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Portugal is shaking up the wine world

December 16, 2014 9:47 am - Posted by Jody in Drink
LISBON, Portugal — The world’s greatest wine region? If you’re thinking Bordeaux, Burgundy or Napa Valley, it may be time to think again. Wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley claimed three of the top four places in Wine Spectator’s 2014 top 100 ranking — including the No. 1 spot awarded to Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port. “It’s been… read more

Port Pointers

August 31, 2011 9:34 am - Posted by Mike and Jeff in Drink

Wine Portfolio Bloggers, Mike and Jeff, interviewed Adrian and Natasha Robertson Bridge on behalf of Wine Enthusiast:

Natasha Robertson Bridge, seventh generation of the Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman line, is the head blender for the Taylor Fladgate Partnership, and her husband, Adrian Bridge, is the group’s CEO. Wine Enthusiast caught up with the first couple of Port, who recently opened the Yeatman Hotel in Porto. Here are highlights from the interview:

Adrian and Natasha Robertson Bridge

Vintage Port vs. LBV Port: “Vintage Port is the very best that we make. It comes from a single year, is bottled after two years and is rare—we make it only three or four times per decade. We came up with the idea of late bottled vintage in 1970. This is a Port from a single year, but by aging it in wood for five or six years, it is ready to drink immediately.” —A.B.

Three brands, three styles: “Taylor Fladgate is lean, firm, racy, muscular, but in a sinewy, elegant way. Fonseca’s style is noted for its expressive, luscious fruitiness, opulence and voluptuousness, and velvety, mouth-filling tannins. Croft is defined by an abundance of rich, plump fruit with a delicious exotic quality and a distinctive herbaceous, spicy character.” —N.R.B.

2009 Vintage Ports: “The 2009 vintage Ports are wines of massive scale and density, with tannin levels and an intensity of color that has not been seen for at least two decades. However, in spite of their inky color and thick, muscular tannins, the 2009s also display a magnificent quality of fruit, crisp acidity and extraordinary complexity. In many ways, these wines represent a return to the vigor and stamina of the iconic vintage Ports of the early 20th century.” —A.B.


Here’s the complete interview with Port power couple, Adrian and Natasha Robertson Bridge:

Wine Enthusiast: Please tell our readers a little about your family history with Taylor Fladgate and what your role is in the company today.
Natasha Bridge: Port has always been a part of my life. I grew up surrounded by the majesty of the Douro vineyards. Initially, I worked in marketing, but as the older generation moved on, I became involved in the blending. In 2007, I was appointed head blender for the group.

WE: What is the difference between a winemaker and a Port blender?
NB:
Making great Port requires a number of different skills. A winemaker is responsible for the complex process in which grapes are transformed into wine. A blender takes those base wines and categorizes them into how they will be aged, for example, for late bottled vintage or aged tawny. After that, the blender becomes the person who accompanies the aging process and who irons out the difference between harvests and the annual weather cycles to produce consistent quality.

WE: What are the stylistic differences among your three brands?
NB: Taylor Fladgate is lean, firm, racy, muscular, but in a sinewy, elegant way. Fonseca´s style is noted for its expressive, luscious fruitiness, opulence and voluptuousness and velvety mouth-filling tannins. Croft is defined by an abundance of rich plump fruit with a delicious exotic quality and a distinctive herbaceous, spicy character.

WE: You still tread the grapes by foot each September. How does foot treading as opposed to mechanical crushing affect the quality of your Port?
AB: We’re a very innovative company, but we do not throw out the old ideas just because they’re old. You must not break the seeds and release harsh tannins. The foot does this perfectly. We don’t compromise on quality, so we still tread.

WE: What is the difference between vintage Port and late bottle vintage Port?
AB: Vintage Port is the very best that we make. It comes from a single year, is bottled after two years and is rare; We make it only three or four times a decade. It’s one of the world’s longest aging wines. However, it’s expensive. We came up with the idea of late bottled vintage in 1970. This is a Port from a single year, but by aging it in wood for five or six years, it’s ready to drink immediately.

WE: The Taylor Fladgate Partnership declared a vintage in 2009. What about 2009 was vintage worthy?
NB: The 2009 vintage Ports are wines of massive scale and density, with tannin levels and an intensity of color that hasn’t been seen for at least two decades. However, in spite of their inky color and thick, muscular tannins, the 2009s also display a magnificent quality of fruit, crisp acidity and extraordinary complexity. In many ways, these wines represent a return to the vigor and stamina of the iconic vintage Ports of the early 20th century.

WE: What do guests find most exciting about the new The Yeatman Hotel?
AB: Guests love the tranquility, the space and the fact that it is an oasis in the center of a bustling city, but even more, they love the spectacular view that it has. This is due to the privileged position that we have in the heart of the Port wine lodges facing the old city center across the river. Most of the comments that we receive are about attention to detail in all aspects of The Yeatman. There are things to explore from the food and wine, to the themed bedrooms, the decorated lifts and the spacious gardens. And don’t forget the decanter-shaped pool!

http://www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusiast-Magazine/Web-2011/Port-Pointers/

Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
Food, Wine and Travel Writers
Periodistas Gastronomia, Vinos y Viajes
World Wine Guys LLC

An Embarrassment of Riches – A Report on Port

August 12, 2011 9:16 am - Posted by Tracy in Drink

True Port – that is, the fortified wine from the Douro region of Portugal – is generally produced as a non-vintage wine. The intention is to create a wine that is consistent from year to year. However, once in awhile, Mother Nature is especially kind to grape growers in Portugal, prompting the Port houses to declare a “vintage year”. In these special years, not only does the production differ from non-vintage years, but also the wines’ labels will carry a vintage date. While there is no wine police officer who will cut off your fingers for opening such wine in its youth, vintage Port is considered to be extremely age-worthy and many people will lay down these wines for decades.

