Perfect Pairing with Port #WinePW
August Wine Pairing Weekend “Visiting” Portugal
If you see this early enough, please join us on Saturday, August 8th as we chat wine and food pairings from Portugal. These pairings are perfect for late summer and early autumn entertaining. Our live Twitter Chat uses the hashtag #WinePW on Saturday, August 8th at 10am CDT. Join in, share your thoughts and experiences on this emerging wine region.
Port – the Best Known Wine from Portugal
Portugal’s most famous wine is Port, long beloved by the English and more recently, me. I hope you’ll join the group of believers, too! Port is a fortified wine, developed by the English long ago as a way to stabilize a favorite wine for long, hot ocean voyages from Portugal back to England without spoiling. The home of Port is the bustling seaside city of Porto, where all the English Port houses built their cellars for aging the wine prior to shipping back home to jolly old England.
Classic Port Pairing
We’re going to start with a classic after-dinner Tawny Port pairing, then move into a Port Primer with thoughts on a wide variety of 10 year Tawny’s you might enjoy for your own exploration.
Wonderful after dinner, Port is rich, sweet, smooth and intense. At 18-22% alcohol, a little goes a long way, with a typical pour being about 2 ounces vs. 5 for a normal glass of wine. Tawny port has been barrel aged for many years and takes on a lighter, tawny color, with oxidized aromas of dark fruits, nuts, and earth. And I love it!
The classic finish to dinner is to have a bit of Port with blue cheese and perhaps some nuts and dried fruit. The Port is plenty sweet to give you that satisfying dessert feeling.
Which Blue Cheese?
Your favorite blue cheese will work just fine. If you ever have the opportunity, make sure you jump at the chance to try a naturally blue’d cheese. Last weekend at our local Kingfield Farmers Market, I lucked into a rare find: Naturally blue’d cheese from Lovetree Farmstead Cheese. This is the way Stilton cheese was originally made. For a natural blue, the spores must find their own way into the cheese via natural openings. The bluing process takes a long time, often a year or more. This is the financial reason that very few blue cheeses are produced naturally. Virtually all major blue cheeses are made today by injecting the proper mold into the ripening cheese with long needles. Hence, you see straight line veins of blue.
Dave and Mary Falk raise the animals, make the cheese, host a weekly “Pizza by the Pond” outing at the farm and sell cheese at Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets. They are also generally great people who are just plain fun to talk to. Don’t take my word for it, the Falks are featured in Max McCalman’s classic “Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best“.
I like to add some nuts and craisins for a perfect trio to enjoy with Port. A wide variety of nuts and fruits would work well. Almonds and cashews are very nice. We always have craisins around, and when fresh figs are available, they would be perfect. You can retire to the library and put on your velvet smoking jacket if you prefer.
Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port ($35 at France 44)
Eye: Clear, translucent garnet red with a caramel edge.
Nose: A bit of musty basement meets nuts and figs, in a good way.
Mouth: Sweet & rich, reminds me of a caramel ice cream sundae without the coolness of the ice cream.
I had an unexpected opportunity to spend an afternoon at the Port houses in Porto a few years ago. A love for Tawny Port was born on that trip. Here’s a condensed intro to the various types of Port.
Ruby port is aged for 4 years in huge, swimming pool sized old wooden casks. Ruby port is dark in color, fresh tasting and full of primary fruit aromas and flavor.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
LBV Port is a more affordable type of Vintage Port. The wine comes from a single vintage. It’s aged in the same large casks as Vintage Port, but it stays longer, usually 4-6 years until it’s ready to drink. Then it’s bottled and is ready to drink immediately. As you can see, it’s darker in color than Tawny and has more of a rich fruit character. Some LBV Ports display a bit of the oxidized aromas, but less than a typical Tawny.
Tawny Port is aged for many years in 600 liter barrels that have been used many times, even for 50-100 years. 10 year tawny port is a blend of various ages which averages 10 years of age. Similarly for 20, 30, & 40 years.
Colheita Port is a single vintage Tawny Port. 1989 Colheita Port would be aged in the 600 liter barrels until it’s ready to drink, then it’s bottled and sold without any intent of further aging. So that 1989 Colheita is a special version of a 20+ year Tawny.
Vintage Port is only produced in the best years, when a vintage is “declared”. The wine spends two years in very large casks, then goes into bottle unfiltered. It needs at least 10 years of aging before it’s ready to drink and is best at 30-40 years of age.
10 Year, 20 Year, 40 Year, Colheita?
At around $35 for a 750 ml bottle, 10 year Tawny represents the sweet spot (pun intended) for me for daily enjoyment. Colheita & 20 year Tawny are lovely for an occasion. 40 year Tawny Port would be great if someone rich is buying, but I won’t be drinking any soon.
Which is the Best 10 Year Tawny Port?
I was asking myself this same question, and the only answer I could figure out was to try as many different 10 year Tawny’s as I possibly could. Obviously, tasting solo I didn’t open them all at one time. Towards the end of 1 bottle, I would open the next in order to allow some A-B comparisons. I’ve been preparing for this post for a year! Truth be told, every single one of these Ports was enjoyable, so go ahead and pick a few to try yourself. I’ve put a brief summary of each wine in the caption of the slideshow (click on any photo to begin).
Join in our #WinePW Conversation!
Here are some of the other fabulous Portugal pairings posted by our group:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is sharing “Vinho Verde Caldeirada with Pluot Port Granita”
Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva pairs “Poco Do Lobo Arinto with Seabass”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Grilled Pork with Portuguese Potatoes and Kale”
Jade of Tasting Pour is pairing “Vinho Verde with Caldeirada”
Jeff from food wine click shares “Perfect Pairing with Port”
Jennifer from Vino Travels shares “Agro Batoreu Terre Silvestre Portugese Blend with Asian Pork”
Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog tempts us with “Grilled Fish Setubal Style and 2008 Torre de Tavares Encruzado”
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares “Portuguese Wines: Just Say Yes”
Nancy from Pull That Cork pairs “Amêijoas na Cataplana with Soalheiro Alvarinho”
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere pairs “Piri Piri Chicken with Verdelho”
Wendy creator of A Day in the Life on a Farm shares “A Tawny Port from Portugal served with Grilled Figs topped with Goat Cheese”