My Love Affair With Port Wine
You probably know that I started working in the world of wines in a Port Wine speciality store. Before I share some facts and news about this wine, I want to tell you a little about my love affair with Port wine over the last twenty-four years.
The shop located in the village of Sintra, where I started working on August 1st 1997, was the place that allowed me to meet such fantastic people. Clients, winemakers, journalists - many I keep in my heart, even if they were brief encounters, others became friends forever.
There I realized the importance of educating the customer so that they can enjoy the best Port Wine and have a unique experience. The storage, serving temperature, glassware - all these aspects together with the food pairing are very important.
Training courses, wine dinners and wine tastings were part of the calendar of events that we organized regularly. It was busy times!
When I started working as an independent Sommelier (2004) I kept with my love - Port Wine. And for many corporate clients I hosted (or lead) presentations and tastings that included the ritual of opening a bottle of Vintage Port Wine with tongs. It was usually the "wow" moment of the event.
So when I received an invitation in 2018 from the Institute of Douro and Port Wines (IVDP) to join the first group of students of the Certified Port Educator program, I didn't think twice. Off I went to Porto for a week of immersion in Port Wines.
And behold, a few months later I received a letter from the Confraria do Vinho do Porto informing me of my enthronement in June 2019.
It was a night where I must admit that I was a little nervous...
I had arrived in Porto a couple of hours earlier, just in time to check in at the hotel. And after a long ceremony, the high heels did nothing to help me on my procession walk from the Palácio da Bolsa to the building of the Alfandega do Porto.
A lot of protocol and rituals later, as one would want in a situation like this, with speeches made to measure. But the dance after the dinner was one of the most fun nights in my life.
Port Wine is a bit like the enthronement ceremony – tradition and rules, however in the end it’s necessary to dance.
Now read on...
Port Wine tradition
Port Wine as we know it today, rich in alcoholic and sweet, was tailored to the taste of its main consumers, the British in the mid-18th century. Before, it was a dry wine that underwent an addition of fine brandy directly in the barrels before they were shipped for export.
Today, the winemaking method consists of adding fine brandy during the fermentation process, which stops it immediately. That is why Port Wine is called a fortified wine and is rich in alcohol (19-22% vol) having residual sugar too.
A friendly reminder that fermentation is nothing more than the process of transforming the sugars present in the grape berries into alcohol, by the yeasts.
The rules of Port Wine
The classification of the vines and where the wine ages will provide “raw material” for a wide range of styles of Port Wine, whether red or white. Since 2008 there is also rosé Port Wine! And other new varieties are on their way...
Port Wine is always a blended wine, made from many kinds of grape varieties, coming from a estate or several located in the Douro Denomination of Origin since 1756.
Most Port Wines do not have the vintage year on the label, so what you will find in a bottle of Ruby, 20 Years Old Tawny or a White Reserve is a blend of several vintages.
Here, it’s important for the winemaker to master the art of making batches, seeking in each production/bottling to create the style of the intended Port, as well as maintaining the style of the producing house.
Some companies continue to delegate this task to the "adegueiro", that is, the person in charge of the winery who knows each barrel and its contents like no one else.
Like any other wine, Port Wines undergo IVDP approval and certification before bottling. The traditional seal that attests to the authenticity and quality is around the neck of the bottle, passing over the cork stopper. However, it is also likely that you’ll find the seal on the back label of some bottles as well.
Shall we dance?
A few weeks ago a challenge arrived from the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, they asked me to share how I drink Port Wine during summer. I replied:
At the end of the afternoon, when dinner is still a few hours away, a white Port Wine with tonic water. Not only is it refreshing but stimulating for the stomach. Also it gives me an “excuse” to take a break and catch up on some reading.
Here's the Port & Tonic recipe:
1/3 Extra-dry White Port
2/3 Tonic Water
Half a slice of lemon
Use a tall glass, mix the wine and the tonic water, add some ice and the lemon on top.
My recommendation, if you don't like acidic and bitter flavors, choose a Fine White (sweet) Port instead.
For a few months now I haven't had to worry about having all the ingredients at home… or even less, about being at home! Now there's Port Tonic in a can, ready to drink anytime, anywhere. So now it's just a matter of saying - take a Port Wine with you, wherever you go!