Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’
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.”
Produced in Portugal for over 2,000 years, Vinho Verde literally translates as “green wine”. Yet, the name actually refers to the wine’s youngness and freshness, rather than its color in the glass. In fact, while many people are familiar with white-hued Vinho Verde, it is also made as rosé and red wines and in still and sparkling styles. read more
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.
Certified Sommelier, WSET, CM