RICH AND SAT­IS­FY­ING, BREATH­TAK­INGLY BEAU­TI­FUL

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - WINE TALK -

More than 150 years and six gen­er­a­tions ago, my dis­tin­guished fore­bear, Sir Moses Mon­te­fiore, a wine lover, used to drink a bot­tle of Port ev­ery day and he lived to his 101st year, which was way above the life ex­pectancy of the pe­riod. In the hours just be­fore he passed away, the story is that he en­joyed three glasses of port!

Af­ter his first visit to the Holy Land in 1827, he be­came a strictly re­li­gious Jew, and Port be­came the tip­ple of his choice. I imag­ine he had one pipe (a bar­rel of 550 liters) of Port made at a time, which was then shipped to Eng­land. I have of­ten won­dered how the wine was made kosher. Did he choose Port be­cause it was a for­ti­fied wine? Maybe a crypto Jew liv­ing in Porto made the wine for him? Or there could have been a more cre­ative so­lu­tion. There is a Halacha that says if honey is added to a wine, it would no longer re­garded as wine. Did he in­struct the wine­maker to add a spoon of honey to the bar­rel, which would not have been no­tice­able on the taste? This ques­tion has in­trigued me for years. I would be cer­tainly be in­ter­ested to hear any other the­o­ries. Maybe he sim­ply liked Port, which was the choice of the Brits at that time.

In 1703, Bri­tain and Por­tu­gal signed the Methuen Treaty, re­duc­ing duty on Por­tuguese wine. Then Bri­tain and France were at odds, and a trad­ing tri­an­gle grew, which in­cluded dried salted cod from New­found­land, tex­tiles from Bri­tain and Port wine from Por­tu­gal. They swiftly dis­cov­ered that the Port would be more sta­ble if brandy was added be­fore be­ing shipped, and the famed for­ti­fied wine was born. The Douro Val­ley was de­mar­cated as an of­fi­cial, pro­tected re­gion in 1756. The wine re­ceived its name from the sea­port city of Porto, where the wines were ma­tured and shipped. In Bri­tain, Port be­came the most pop­u­lar wine, be­fore the rise of Claret (Bordeaux red wines).

MY OWN per­sonal great Port ex­pe­ri­ence is more re­cent. I was priv­i­leged to en­joy Warre’s Vin­tage Port 1977 in 2014. The wine was amaz­ing, if not sen­sa­tional. It was so fresh, so exquisitel­y bal­anced, that we drank the bot­tle dur­ing a meal and fin­ished it with­out re­ally be­ing aware of it. Yes, it was sweet,

but it was at the same time re­fresh­ing.

This ex­pe­ri­ence en­cour­aged me a cou­ple of years later to open a Tay­lor’s Vin­tage Port 1980. Big mis­take. It was closed, a baby and ob­vi­ously we had com­mit­ted in­fan­ti­cide by open­ing it far too young, be­cause it needed even more time to come to it­self. The Warre’s was a rev­e­la­tion, the Tay­lor’s a dis­ap­point­ment (be­cause of our over ea­ger­ness, rather than the wine it­self.) These two ex­pe­ri­ences brought home to me the unique ag­ing prop­er­ties and sheer po­ten­tial of Vin­tage Port.

Port comes from the Douro Val­ley, in north­east Por­tu­gal. The most fa­mous grape used for port is the Touriga Na­cional. Oth­ers used are Tinta Bar­roca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesca. It is a for­ti­fied wine and usu­ally is about 18% to 20% al­co­hol. The main dif­fer­ent Ports are as fol­lows:

• Ruby Port is bright, fruity, sweet and sim­ple, with no subtlety and com­plex­ity. It is meant to be drunk young. If there is a Port found in a ba­sic bar, it will most likely be a Ruby Port. From my youth in the Bri­tish pub scene, pop­u­lar drinks were Port and lemon, or for those seek­ing a “pick me up,” Port and Brandy. These would only be made us­ing Ruby Port.

• Tawny Port is a bar­rel-aged Port. The color is mel­lowed by ag­ing and ox­i­da­tion, hence the name. Of­ten, they carry an aged state­ment on the la­bel. A bot­tle not show­ing an age may be not wor­thy of the name. How­ever if it has an age state­ment, say 10 or 20 year old, it will be rich, with a nutty, dried fruit char­ac­ter.

• LBV (Late bot­tled Vin­tage) is a wine from a sin­gle vin­tage that is usu­ally aged in bar­rel for a min­i­mum of four to six years. It is richer and far more re­ward­ing than the ba­sic Ruby, and will be less ex­pen­sive than its el­der brother.

• Vin­tage Port will be pro­duced only in spe­cial years, when a vin­tage is “de­clared.” They are aged in bar­rel for only two to three years, and then cel­lared in bot­tle for more than 20 years. When opened, the wine has to be de­canted off its sed­i­ment, and then should be drunk in one sit­ting. The wines are rich, vel­vety, com­plex and warmly sat­is­fy­ing. In Bri­tish Port cul­ture, it is en­joyed at the end of the meal, and the de­can­ter may be passed only to the left. If the you are at a Bri­tish din­ner party and some­one va­cantly asks you “Have you seen the Bishop of Nor­wich?” you should im­me­di­ately check that the de­can­ter has not stopped in front of you, and pass it on. To the left, of course!

