Archive

Posts Tagged ‘port’

Four Perfect Summer Pairings

August 14th, 2012 No comments

Photo credit: Le Grande Farmers’ Market, Flickr.

The hottest summer months are upon us. Rather than wishing for fall,why not embrace this time of year with the best produce of the season–and wines to match? Here are some top picks for summer wine pairings.

Corn and Chardonnay

Nothing says summer like sweet, tender ears of corn from the local farmstand. Grill them and coat with salty butter for a classic treat, or grill, then cut the kernels off the cob and toss them with basil, lemon juice, salt, and  drizzle of good olive oil for a crunchy, fresh corn salad. The perfect wine to pair with sweet summer corn? A buttery, fruity California chardonnay, of course! Everything about these two is complementary, down to their matching golden-yellow hues.

Tomatoes and Pinot Gris

Foodies nationwide wait in eager anticipation of perfect summer tomatoes all year. Eat enough juicy, sweet summer tomatoes with their unmistakable fresh-from-the-garden perfume, and you’ll never go back to their mealy grocery store relatives. The best way to eat perfect summer tomatoes is raw: try them simply sliced, with salt and olive oil, or paired with a good mozzarella, in a caprese salad. Finding a wine to pair with tomatoes is notoriously difficult. You need a wine that won’t overwhelm tomatoes’ delicate sweetness, and that can match their intense acidity. A pinot gris, with its crisp, clean acidity, is a great match.

Peaches and Gewürztraminer

The best kind of peaches are those that are so juicy, you have to eat them over the sink. Sweet, fragrant summer peaches are at their peak for only a few weeks, and we won’t see them again until next summer. They’re great baked into peach pies, but who wants to turn on the oven right now? For a simple summer treat, sprinkle peach halves with brown sugar, then put them facedown on a sheet of foil on the grill. When the sugar starts to caramelize, take them off and fill the middle with vanilla ice cream. Pair with an earthy, floral gewürztraminer and enjoy outside.

Watermelon and Port

Ruby-red and insanely sweet, watermelon needs no preparation other than a chill in the refrigerator before eating time. Carve into large wedges and serve with a spoon for easy eating. The sweetness of a great summer watermelon can stand up to a glass of dessert wine, such as port. Drink slowly, admire the sunset, and wish for summer to hang around a little longer.

 

What are your favorite summer wine pairings?

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!

What to Look for in Tawny Port

March 27th, 2012 No comments

Unlike its ruby cousin, tawny port’s signature color is a bit lighter, as is its body.  Simply put, it’s a more delicate wine that exhibits some of the softer traits of vintage port.  Unlike expensive vintage port, however, tawny port is available at a fraction of the cost.

a glass of tawny port

Photo by Jon Sullivan

Tawny port is produced by blending older port wines.  Similar to ruby port, tawny port is also aged before bottling.  The time spent aging is usually between two and seven years.  Unlike sweeter rubies, tawny port features flavors of darker fruits and berries, as well as ripe plums.  Comparatively, a glass of tawny is richer with tannins.  And compared to their older, vintage cousins, non-vintage tawny ports are less dry and their tannins, while robust, are more mellifluous.

If tawny port’s tannins are a bit much for you, it’s okay to let a bottle of tawny sit for a bit; its tannins soften substantially as it ages.  Because it’s not as “forward” as ruby port, be sure to serve tawny port in proper port glasses.  Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses are ideal because they are designed to reveal port’s pleasant, subtle aromas that are often masked by the smell of alcohol when served in larger glasses.  If you’ve enjoyed ruby port, perhaps it’s time to give tawny a try?  Cheers!

Did you catch our post last week on ruby port?

Wine and Ice Cream

February 7th, 2012 No comments

Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia® ice cream flavor

This week, we’re prepping you for a wine lover’s Valentine’s Day with some yummy ideas you can share with your sweetie!

So, your Sweetie Pie wants some ice cream to accompany a romantic bottle of wine during an intimate evening in?  Unheard of?  Think again!  There are, in fact, some decent wine and ice cream pairings you can try!

Is your ice cream chocolate, or chocolate chip?  Consider following a spoonful with a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon,  Ruby Port, or even a glass of Madeira!  In the mood for coffee or mocha ice cream?  Follow a bowl with a bottle of Sherry.  If you’re a mint chocolate chip fan, you’ll love how a jammy, Red Zinfandel augments your ice cream’s delicious mint taste.

Pair wine with a sorbet

Photo by Renee Comet

Strawberry ice cream, as you may guess, simply begs to be accompanied by Champagne (or a similar sparkling wine), but it can also go nicely with Sherry or Chianti.  If your ice cream is a little more adventurous, like a passion fruit sorbet for instance, give it a whirl with a good Chardonnay.  (Unoaked varieties usually pair better in this case).  Is raspberry sorbet more to your liking?  Try a taste with a Sparkling Rosé!  A quality French Bordeaux makes a great companion to Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia®, and for you folks who favor plain, old vanilla, here are some wines just for you: Sherry, Sauternes, Ruby Port, and Muscat.  Cheers!

