Archive

Posts Tagged ‘port’

Study of Port: Epilogue

May 19, 2013 6 comments

What starts with prologue, should end with epilogue, right? What was supposed to be may be one or two posts, became a whole series. In case you missed any of the posts, here is a full list for the study of Port series:

Prologue

First Experiences

Food and Wine Tidbits

Great Restaurants

Finally, let’s talk about Port!

What else can I tell you? We had a great week in Portugal. Very short conclusion can be “great people, great food, great wines, great scenery, great time”.

All people we came across were very nice and helpful. Language barrier was never an issue (I also have to mention that a lot of people speak very good English) – one way or the other we were always able to understand each other. Hotel, restaurants, port houses, stores, our numerous walking tours will only stay in memory with great people encounters.

The food? Very good quality, very reasonably priced. Memorable moments? Bacalhau, Francesinha, lots of fresh fish and shellfish of all kinds. Tuna fish spread is served in almost all restaurants with the bread (you need to ask for butter). Port is available at the buffet breakfast in the hotel, next to the orange juice. Below is the best representation for you (sorry if I make you hungry):

Portuguese Seafood

Portuguese Seafood

But probably the most important part about the food in Portugal is the fact that Portugal practically doesn’t import any agricultural products – everything is either produced, caught or raised locally, and you can taste it.

When it comes to wines, the story becomes interesting. First, there are about 80 grape varieties growing in Portugal, most of them are indigenous grapes. Here is a glimpse for you, as captured in the picture below:

Portuguese Grape Varieties

Portuguese Grape Varieties

By the way, these unique grapes are a great find for all aspiring Wine Centurions – I personally added 5 new grapes to my list – here they are:

Codega do Larinho – 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro

Rabigato – 2011 Castello D’Alba from Douro

Moscatel Galego Branco – 2012 Portal Colheita Branco Douro DOC

Antão Vaz – 2010 Herdade Dos Grous Branco Vinho Regional Alentejano

Donzelinho – 2011 Niepoort Tiara Douro Branco

Outside of Port, very few of the Portuguese wines make it to US, and out of those few, there is even lesser number of wines of notice. Meanwhile, if you will make it to Portugal, you will be literally astonished by the availability of very inexpensive and absolutely delicious wines, both in the stores and in the restaurants. I already gave you my account of great wine encounters in the previous posts (Quinta do Cardo, Niepoort Tiara, Quevedo Vintage Port), but I actually saved the best for last – 2009 Casa Burmester Reserva Douro DOC (blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Roriz) was an absolute highlight of the red wines I tasted during the Porto trip.

DSC_0414 Casa Burmester

I don’t want to even describe this wine in terms of berries, chocolate, coffee, spices – it had everything, but the major thing about this wine was an absolute balance of fruit, structure, power, acidity, tannins – all the elements which make you go “wow” after the first sip where perfectly there. I can’t give you one to one analogy for the way this wine tasted, but to give you an idea of how impressed I was, I would safely put it in one line with 2000 Chateau Margaux, Vega Sicilia Unico and Vintage Krug Champagne. In case you are curious about my rating, this wine gets Drinkability: 9.

I believe I sufficiently inundated you with the pictures of the beautiful scenery, but let me still add a few more:

All roads lead to Port...

All roads lead to Port…

Awakening and Anticipation ...

Awakening and Anticipation …

Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia

DSC_0215 Calem view from above

Port caves – view from above

Douro River view

Douro River view

Time to finally conclude the series. I don’t know what you think, but I really enjoyed writing all these posts. I also saw a lot of happy comments, including those where people said that they will definitely go and visit Portugal (which will be very smart, if you ask me). If you will actually travel to Porto, I hope you will find some useful information here. And in any case, thanks for reading and cheers!

Study of Port: Finally, Let’s Talk About Port!

May 14, 2013 23 comments

Finally, we’re arriving to the culmination point of our Study of Port cycle (here are the links to the previous four posts – post 1, post 2, post 3 and post 4). You probably noticed that while the cycle is called “study of port”, we talked very little about Port wines themselves.

