The secrets of wine from Porto
Written by: Petr Tůma
Port wine has a robust to extravagant
flavor, which is based on the juice from red grapes stabilized
with alcohol. The first taste may cause uncertainty, but when you
succumb to it - what a delight!
Port is much, much stronger than table wine, so you sip it slowly.
You savor it drop by drop like cough medicine. After you recork an
open bottle, you can enjoy its contents for weeks, even months. Thanks
to this unusual property, port is a companion that every household
should have, maybe only because you can offer it to unexpected visitors.
Port wine was born in the 17th century, literally out of necessity.
Putting it politely, the British were angry with their French neighbors,
who were being coy about exporting wines from Bordeaux, so the British
appealed to the Portuguese royalty. On the slopes around the Douro
river they discovered an "extraordinarily smooth potion" and
in exchange for it they promised the Portuguese help against an expanded
Spain and regular deliveries of high-quality fabrics. But during
transport the contents of the kegs started going bad in the hot holds
of sailboats...so sailors poured in brandy to stabilize it. These
days, a bottle of nearly 80% alcohol not only stops the fermentation,
it also maintains the natural sugar, resulting in a sweet, fortified
wine with 18 to 22% alcohol content to which table wine, at 11% to
13%, can't hold a candle.
There are a surprising number of port types, which you best become
aware of in the port city of Porto. "Ruby" has the lowest
degree of cultivation, and it exudes a wild, all that much more captivating,
loutishness. The fruity flavor and high alcohol content can leave
you with a really bad headache, so it's safer to drink the more velvety
and balanced "Tawny". You can recognize it by its brownish
red color and nutty, raisin-like flavor, with an occasional note
of vanilla. Like Ruby, it is aged in kegs for three years, but because
of the small size of the kegs it oxidized more quickly and absorbed
more of the kegs's woodiness. You can also encounter Tawny's relative, "Colheita".
This is likewise a high-quality single-vintage wine, but it is aged
in kegs for at least seven years. A step above is LBV, or Late Bottled
Vintage, bottled in the fourth to seventh year after the harvest,
and it can be either filtered or mature after it has been corked.
And finally there is "Vintage". Its exceptionality starts
with the fact that it is produced only in extraordinarily successful
seasons and continues with permits for its production having to be
under the aegis of the Vinho do Porto institute. Vintage is bottled
between the 2nd and 3rd year after harvest, without filtration, and
it's immediately taken to dark cellars with controlled humidity and
temperature, where it can spend dozens of years in monkish meditation.
Just as people mature with age, this wine also becomes balanced and
smooth with time. In the meantime, the sediment settles in the bottles,
so it must be properly decanted after opening, a great ritual in
and of itself. It is Vintage that attracts wine aficionados who can
speak and write about it with passion until they're completely drunk.
The author is the deputy
editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine.
Photo: Věroslav Sixt
If you're entertaining cocktail lovers, or just feeling a
bit James Bond-ish, this 500 ml stainless steel shaker will
come in handy. Price: CZK 1,527
Available at: Blomus, Karlínské nám. 9, Praha 8
Photo: Věroslav Sixt
PORT BLUE LIGHT
Hardly anyone could imagine a white wine called port, and
it didn't even exist until 1934. It was then put on the market
by Taylor's, and today all port producers make it. White
port, which is served in Portugal with lemon and tonic as
an aperitif, also works well in cocktails like the Port Blue
Light. Put 4 cl in a shaker filled with ice, add 3 cl of
brandy and 1 cl of blue curacoa, add a dash of angostura
bitters, and strain into cocktail glasses.
Photographed in cooperation
with hotel Radisson SAS Alcro
Burmester Vintage Port 95
A purple wine with a full bouquet and long persistence.
It has a marmalade aroma of fruits and is imbibed alone
or with matured cheeses. It should be consumed within
24 hours of opening, and must be decanted.
Price: cca 1800 Kč
||Cálem Colheita 1989 Reserve
After at least seven years of aging it achieves the characteristics
of Tawny wines. Its virtue is its lovely aroma and amazing
color. It goes very well with chocolate desserts and fruity
cakes, or chilled with meat dishes.
Price: cca 1340 Kč
Quinta da Seara d'Ordens VINTAGE 2000
Made from grapes processed by traditional foot pressing
in granite tubs, this port goes beautifully with red
meats. It should be served at about 16° C (60° F) and
should be consumed by the second day.
Price: cca 1000 Kč
||Vista Alegre 10 YEARS TAWNY
Its aroma is reminiscent of vanilla, caramel, and honey, and
forms a semi-sweet impression combined with a light dryness
on the palate.
Price: cca 700 Kč
Sandeman Porto White
A white wine aperitif with a dry but with lingering natural
sweetness, and a fruity aroma with a touch of vanilla.
A good base for cocktails.
Price: 330 Kč