Port and Douro Wine Tasting 2004

Port is often a difficult wine for beginners to get a handle on. Port is famous for being drunk on wintry English evenings by men in smoking jackets - wealthy men sitting in leather chairs by fireplaces. Ideally, hunting dogs lay at their feet. Ports can also be quite expensive, so it's hard for wine newbies to learn about ports. That's why attending a tasting is so ideal - this allows you to experiment with the various styles and find out which is best suited to your palate!

The Hampshire House in Boston, Massachusetts was the elegant location for this fall port tasting, showing off the varieties created by the traditional vineyards of the Douro region of Portugal. True port only comes from Portugal, and is made from a mixed medly of grape varieties. The weather? A traditional saying is that this valley offers "nine months of winter and three months of hell". Whatever the particulars, the fortified wines created here are rightly world famous.

Learn More about Port and then read on with the tasting notes!

Portonic Beginnings

Sangria is of course the famous Spanish drink that involves red wine, brandy, and fruits. It's no surprise that Portugal has its version, the Portonic. Take white port, add in tonic water, ice and lemon or lime. Enjoy! This refreshing drink is light and easy, perfect for warmer days. Even people who normally disliked club soda or tonic water found this drink to be quite tasty. I really enjoyed both the Portonic as well as the white port on its own. It was light, mellow, and gentle tasting.

Another traditional mixer is ruby port with lemonade. If you think port is stodgy wine, give one of these these recipes a try!

Isabel Fernandes mixes it up

A Port Education

At the Kobrand table, I spoke with Dana Ayers about how confusing the classifications of port can be. There are tawnies and rubies, then tawnies that are 10, 20, 30, and 40 years old. There are also vintages that could be those same ages. Then there are vintage characters, single quinta and other designations. No wonder drinkers have problems sorting it out! Interestingly, France is currently the biggest consumer of basic ports, while England and the US enjoy the vintage ports.

Croft Distinction Reserve Porto, $17
Reserve Porto was once called "Vintage Character" until port winemakers found that term too confusing. Reserves come from the better vineyards and are mellowed for longer than basic ports. They are aged 3-4 years in large oak barrels, from a blend of years to meet the house style. They are meant to be drunk immediately and can last up to a month once opened.

Fonseca Bin 27, $19
This is one of the best known Port brands in the world. Dana pointed out that the dark, more purple color is "Not a quality distinction - but indicates a different style". This was bright, fresh and fruity, with a nice, medium finish. It would go well with a dense, flourless chocolate cake.

Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 1999, $22
Taylor Fladgate in fact invented the Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV style, for restaurants. When patrons would order a glass of vintage port, the restaurant would have to open and decant a new bottle - but if the rest of the bottle wasn't drunk within a day or two, the rest would go bad. Vintage ports do not last long after they're opened! The solution was to fine and filter a vintage port and then age it at the winery for 6 years. This "late bottled" vintage would then be ready to drink immediately, and last up to a month once opened. This port definitely has structure and a bit of tannin to it. It would go well with stilton cheese. Remember, don't buy a LBV port to age. It's been pre-aged FOR you. Buy it to drink and enjoy!

Fonseca 10 year tawny, $30
A tawny port that is "X years old" is actually a blend of ports of various vintages, averaging to that number. So a 10 year old tawny would include some 8 year old vintages, some 14 year old vintages, and so on. Tawny ports are actually ruby ports that have aged in a special way. They are put in small barrels and allowed to oxidize, taking on a nutty flavor and light brown "tawny" color. They are blended to the house "style". This one was bright caramel and butter.

Delaforce 20 year Tawny, $35
Yes, this tawny included vintages that averaged to 20 years old, vs the 10 of the previous wine. The 20 yr tawny boasted bright flavors of caramel, nuts, and tropical fruits, with a bright, nutty aroma and a hint of citrus on the finish.

Dana Ayers and his Collection

Next, Cockburn's and Quinta de Ventozelo
Learn More about Port

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.