PORT WINE (FOR­TI­FIED WINE)

KL100 - - Country Watch -

If you think that Port Wine has fallen off the map, then it is solely due to the daunt­ing added com­plex­ity that Port Wine presents to an av­er­age wine con­nois­seur. Ac­tu­ally, Port Wine is to date one of the most com­plex wines out there and it is revered by so­phis­ti­cated wine afi­ciona­dos world­wide, who have ‘dis­cov­ered’ this very same com­plex­ity that makes Port Wine so de­mand­ing to some – yet so re­ward­ing to others.

Ac­tu­ally, Port WIne is one of the great clas­sic Euro­pean wines hold­ing onto a long and fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory. It is pro­duced in the moun­tain­ous eastern reaches of the Douro Val­ley in north­ern Por­tu­gal, one of the world’s oldest and most beau­ti­ful vine­yard ar­eas where wine has been made for at least two thou­sand years. Many of the oldest vine­yards there, now clas­si­fied as World Her­itage, are planted on nar­row ter­races sup­ported by hun­dreds of hand built dry stone walls and the first ship­ments of wine un­der the name “Port” were recorded from there as early as in 1678. Although the wine was pro­duced in­land in the vine­yards of the up­per Douro Val­ley, it did take its name from the coastal city of Oporto from where it was shipped. While many of the oldest and most fa­mous pro­duc­ers in Por­tu­gal, such as Tay­lor’s or Croft are of English or Scot­tish ori­gin - the Bri­tish were the largest mar­ket at the time - Port Wine is firmly Por­tuguese.

Al­ready, in 1756 the Port Wine vine­yards of the Douro be­came the first vine­yard area in the world to be legally de­mar­cated. While the term de­mar­ca­tion sounds con­fus­ing, it ba­si­cally means the qual­ity of Port Wine wine is pro­tected - and to­day, un­der strict “Euro­pean Union Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin Guide­lines”, only wines from Por­tu­gal may be la­beled Port or Porto - just like it is for us­ing the rights for “Cham­pagne”.

So how is Port Wine dif­fer­ent? Well, Port Wine is what is called a For­ti­fied Wine and it is made by adding in a neu­tral grape spirit or brandy to stop the fer­men­ta­tion process, leav­ing the wine with a load of resid­ual sugar and much higher al­co­hol con­tent (18% - 22%), but this process al­lows the wine to re­tain more nat­u­ral grape sweet­ness, mak­ing it richer, rounder and smoother on the palate.

It is the sweet­ness and heavy al­co­hol con­tent that make Port Wine a rather com­plex wine type, but it makes it per­fect for a slower con­sump­tion i n the f orm of an aper­i­tif, di­ges­tive, dessert wine or purely as a night­cap. While this is barely scratch­ing the sur­face of Port Wine, it is cer­tainly enough to get you started. En­joy Port Wine like you en­joy any other glass of wine, not­ing its color, aroma and the bal­ance of i ts tan­nins, acid­ity and fla­vors. Try dif­fer­ent styles, dif­fer­ent pro­duc­ers and take notes.

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