• White Port: There is also a White Port made from white grape va­ri­eties, which is some­times served ice cold as an aper­i­tif. It is pop­u­lar in the sum­mer in Por­tu­gal.

PORT SHOULD be served in small tulip wine glasses (not dis­sim­i­lar to the Sherry Co­pita), or a white wine glass will do. Serve it just colder than room tem­per­a­ture. Port is clas­sic with wal­nuts, strong fla­vored cheeses and choco­late dishes. A pair­ing made in heaven is to match a Vin­tage Port with a rich, ripe Stil­ton cheese. Per­haps best of all is to sip it af­ter din­ner.

How­ever, un­til re­cently, de­spite a life­time in the wine trade, I had never vis­ited Port coun­try. That was un­til I was for­tu­nate enough to come across the com­pany Wild Douro, with the charm­ing Marta Mar­ques, who is in­cred­i­bly at­ten­tive, smoothly pro­fes­sional with great at­ten­tion to de­tail.

We vis­ited the Douro Val­ley, one of the most stun­ning-look­ing wine re­gions there are. I knew I had ar­rived when I saw the red ves­per with a wooden case of port strapped to it, ready for de­liv­ery. The driver had nipped in to a cof­fee shop for a cof­fee. We took a boat up­stream, ap­ing the be­gin­nings of the jour­ney the bar­rels of wine would take to the Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wines would rest and ma­ture, be­fore be­ing shipped from Porto. The schist soil vine­yards plunge to­ward the wa­ter in wind­ing, un­du­lat­ing ter­races. The sun on the vine­yard slopes re­vealed a myr­iad of dif­fer­ent col­ors that ap­peared to change ev­ery sec­ond.

The Bri­tish were not only the main con­sumers of Port, but also the main pro­duc­ers. Iconic names like Cockburn, Croft, Gra­ham’s, San­de­man and Tay­lor’s don’t just sound Bri­tish, they are! Thus, the very fab­ric of the Bri­tish way of life has seeped into the Douro Val­ley and these Bri­tish brands be­came the voice of Port to the world. Of the fa­mous Por­tuguese Port fam­i­lies, there is none bet­ter known than the Fer­reiras. In­ci­den­tally, Fer­reira (and the sim­i­lar Per­reira) were names also once as­so­ci­ated with the Jewish com­mu­nity in Por­tu­gal. It makes one won­der if there are hid­den, for­got­ten Jewish roots some­where!

We vis­ited Quinta Do Val­lado, built in 1716, the win­ery owned by the Fer­reira fam­ily. They are de­scen­dants of the ma­tri­arch Dona Antonia, who was one of the great Port fig­ures of the 19th cen­tury. They made Fer­reira Ports for more than 200 years. When they sold the brand, they con­tinue to make Ports un­der the Val­lado brand name. We saw the la­gars, where en­er­getic young men still lock arms and tread on the grapes as their an­ces­tors did cen­turies be­fore. The Val­lado Tawny Ports, filled in squat spirit-type bot­tles, were rich and nutty but not cloy­ing. The nose of the 20-yearold re­minded me of Christ­mas cake, with dried fruit soaked in brandy, and sub­dued notes of tof­fee. The 40-year-old was sim­i­lar, broader with more trea­cly notes. Fun­nily enough, I was not alone in pre­fer­ring the 20-year-old. It was sim­ply more har­mo­niously bal­anced. How­ever, you don’t have to make a choice. Both were out­stand­ing.

We also vis­ited the Quinta Nova, whose prop­erty dates back to 1725. Here gen­tly press­ing tech­nol­ogy has re­placed the bare­foot stom­pers. The Quinta Nova LBV was good value, show­ing el­e­gance, good fruit, a splash of choco­late and an easy drink­a­bil­ity. Their Nova Vin­tage Port was opened in the tra­di­tion way us­ing red-hot tongs. It was then gen­tly de­canted. The wine it­self was dense and con­cen­trated, but show­ing fresh show­ing red and black fruits, a vel­vety el­e­gance and some bit­ter choco­late notes.

Both were strongly into wine tourism, with ac­com­mo­da­tion, and the Quinta Nova Restau­rant was ex­cel­lent. How­ever, we stayed in the beau­ti­ful Douro Palace Ho­tel Re­sort & Spa. We ar­rived af­ter dark, so it was a won­der­ful sur­prise to open the cur­tains to find your room was lit­er­ally sit­ting on the Douro River, so one could en­joy the views of a life­time, whilst wip­ing the sleep from one’s eyes.

Af­ter the Port sto­ries passed down through the fam­ily, I am pleased to have fi­nally ex­pe­ri­enced the re­gion where it is made. The wine is rich and sat­is­fy­ing and the re­gion breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful.

Adam Mon­te­fiore has ad­vanced Is­raeli wine for over 30 years and is re­ferred to as the English voice of Is­raeli wine. www.adammon­te­fiore.com The writer was a guest of El Al Air­lines, the Por­tuguese Em­bassy in Israel and Wild Douro on a visit to the Douro in Por­tu­gal.

(Quinta Nova)

QUINTA NOVA and the stun­ning ter­raced vine­yards of the Douro. • ADAM MON­TE­FIORE

THE FER­REIRAS, one of the great Port fam­i­lies, are own­ers of Quinta do Val­lado.

(Photos: Quinta do Val­lado)

THE DE­LI­CIOUS Quinto do Val­lado 40-year-old Tawny Port.

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