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What’s Vintage Port?

April 24th, 2012 1 comment

Just as aged tawny ports are created from the “best” harvests, vintage port is made from only the finest harvests.  In fact, vintage port is the most desirable of all port wines, and collectors often proclaim vintage ports to be the pinnacles of their collections.   Vintage ports are very full-bodied wines with an abundance of sturdy tannins that make them loved and prized by port connoisseurs across the globe.  They are well-balanced, and contain gentle fruit flavors of cherries, figs, and hints of black licorice and chocolate.  (Don’t worry, even if you don’t care for black licorice you’ll probably still like vintage port; lots of folks who aren’t big licorice fans love it!)a bottle of vintage port from 1963

Vintage port is made from the grapes of the finest harvests of a single year.  After aging for two to three years in wood, the wine is bottled for at least fifteen years.  Unlike other port wines that are meant to be consumed at the time of purchase, some vintage ports are intended to be held onto.  For instance, the majority of vintage ports from 1991 to 2003 should be purchased and kept until their flavors peak.  Vintage ports that have “reached their peak” and should be enjoyed now are those from 1970, 1975, 1977, 1983, & 1998.  Some vintage ports can either be consumed now, or can be held until a later date.  These vintages are from 1980, 1985, 1987, & 1998.  (Be aware that the years of some vintages may be approximate, since not all port houses declare the same vintage year.)

Unlike tawny port, vintage port needs to be decanted when served.  Bottles of vintage port contain a lot of sediment, and decanting helps to remove it.  Consider using a sophisticated decanter like the Riedel Tyrol wine decanter to effectively aerate and remove the sediment from your bottle of vintage port.  If storing a vintage port in your wine cellar, make sure you store the bottle on its side (as you would any other wine), and keep it in a room with a maintained temperature.  Ideally, a steady temperature between 55 and 60 degrees is fantastic for port.  Cheers!

What Is Aged Tawny Port?

April 17th, 2012 1 comment

Aged tawny port is aged in years that are multiples of ten.

Like its younger cousin, tawny port, aged tawny port is one of the two most-popular wines aged in Portugal.  Both tawny and aged tawny port begin as ruby port, but instead of aging the wine between two to seven years to create tawny port, aged tawny port is kept at least ten years in wood.  Oftentimes, aged tawny port is held even longer.  The longer aged tawny port is allowed to age, the greater its complexity becomes.  It also tastes more smooth and mellow.

While just about any ruby port can be made into a tawny port, only the “best” blends of ruby port are utilized to make aged tawny port.  Aged tawny port is commonly aged for ten years at a time.  Therefore, you’ll find bottles indicating the wine has aged for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.  These numbers are good approximations of aging, since they indicate the age of the wine’s “average” blend.  (Read about how port is made here.)

The older the aged tawny port, the richer, softer, and smoother it tastes.  In addition to being a joy on the tongue, its level of complexity increases substantially with age.  Though many people try less-expensive tawny ports aged for ten years, first, I’d recommend having a twenty-year old bottle for your first taste of aged tawny port.  Why?  There will be a much more noticeable difference between your aged twenty-year bottle and a glass of regular, seven-year tawny.  Curious?  Have a glass, and see what you think!

Dare to Mix Red and White Wine?

April 10th, 2012 No comments

mixing red and white wineBefore reading further, please understand that wines like rosés are not just mixtures of red and white wines.  They are made by a process similar to red wine, but the skins of the grapes are removed before they fully turn the wine a deep shade of red.  (Read more about the process of making rosé wine in our previous post How to Choose a Great Rosé.) That said, some experimental wine drinkers delight in mixing red and white wines, producing curious concoctions that either intrigue or disgust  (This is the adult equivalent of the way kids mix multiple sodas together at fast food restaurants).  While purists will have no part in such playing, some wine drinkers delight in making their own mock blends of “signature” wines this way.

Is it possible to mix red and white wines to create new blends of your own?  Yes, it is.  Will they be any good?  While there’s no guarantee, if your palate is discriminating enough you may just very well be able to come up with a custom mix that suits your fancy (We can’t speak on behalf of your guests, however!).  And while your blend will not be a real rosé, it may still exhibit an interesting, rosé-like appearance.

How should you go about mixing red and white wines?  If you want your results to be drinkable, follow these simple steps:

  1. Decide on the two wines you want to mix.
  2. Fill a glass halfway with whichever wine has the weaker flavor.
  3. Add half a shot glass full of the stronger wine.
  4. Stir!
  5. Sip, and see what you think.  If the flavor is too weak, repeat to steps 3-5.

If you’re lucky, you may have discovered a personalized blend you’re absolutely crazy about.  Then again, you may have Frankenstein’s monster on your hands!  If so, discard your glass and use a wine preserver like the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the unused, untainted portions of your two opened bottles fresh for another time to be enjoyed on their own!  Good luck, and happy mixing!

Red Wines For All Foods

April 5th, 2012 No comments
Chicken, traditionally served with white wine, can also be enjoyed with red wine.

Traditionally served with white wine, chicken can also be enjoyed with red! (Photo by Steven Walling)

If you’ve read our recent post, If You’re Going to Drink, Choose Red!, you may be wondering how to effectively increase your red wine consumption by substituting it for white.  The good news is that there’s a red wine alternative to just about every “traditional” white-wine dish!

Though it may take you (and some of your guests) a little time to get out of the mindset that certain foods must always be enjoyed with either whites or reds, specifically, the rewards are more red wine consumption at your table and (quite often) more interesting pairings!

Let’s start with fish!  When it comes to the creatures of the sea, white wine has been given dominion.  However, there are excellent reds that will not overpower your fine, flaky fillets.  Try a baked or grilled fish dish with a bottle of Cabernet Franc or a nice Cote du Rhone.  These red wines, because of their low acidity, blend quite well with almost all of your typical fish dishes.

Next comes pasta!  If you’re eating pasta with tomato sauce, experiment with almost any red!  Reds, in general, are fantastic with tomato sauces (especially those with meatballs!)  If your pasta is covered with a tantalizing cheese sauce, consider pairing your plate with a light Burgundy or Merlot.  These two wines are excellent compliments to cheese sauces of all kinds, even ones that incorporate a bit of spice!

Lastly, we come to chicken!  Like the numerous reds that go well with tomato sauce, I urge you to experiment!  For a few starters, consider pairing your bird with a bottle of Pinot Noir, Chianti, Barolo, or (a personal favorite) Beaujolais.  Beaujolais works especially well with recipes involving cornish game hens sprinkled with rosemary, as well as barbecued chicken.  Have fun, be adventurous, and keep track of the reds you find work best with your favorite “white wine” foods.  Enjoy!

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!