What is Port Wine? Learn More About Port Styles, History and What to Pair it With
Port received its name from the sea-city of Porto located at the mouth of the Duoro river where the wines were sold at markets and where it was exported to other European countries. Port, by definition, must come from the Duoro region of Portugal. There are many Port-style wines from all over the world, but they're not allowed to use the name designation. A 1756 declaration made the Douro region one of the world's oldest, delineated grape growing regions.
All port wines require fortification - the process of adding a distilled grape spirit to the fermenting grapes which stops fermentation thus creating a sweet wine with higher alcohol percentages due to the addition of the distilled grape spirit. The typical ABV is 17 - 20%.
According to bygone texts, port was invented out of necessity. Great Britain was at war with France (one of several that would affect the wine industry) so the Brits decided to purchase their wines from Portugal instead of their usual orders from France. Portuguese vintners decided to fortify their wines to survive the boat trek overseas. Thanks to necessity being the mother of invention we have this tremendous sipper.
Over 100 varietals are allowed for production but 5 grapes have gained favor with winemakers. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Cao, and Tinta Barroca make up the vast majority of production with Touriga Nacional being the most coveted.
Fresh and fruity. Typically aged around 2 years in wood with further aging in bottle to retain freshness characteristics. This style is amazing as a floater on top of a New York Sour cocktail as well. Pairing - chocolate cake, berry-based desserts, and blue cheese. Serve at 55-60 degrees.
Aged in small wooden casks. Tawny will exude nutty, caramel, and toffee flavors due to the extra oak aging (in comparison to ruby) and small oxidation levels. It's not untypical to see 10 - 40+ year old tawny port. Pairing - nuts, creme brulee, and apple pie. Serve at 55-60 degrees.
Made in a single season in only the best years (similar to Champagne). Ageabilty and ideal growing conditions define this style. Pairing - dark chocolate, strong cheeses but stunning as a solo sipper. Serve at 55 - 60 degrees.
Made from white grapes such as Malvasia and Moscatel among others. Much less common than a ruby and tawny. Bright, acidic, and stellar as an aperitif. Pairing - foie gras, pates, and seafood. Serve at 45 - 50 degrees.
What Pairs Well With Port?
Port wine pairs perfectly with luscious and flavorful cheeses (think blue cheese and strong smelling cheeses), rich chocolate, salted and smoked nuts, or even sweet-smoky meats. Whether you’re creating a complex meal or a simple dish, Port wine is both useful in the kitchen and a delightful accompaniment for appetizers and desserts.
Exceptional Producers to Know
Big Hammer Wines
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