Port Of Call
Portugal’s Iconic Wine Is An Elegant Way To Top Off An Evening
February is a month for sweethearts and sweets. An elegant way to top off that Valentine’s Day dessert is with Ferreira Vintage Port.
Port, or Vinho do Porto, is the signature wine of Portugal, produced exclusively from grapes grown and processed in the Douro Valley. Typically a sweet, red wine, port is also produced in dry, semidry and white styles. More than 100 varieties of grapes may be used in port production; the five most common are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional. During the fermentation process, vintners add a brandylike grape spirit called aguardente, which halts fermentation and leaves residual sugar in the wine. The fortification also boosts the alcoholic level of the wine.
The wine became known as “port” in the late 17th century as most of the product shipped out from the seaport city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River. When war with France threatened England’s supply of wines in 1703, merchants began importing Portuguese port at a low duty. The fortified wine was less likely to spoil during the long sea voyage, and the sweet wine appealed to British palates, making it very popular.
Ferreira Vintage Port is a blend of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional grapes, with additions of Tinta Roriz and Sousão. This deep crimson, almost opaque, port carries an intense floral bouquet of roses and heather with hints of cedar and oak. It has a spicy red fruit taste with peppery notes and a mineral undertone. Balanced acidity and robust tannins give it a long, satisfying finish. Pair with dried fruits, rich cheeses or dark chocolate. Decant before serving.
The wine scored a 97 from Wine Enthusiast and is included in the magazine’s top 100 wines of 2013. Ferreira ports are available in Columbia through A. Bommarito. Inquire at your favorite local wine shop.
How To Serve Port
1. Before serving, stand the bottle upright for at least 24 hours for younger ports and up to one week for vintage ports. This allows the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
2. Uncork the bottle carefully with a wine key. Take care with older bottles, as aged corks can dry out and break.
3. Decant the port. Pour slowly into the decanter and stop when you see sediment entering the neck of the bottle. A funnel works well.
4. Rest the decanted port until it achieves a temperature of between 70 to 80 degrees.
5. Serve port by filling each glass half full.
Only wine produced in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal may be called “port.” Similar sweet, fortified wines produced elsewhere must be labeled “port-style.”