Port: We've Been Drinking it All Wrong

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fresh off a trip from Portugal, with a focused visit to several wineries in the Douro region where Port is king, and after partaking in a Port wines presentation, I learned that we have been doing it wrong for all these years.  I also learned a hell of a lot more about Port itself.

I mean, it’s not uncommon for things to get lost coming from one continent to another, and we also have the reality that the British do things differently from the rest of the world [which is why you have Crusted Port and Brut Champagne], but there the whole issue of the total loss of knowledge transfer between Portugal and the rest of the world, or more specifically the United States.

Growing up, I had heard about Port because at one point in time my mother dated a Merchant Marine, and he occasionally took me with him to bars, where I would often meet some very colorful people.  Of course, I just as much heard about Taylor’s Port, which isn’t the real thing at all.  Hell, you can’t even buy Port that cheap or in those jugs!

Now, let me explain how we have been doing it wrong, but also throw in the issue of preference and deference. 

The biggest problem when it comes to Port is that there is a serious lack of people who truly know the libation and can pass on authentic knowledge of what it is, how it is made and how to properly serve it.  And by this, I don’t mean that every person who is Portuguese should know this either; trust me, I am so sick of people who come from a country and try to bullshit you on a product, custom, or something else from there.  It would be like saying that everyone who says that they are from Philly knows all of the customs and what not from Philly, and it’s even funnier when you dig and find out that they are not even actually from the city.  But I digress.

When you walk into a wine store, you hope that you have knowledgeable people on staff.  In many cases, this is not what you get, and even when you find some people who are a font of information on something, it usually is in a very small slice of the pie.  Port goes mostly misunderstood and misquoted.

Here are the basic things that I discovered:

  • Once a bottle of Port is opened, it should be stored in a cool environment; all Ports shouldn’t be stored for long times after their openings with the exception of aged Tawny Ports.
  • Rose Port is meant to be drank young with lots of ice, a slice of orange, and a leaf of mint.
  • White Port should be consumed cold (I actually picked up an Ice White Port while in the Douro).  White Port should be consumed young, but there are vintage White Ports.
  • Ruby Ports should be drank chilled, and so should LBV (Late Bottled Vintage).
  • Vintage Port should be decanted for at least forty-five minutes.  Vintage Port should not be consumed fewer than ten years after the vintage date, which means that if you purchase a 2007 Vintage Port, it would be best not to open it until 2017.  And vintage Port is Ruby Port.  A bottle of vintage Port should be consumed in two days or less, which means that you really should have some friends over to share it with.  If you don’t have enough friends that you want to share it with, just contact me.
  • Colheita is a vintage Tawny Port, and so the rules for vintage Port apply to it as well.
  • Most ports should be consumed between fifty three and sixty five degrees, the reason being that the warmer it is, the alcohol will overshadow the actual characteristics of the wine.

Now, I can’t remember how long I have been drinking Port, but I can tell you that it probably is more than fifteen years.  Rarely have I been served a chilled Port and I have experienced it a number of different bars and restaurants stretching from Nevada to Florida, and also in Italy as well as Portugal.  When I first had rose Port, I wasn’t impressed with it, though now I know that when served correctly, it makes a lovely libation.  Lastly, Port [with the exception of cocktails utilizing it] should always be served in special glasses, which are smaller and concentrate the aromas as they funnel them to your nose.

Well, that’s it.  While there are several initiatives that I have in regards to Port wine(s), this is my first nugget of information to share and pass along.

Happy drinking!


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