My husband and I found a great little treat in our neighborhood. Our local wine store, Manchester Wine & Liquors, offers monthly wine tastings at a nearby restaurant. We noticed January’s topic was Port and knew we had to check it out. Having traveled to Portugal a few years ago, both Scott and I have taken a particular liking to this fortified wine. So we called, made our reservations for the tasting, and went in anticipation of some great port.
For those of you who aren’t already port fans, let me tell you a little about this dessert wine. Port is a fortified wine, which means that along with the natural alcohol produced during the fermentation, it also has added liquor (usually brandy). This mixture produces a sweet wine with a stronger kick….think red wine meets dessert meets cocktails. Because of its powerful sweetness and extra alcohol, port is usually served in smaller wine glasses (dessert wine glasses or cordial glasses) and meant to be sipped – not unlike a cognac or brandy. I like port because it tastes like an enhanced version of red wine. With a lot of the same characteristics, I enjoy the fruit forwardness of a ruby port and the oaky, nuttiness of a tawny. Paired with simple desserts, port makes a decadent addition to the end of any meal.
Back to the port tasting. We were shocked to walk into a large banquet hall that easily accommodated 200 guests – and there was hardly a seat left! There was to be a lecture on port and the Porto region of Portugal by a wine connoisseur. With literature, tasting charts to take notes, and even pencils provided, it seems they had thought of everything. Each seat was set with a tasting glass and a small dish of goodies to pair with your port (Ghiradelli chocolates, whole almonds, blue cheese and baguettes).
The lecture was fun and informative, with a broad overview of Port itself, how it is produced, where it is produced, and the best part – what it tastes like. The quintessential wine guru, our speaker was a dapper older gentlemen dressed in a suit coat with vest and bow-tie. His passion (and enjoyment) of fine wine was contagious. He said he usually used a spit bucket when giving lectures of this nature – but he couldn’t let all this good port go to waste. So he tasted (and savored) all seven ports alongside us.
The evening lasted two hours and only cost $5.00 per person (a very economical way to spend an evening, if I must say so myself). We did, however, decide to buy two bottles of port, so the economics of the evening can be argued, but nonetheless, a great evening spent. The store offers each of the bottles tasted at a discount of 20% if ordered that evening. While no sales are transacted at the restaurant, our order was ready for pick up at the store the following day. We were excited to find this little viticultural gem in our backyard and have already signed up for February’s tasting – a journey through Bordeaux.
The foodie in me paid close attention to any parts of the lecture then mentioned food pairing.
Ruby Ports Pair Well With:
Raspberries, Prunes, & Strawberries
Blue Veined Cheeses
Tawny Ports Pair Well With:
Semi-Hard Goat Cheeses
Here’s a list of the ports tasted:
N/V Croft Distinction – This was a very sweet port that wasn’t bad for its price tag of $14.99 for a 750 ml bottle, but had little depth.
2001 Fonseca Late Bottle Vintage – Balanced, and more smooth than the last, this was the true bargain of the evening. No 30 year port, but a great bottle to open and enjoy now. We bought two when we saw the moderate price of $21.99 (750 ml).
10 Year Taylor Fladgate Tawny – Not a huge fan of tawny ports (tawny’s are aged in wood for years; ruby ports have a stronger fresh fruit taste because they are not aged) I still found this bottle enjoyable. There was a wonderfully nutty nose, and surprisingly smooth for only a 10 year. $30.99 (750 ml)
20 Year Taylor Fladgate Tawny – I preferred the 20 over the 10 (no surprise there) mainly for its stronger caramel nose and creamy mouth feel. The tawny finished with a soft vanilla, very similar to a creme brulee. $52.99 (750 ml)
2005 Fonseca Quinta Do Panascal – This port is meant to cellar and would be best if laid down for 10 years. It had nice depth and paired very nicely with blue cheese. $29.99 (350 ml)
2005 Taylor Fladgate Quinta Vargellas – This was my favorite of the evening with a striking nutty nose. The port tasted of blackberries and other dark fruits and was luxuriously silky on the palate. A true pleasure to drink. This port will peak in 10 years similar to the ’05 Fonseca. $32.99 (350 ml)
2003 Croft Vintage – Easily the nicest port in the tasting, it was also the youngest. This port, because of it ’03 vintage is considered exceptional, however, it needs to be cellared for 15-30 years. Tasting now, you can tell it will age into something wonderful, but certainly not a pleasure to drink now. $44.99 (350 ml)