Time for Thanksgiving Wines

November 17th, 2011 No comments
A Wild Turkey

“Wild Turkey” photographed by MONGO

If you’re planning to host a fancy Thanksgiving, why not pull all the stops?  Instead of serving one wine with the meal, liven things up by serving several in graded succession.  For example, start with an apéritif either on its own, or with some light appetizers.  Muscat is an excellent choice, and helps prepare the palate for courses yet to come.  If your main course consists of turkey, consider serving a light white to accompany the subtle flavors of this bird.  Dry whites are especially nice, but for guests with sweeter tastes consider pairing the bird with a sweet Riesling.  To keep family and friends happy, offer them these wine options, or (better yet) let them sample each.  As a third choice, a nice bottle of Pinot Noir will always be a winner.  For dessert, pair your pie with a tasty glass of port.  For pies on the more tart side, consider a tawny port.  For sweeter pies, ruby port is a nice match.  This Thanksgiving, serving a variety of wines throughout your meal will help to make your Thanksgiving feast a classy wine adventure to remember!  In fact, this holiday may even be the perfect occasion to use your new Riedel Riesling Grand Cru wine glasses, or to pass around a set of lovely Vintage Port glasses… Just food for thought!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Easy Port Wine Sauce

August 26th, 2011 1 comment

Though a perfect addition to any winter dinner, this easy-to-make port wine sauce recipe is ideal for those later, cool days of summer–those days when you can “sense” that fall is just around the corner!

You’ll need a bottle of your favorite port wine, 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons chopped shallots, 1/2 cup of mushrooms (thinly-sliced), 1 tablespoon of cream, 1/2 cup of beef or chicken stock, thyme, rosemary, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.

In a deep frying pan, melt the butter. Sauté the mushrooms and shallots over medium heat. When done, add about 1/2 a cup of port wine, plus the other ingredients listed above: cream, beef or chicken stock, and a pinch of thyme, rosemary, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir well, and reduce heat to low once the mixture boils. Simmer, while stirring occasionally, until your main dish is almost fully-cooked, then remove the sauce from heat for 2-4 minutes. (Sauce will naturally thicken.) Drizzle your port sauce liberally over your main dish, and even side dishes, and serve. Watch for smiles, and listen for “yummy” sounds! This sauce makes a delightful companion to almost any dish with beef, chicken, pork, veal, turkey, goose, bass, figs, eggplant, and (for those of you who have overcome your childhood aversion) Brussels sprouts! Enjoy this sauce with a glass of your favorite port now, as a precursor to the colder months ahead.

Port wine sauce with veal and assorted vegetables

Image courtesy of finestchef.com

Wine and Chocolate: The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

February 8th, 2010 No comments

To all you boyfriends and husbands out there: it’s that time of year again.  Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, which means that you’d better get thinking about what you’re going to give the lovely woman in your life.  Sure, there are the old standbys like a dozen roses or a nice dinner out, but the gift that will truly wow her is something a little more original and personal.  If she’s like me, she’d like nothing better than a box of good-quality chocolates and a bottle or two of wine to enjoy with them.  Choosing the chocolates and wines you think she’ll like best is fun and creative, and shows that care and thought went into your gift.  If you play your cards right, she might even let you share!

Matching wine with chocolate can be an intimidating task, especially since no two experts seem to agree on pairings.  But luckily, many of the same rules that guide us in pairing wine with food can help us decide which wines might go best with which chocolates.  Just like in food pairing, the most important consideration is balance.  You don’t want either the wine or the chocolate to overpower the palate, so pick wines and chocolates of similar intensities.

White Chocolate: The extra sweet, delicate flavors in white chocolates respond well to wines that enhance their buttery qualities, like Sherries or Muscatos.  Though experts often recommend pairing chocolates with sweet wines, I find that this matchy-matchy approach results in a cloyingly sweet tasting experience.  The combination of a sweet wine and a sweet chocolate can be overwhelming to the palate, making it difficult to pick up the more subtle flavors in both the wine and chocolate.  If you feel the same way, try a Pinot Noir or a mellower Merlot with your white chocolate–the key is to pick a wine that isn’t too tannin-heavy or acidic.

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolates provide perhaps the widest range of possibilities for pairing.  If you prefer to pair the chocolate with a sweet wine, try a Muscat, a Riesling, or a sweeter sparkling wine.  Dessert wines and port wines, especially Ruby Ports, are a classic pairing for milk chocolates, as the richness and heaviness of a port blends well with the creaminess of milk chocolate.  And if the milk chocolate you’ve chosen happens to surround some succulent strawberries, don’t mess with something perfect–choose champagne!

Dark Chocolate: Some women (including me) feel if it isn’t dark chocolate, it isn’t really chocolate at all.  If your significant other doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth or loves strong, rich flavors, she might prefer chocolate of the dark and decadent variety.  Dark chocolate needs to be served with a wine that can match up to its strong flavors.  The higher the percentage of cacao in the chocolate, the stronger the wine needs to be.  Ports are a great choice on the sweeter side, but I find that dark chocolate pairs best with bold, spicy reds.  Try a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel for a truly mouthwatering flavor combination.

For a unique tasting experience, try a chocolatier that specializes in unique flavors.  Chocolates made with chili powder or filled with goat cheese ganache are unique and interesting, and their savory flavors can break up the sweet-on-sweet monotony.

If you want to give something a little different, pair your wine choices with a chocolate souffle, chocolate mousse, or chocolate cake, either chosen at a great bakery, or (for the especially intrepid) homemade.

For an especially romantic gift, consider setting up a private wine and chocolate pairing session, just for the two of you.  Pick a variety of wines and chocolates and taste all the variations.  Besides encouraging great conversation and a romantic mood, this method will let you and your sweetie discover your favorite flavor pairings.

See some of our suggestions for Valentine’s Day wine pairings.