Historically, vintage years have been declared roughly three vintages per decade. However, for the period 2000-2010, we had an embarrassment of riches – not just three, but four vintages in the previous decade. The winning years are 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2009.

The Fladgate Partnership, which includes the brands Taylor Fladgate, Croft and Fonseca, held a preview tasting in June, permitting the media and trade to sample wines from all three Port houses from all four vintages. Tasters were requested to taste through all four of the 2000s before moving on to the next vintage, in order to get a general sense of the vintage. However, the set-up was a bit like a tennis match since the wines at each table were grouped by brand and not vintage, requiring people to hop from one table to the next and the next and eventually back again.

Logistical issues aside, the wines were quite good and some vintage characteristics did come through. The 2000s displayed rich berries and cocoa, while the 2003s, from the year of Europe’s heat wave, were more concentrated with raisins and other dried fruit. From 2007, the wines showed more floral and spice, while the 2009s were structured with ripe, black fruit.

Although Port hasn’t been a “hot” wine for some time, vintage Port still shows up at every auction. Robin Kelley-O’Connor of Christie’s noted that vintage Port sales at auction, while not spiking, have indeed been steady. Moreover, he suggested that since China has yet to discover Port, American consumers should take advantage of its availability now.

Robert Bower, Sales and Export Manager for the Fladgate Partnership, explained that, “When we decide to declare [a vintage], we are committed to generations to come who will drink the wine down the road,” reflecting on the tradition of parents giving vintage Port (from the year of their child’s birth) on their child’s 21st birthday. In this vein, he added, “Don’t buy bottles; buy cases.”

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Any Storm with a Port

March 22, 2011 7:24 pm - Posted by Countess Rose Perry in Learn

We’d like to welcome a great new writer to the Wine Portfolio Team, the Countess Rose Perry whose first article tackles the stormy history of Port. For those of us who loves this controversial wine, it is a must read!

PORT IT IS A WINE

It looks different, it tastes different, it’s even bottled differently. So non-oenophiles often assume it isn’t wine. Let’s start with that Port is, in fact a wine. It’s just a fortified wine. To get more technical, it is wine produced from grapes grown in the Douro valley, official regions of Portugal, that has been fortified with brandy.

The story of Port is interesting. Not Mark Zuckerberg Facebook saga interesting, but interesting nonetheless.

The Portuguese have been making wine since the Romans introduced it in the first century. A lot of wine. In the beginning, its wine exports were sent down the Douro River, a tight waterway which only allowed vessels of a certain size to pass through. From there it was sold almost exclusively to the Dutch and the Brits. Along came the mid-late 17th century and Britain decided to declare war on France, blockading all French ports. British wine merchants were forced to search for non-French wine that was just as good. Hmm they thought, No problem. We will get wine from the Portuguese.

Sure, Portugal had wine, average wine, drinkable. But wine that was on par with France? Unfortunately, not a prayer. If the Brits wanted good wine and not from the Frenchmen, they were going to have to oversee the whole winemaking operation as a means of quality control. And so, they did just that. They found darker, more acidic wines on different coasts of the Douro River and began producing very good wine that would live up to the English Standard.

Before shipping to England, wine merchants added brandy as a means of making the wines less acidic. Scotsmen and Brits had a hot/cold relationship with this new wine style. Depending on the relations between the Brits and the French ports, sales would go up or down. When it was all good between France and Britain, it was NOT good for Portuguese wine. Vice versa when the Brit’s knickers were in a bunch at something the French did or didn’t do.

No one really knows exactly when Port, as we know it today, was created. We assume it was some time after the discovery of port-like wine made by monks in Portugal. It is said that in the late 1600ís a wine merchant in Liverpool sent his sons to Portugal for wine. Some days into this journey while staying overnight at a monastery in Lamego, they were served a wine which had brandy added during the winemaking process, thus officially introducing Britain to the joys of fortified Portuguese wine. This winemaking method stops further grape fermentation, while the wine remains strong and sweet. Slowly but surely, almost all winemakers adapted these methods and were by the early 1700s, the Port industry flourished.

Everything was fine and dandy until the Port industry was rocked. Madoff-like winemakers realized they could triple their profits by diluting down wine with elderberry juice and water. Port began to get a bad rep, interest fell drastically. So much so that in the mid-1700’s a regulatory body known as the Old Wine Company was created to whip the Port biz into shape, weeding out the riff-raff. What the FCC is to media, the Old Wine Co. became to Portuguese wine. They also made sure that every elderberry tree and vineyard outside of the official region be uprooted and destroyed.

It’s no wonder why it’s a travesty to lovers of Port to see or hear of a “Port” made in Long Island or other areas outside of Portugal. The method of production might be similar, but it’s just not the same thing. Port has been through a lot, and a lot of people have gone through a lot for Port for it to remain as highly esteemed as it is today.

Written by Countess Rose Perry

Certified Sommelier, WSET, CM

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