminds us of times spent with family? I don't know but it was with this in mind, (for the Port drinkers in the lockdown house), I thought I'd run through the difference in style and a little general information about Port.
Port - also known as Vinho do Porto is often enjoyed after dinner because it is rich and sweet with flavours of blackberry, raspberry and chocolate and cinnamon. I love this style of wine and have often shared a bottle with my brother, Steve over the Christmas festivities. It is delicious, and comes in a variety of styles including red, white and even rose - as well as Tawny.
Two styles are the most popular - Red - with berry flavours and Tawny which has a sweeter, nuttier and more caramelised flavour profile.
Port is categorised thus:
Ruby - This is red and this style includes Vintage, Reserve, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Crusted and also the least expensive Ruby Port.
Tawny - Sweet and aged with the classic nutty, caramel complexity of flavours.
White - Invented in the 1930's and made with indigenous Portuguese white grapes, and in a variety of styles - ordinary ones can make a fantastic ingredient in a variety of cocktails, and sweet white port with tonic is often the drink of choice in cafes and bars in Porto.
Rose - A newer style of port wine with lighter flavours of strawberry and caramel.
Port makes use of some fabulous Portuguese grape varieties including Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga National and many, many others (over 50 different ones in fact!). The grapes are taken from the vineyards in the Douro Valley along the river Douro towards the wonderful city of Porto to the famous old port houses, that you can see for yourself if you ever take the opportunity to visit. As well as being a stunningly beautiful region, Port can only be made in the Douro Valley - it's the oldest demarcated winemaking region in the world and means it is subject to rigorous standards and guidelines.
Port is made by firstly making a wine, and then halting the fermentation with the addition of a spirit. This leaves the resulting wine sweet because the sugars have not been fermented out of the final juice. The fortified port is then aged in oak barrels.
Port became a big hit with British drinkers in the 1700's when a restriction on the sale of French wine was implemented. It was discovered that fortifying the red wines of Portugal with brandy, a stronger sweeter flavour was the result. The fortification was necessary to prevent the wines from spoiling on the long crossing from Portugal to Britain.
Did you know that when port is being served at formal dinners it must be passed to the left? Traditionally the bottle shouldn't touch the table on the way round either, and, if a guest lingers and does not pass the port - other diners should ask the question " Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" This politely tells the port procrastinator to jolly well get on with passing the port - and also gives the fellow diners to reply "Yes, he's a terribly good fellow, but he always forgets to pass the port".
Please let me know if you have any questions about Port in the comments section below. I'll do my best to get back to you. Next time you're in the shop and you fancy a desert wine, why not opt for a delicious glass of port.