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Posts Tagged ‘port wine’

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!

Wine and Chocolate: What Really Works?

February 9th, 2012 No comments

So, you want to get your sweetheart a special wine to accompany the heart-shaped box of chocolates you’re giving him or her this Valentine’s Day?  What wine do you select?  Unlike “standard” wine and food pairings, pairing wine with chocolate can be a bit more tricky.  However, if you pair them well, the result is truly divine!  No matter if you’re pairing your wine with white, milk, or dark chocolate, here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction…

Chocolates for Valentine's Day: Pick the Perfect Wine

Photo by John Hritz (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Try to pair lighter, less complex wines with lighter, simple-tasting chocolates.  The reverse also goes; try to pair rich, robust wines with darker, richer chocolates, including dark chocolate covered cherries.  Since dark chocolate displays more tannins, combining dark chocolate with a wine packed with tannins has sort of a “cancelation effect” on the wine’s tannins, bringing out more of the wine’s inherent fruity flavor (which is just what you want!)

Because white chocolate is more subtle than milk or dark, it pairs very well with Sherry and Moscato d’Asti.  Though some people like to pair white chocolate with red or white Zinfandel, the counterpoint of flavors can sometimes provide a dissatisfying contrast (if not “sampled” for approval beforehand.)  Our advice: play it safe and stay away from Zinfandel unless you know your mate has enjoyed such a combination before!  Milk chocolate goes well with Pinot Noir, several Rieslings, and Muscat (one of our favorites!)  Ruby–not Tawney–Port is almost always a perfect fit for milk chocolate, so we recommend serving this dessert wine when in doubt.  Dark chocolate craves to be paired with wines that also display hints of chocolate.  A good red Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice for a box of dark chocolates.  Merlot and Tawney Port also pair exceptionally well with dark chocolate.

We hope these suggestions aid you on your quest to find the “perfect” wine to accompany the chocolate delights you plan to present your lover.  (Remember, there’s no harm in buying a few extra bottles of wine so you can sample some combinations yourself before February 14th, just to be sure!)  Cheers!

Blueberry Port Sauce for Duck and Goose

December 15th, 2011 No comments

This winter season, tantalize your taste buds with a delicious port wine sauce that’s perfect for roast duck, goose, and even turkey.  Easy-to-make, and with a welcomed reference to summer (i.e. the blueberries), this unique treat could possibly become a holiday staple.

Roast Duck Breast

Roast Duck Breast Meat (photo by Chensiyuan)

Here’s what you’ll  need:

  • 1 heaping cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 1/4 cups tawny port wine (or ruby port)
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. redcurrant jelly

Thaw the frozen blueberries.  Pour the port, jelly, and half of the blueberries into a saucepan.  Heat on medium-high and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes thin.  Remove from heat and add the remaining blueberries.  Stir in mustard.  Keep your port wine sauce warm until ready to serve.

Enjoy this unique blueberry port sauce with your favorite roast poultry dishes.  For an exciting variation, try substituting boysenberry jelly.  Enjoy!

Should You Decant Port?

July 8th, 2011 1 comment

“Do you decant Port?” is a question that often arises in whispered tones.  Though literature on the subject of decanting this special wine is extensive, most folks aren’t aware of it, and those who are are often scared off by the seeming complexity and effort such decanting–and timing– entails. Person pouring with Riedel Tyrol Wine Decanter
The other night I enjoyed a fantastic glass of Dow’s Late Bottle Vintage Port from 2000.  Though bottled in such a way to avoid getting sediment in the bottle (and supposedly not requiring decanting), this “meant to be enjoyed immediately” quasi-vintage Port underwent a decanting miracle.  With a complex bouquet of wild berries, floral notes, and even a hint of caramel, this rich, full-bodied wine was a symphony of plum, black cherry, fig, apricot, and even dark chocolate on my tongue.  Providing a satisfying, long-lasting finish, this exceptional wine made quite the impression! Interestingly enough, my friends who brought the bottle over were astonished that this was the same wine they selected; it was one of their favorites, too!  Apparently, they had never decanted their Port before, and were experiencing its magical transformation via decanting for the first time.

Decanting Port is often of greater importance than decanting other wines.  Port wines that age in bottles such as Late Bottled Vintage, Crushed Port, and Vintage Port, as opposed to those in casks, are not filtered before they are bottled.  This means that there are more deposits that will form in the bottle.  (Tawny Port, up to 40 years, has its deposits filtered before bottling so it won’t continue to age.)  If you’ve ever been turned off from Port because you once had a glass that contained solid, bitter sediment, your Port was not properly decanted.  But decanting, in addition to removing this safe-yet-unpleasant sediment, is essential to opening up a Vintage Port to bring out its bouquet and flavor.  Because such Ports contain a bit of sediment, it’s often suggested you stand a bottle upright a day or two before opening to get the majority of deposits to sink to the bottom.   Once you’re ready to open your Port, experiment until you find the tool that makes the task easiest for you.  There are a number of tongs, screw pulls, lever pulls, etc. to help you remove the old cork.  Beginners often find Port tongs the most difficult to master, and screw pulls the easiest.  (Many times, because of its age, the cork will break. Do not be discouraged; decanting will help you remove bits of cork that may have fallen into the bottle.)

Once opened, slowly and calmly pour your Port into the decanter of your choice being careful not to stir up the sediment at the bottom by moving the bottle back and forth too much.  Do this in a well-lit area, and with a clear decanter such as a Riedel Vinum Magnum Wine Decanter, so you can see what you’re doing.  When you observe the deposits rising to the neck of the bottle, stop pouring.  If you’re insistent on drinking the little bit of remaining sediment-rich wine, an unbleached coffee filter can be used.  With practice, your decanter will be filled by a majority of sediment-free wine.  Once in the decanter, let the wine sit for a few hours.  Typically, Vintage Port less than 20 years old should be decanted for 2 hours more more before drinking.  Vintage Port less than 10 years old requires more oxidation and should be decanted for three or four hours.  Older bottles are more difficult to gauge because of numerous variables.  That said, 40 year old bottles should receive one hour of air time, and older bottles can be decanted and served immediately.  Opinions on the proper amount of decanting time do differ, but I find these guidelines appropriate for the most common circumstances.  In short, decant your Port!  You’ll be amazed at how good it can be.

Riedel Vinum Magnum Wine Decanter