At Christmas we drink (more) Port Wine
At your Christmas table, whether at a Christmas Eve or lunch, don't miss out on the presence of one (or several) bottles of Port wine. Most Christmas sweets go well with Port wine, not to mention cheeses, a regular presence at the table during these days.
Today you’ll travel around several countries and their Christmas sweets, learn some recipes including Cocktails and how to enjoy and pair them with Port Wine.
Caution! Reading this article can cause uncontrollable cravings for a slice (or two) of Bolo-Rei and, for sure, a glass of Port.
Let's start with a classic - English Stilton
English Stilton cheese is a must at the table at this time of year in UK, and is always served with young Vintage Port. Around here, a Serra cheese is nothing short of it!
The sweet and fruity wine with the intense flavors of the cheese, obviously a “marriage” of opposites (sweet/salty) works wonderfully.
The creamy and spicy touch of the blue cheese supports the intense fruit of a young Vintage, sometimes with a vinous character. Avoid hard cheeses.
At the Wine & Cheese Masterclass of last month, I talked about a recipe I usually make and I want to share it with you here too. It's easy and delicious at any time of year.
Grapes stuffed with cheese
Cut black grapes in half and remove the seeds
Make a creamy paste q.b. with Stilton cheese (or any other blue cheese), butter and add a little Ruby Port until you have the desired consistency.
Fill the holes left by the seeds with the cheese paste and close the grapes once more.
Use leftover paste and make a "sandwich"
Chill the grapes in a fridge before serving (I usually do it the day before)
Enjoy with a glass of Porto (Ruby Reserve, Crusted, LBV or Vintage).
Christmas is synonymous with a table full of sweets! Before we dive into traditional Portuguese sweets, we’ll visit some other countries first.
Let's start off once more in England, for were it not the English who were responsible for the style of fortified and sweet wine that is today's Port Wine.
In her Majesty's Lands, at Christmas they have the famous Christmas Pudding and the classic Mince Pie. Both are delicious with a Tawny Port, preferably a 10 or 20 Years Old. The flavors of dried fruits and spices are present, both in the desserts referred to and in the Port wines of this style (congruent pairing).
In France, the classic and elegant Bûche de Noel, a cake imitating a stem, covered in chocolate and filled with fruit compote, certainly goes well with a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port.
Chocolate rich in cocoa and also in tannins, like wine, calls for the freshness of a young Port wine, with a vinous character.
In the North of Europe region Christmas without Gingerbread is not Christmas. There is a whole tradition of biscuits where the flavors of ginger and cinnamon dominate. To accompany it, I personally prefer a White Port, a Reserve or a 10 Year (Old Port).
But should you choose a Tawny, a Reserve or a 10 Year Port, you’ll have made an equally happy choice in your pairing. My preference is the White Port because usually these kind of biscuits are too sweet and the White Port wine is less sweet than the Tawny.
For Port Wine to express itself in aroma/flavor, drink in a large glass, forget about squat or “liqueur” glasses. Use a glass of white wine.
In Italy, Panettone has distinguished honors very similar to our Portuguese Bolo-rei, and just like it, it has a wide range of interpretations.
For today, I’ll refer to the classic Milano Panettone, which takes up to three days to be made.
The base mass contains honey to which several dried fruits are added plus candied orange peel… and yes, you guessed it, a Tawny Port is the perfect combination.
A 20 or 30 Years Old or even a Colheita (dated Tawny).
In Denmark the Christmas Day sweet is Risalamande, a type of rice pudding. Slightly different from the Portuguese version, Risalamande uses cream, chopped almonds and zero cinnamon. Accompanying it with a Porto Tawny Reserve will be a delight.
Interestingly, a single almond is placed whole in Risalamande. Anyone who finds it on their plate receives a gift.
At what temperature should you drink your Port Wine?
Whites: 5-8 °C Tawny and White Style | Oxidative Aging: 8-12 °C Ruby Style | With body: 12-16 ºC
In the southern hemisphere in New Zealand at this time of year they eat Pavlova.
A meringue base, covered with whipped cream and fruit, it’s a light texture "cake" with the acidity of the fruit contrasting the sweetness. Here the type of fruit will dictate the Port Wine.
Follow the color rule…
Yellow or orange fruits (pineapple, orange, mango) choose a Fine White Port or treat yourself to a Port Lágrima (also white).
If the Pavlova is served with wild fruits and berries (black, blue, red), any Port with an equally dark color (Ruby, Ruby Reserve) will be a fantastic pairing.
Cocktails with Port Wine?!
You can and should innovate with Port wine! Some classic Winter Cocktails are Port Flip with an egg yolk, Port Toddy, a New York classic, but in this version, Port Wine replaces Whisky.
Personally, I like warm Egg Nog or a simple hot cocoa. Both with a “nice” dose of Port, they’re almost like a liquid dessert. Besides that it’s practical, as you can prepare a large amount before guests arrive at your house. You just have to keep it warm.
However, if you prefer cold drinks, this Christmas make a splash with a Rosé Port Wine Punch to welcome your family and friends with.
There’s a good chance that it’s winter where you’re reading this, and it might even be snowing. Regardless of the temperature outside, an Aperitif drink should always be served cold.
1 part Rosé port wine 1 part pomegranate juice ½ part raw natural Sparkling wine Sliced strawberries and other red fruits Mint leaves qb.
Mix it all together in a large salad bowl, if you don't have a punch bowl, and stir.
Serve in small glass mugs or cups.
Finally, if you think that the Christmas desserts table is incomplete with the Bolo-rei, the Broas, the Rabanadas, the Sonhos, the Filhoses, the sponge cake (Pão de Ló), the Azevias de Grão, the Aletria Doce or the Formigos, then you can still add an egg pudding (Pudim de Ovos) and a few more bottles of Port Wine.
I admit that all the desserts described above are very well accompanied by a Port aged in wood, in other words, the Tawnies. Or Whites with indication of age, especially for those desserts that are fried and without cinnamon.
Actually, for some, Port Wine is even one of the ingredients.
If you prefer Rubies, that's fine. In the end, it doesn't matter which one you drink, as long as it's served at a cool temperature, in a glass of white wine and in the company of family and friends.