Port Transporter, called Rabelos, now only used to carry around the tourists

Port Transporter, called Rabelos, now only used to carry around the tourists

For me, Port is one of the most difficult subjects in wine (of course Burgundy classification and German wines are the crown jewels of “difficult wine subjects”). There are many different styles of wine, overall still collectively called Port. There are Ruby, Tawny, non-vintage, Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage, 10-, 20-, 30-, 40- years old ports, all available in the wide pricing range. On top of everything, Port is considered to be a dessert wine, and at a certain point in life, the brain just starts either outright protesting or at least behave extremely cautiously around anything related to the word “sugar”.

Thus I was determined to use my Porto trip as a learning opportunity and do my best to acquire an understanding of the subject of Port directly from the source (I hope that clarifies the overall name of the theme chosen for this series of posts). Before I arrived to Porto, I sent out a few e-mails and twitter messages to he various Port houses, explaining that I’m a blogger and I would like to learn about Port and taste some of the older vintages. The only person who actually responded to me was Oscar Quevedo from the Quevedo Port house. After a bit of back and force we settled on the date and time.

DSC_0144 Quevedo Entrance

Once I arrived at the Quevedo Port house… Well, I will not inundate you with the long story, and the short story was that Oscar was not there (but he was very kind to stop by the hotel in the afternoon of the same day and undergo my very intense questioning for 30 minutes). Rachel and Manuel were “running the shop”, and while I was there at the Port house, I read a lot of useful information along the walls (I guess it can be called a self-guided tour), but that still didn’t answer all my questions (like why Vintage port should be consumed within 1 to 3 days from the opening of a bottle, and Late Bottled Vintage (LBV for short) does not. I started asking Rachel and Manuel all of my questions, and I think I drove them both a bit insane – I have to thank them both for their patience with me, especially Rachel, as she really did her best trying to figure out all the differences and details together with me.

I also tried young vintage port, 2010 Quevedo Vintage Port – and it made me happy.

DSC_0132 Quevedo Vintage 2010

The vintage port is supposed to be filtered when it is poured in the glass, which was performed using the jigger and special metal mesh filter.

Every aspect of this wine was simply exciting. The color – I don’t know if the picture truly conveys the color, but it was deeply concentrated, dark ruby red. The nose – ahh, all the fresh berries you can imagine, … And the palate – texturally present, dense, heavy, lots of fresh fruit. Yes, the was sweetness there, but oh so balanced with acidity, tannins and overall power. So far I was refraining from rating of the wines in this series of posts, but this wine was definitely a 9 and I’m sure it will be a part of my “2013 top dozen”.

DSC_0133 Quevedo Vintage Glass

When I met with Oscar in the afternoon, I used the opportunity to bombard him with the questions in my effort to understand the wine called Port. And now I want to share my newly found understanding with you, so for what it worth, below is my attempt so dissect and summarize the world of Port.

First, here are some interesting facts about Port.

  1. As with any other wines, the truth is in the eye of the beholder – and in our case, “beholder” will be a winemaker. Effectively, winemaker knows his vineyards, and winemaker knows what vines are capable of producing specific kinds of ports – Tawny, Ruby, Vintage, non-vintage and so on. But when it comes to Port, that winemaker’s knowledge is also verified before it can be put in the bottle and on the label – by the governing organization called IVDP.
  2. Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto, or IVDP for short, is a top authority regulating production of all Port wines. When winemaker wants to declare a vintage, the sample is sent to IVDP, where it is assessed ( in the blind format) for all the quality of the vintage port, starting from the color, and then vintage designation is either granted or declined. According to Oscar, IVDP knows everything about each and every port producer – how much of what kind of port is in the barrels, how many bottles were sold, how many bottles are still remaining with the Port house and so on – IVDP owns and processes all the information related to the production of Port.
  3. Less than 1% percent of the total port production is designated as Vintage port.
  4. Most of the red port wines are made out of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Francisca and Tinta Cão grapes.
  5. Port is typically fermented for 3-5 days, after which fermentation is stopped with addition of neutral spirit (grape brandy). The addition of the spirit is also a reason behind port’s classification as “fortified wine”.  The resulting port wine usually has ABV in the 18% – 21% range.
  6. Treading, the process of pressing grapes with the feet, is still in use today, but by a very small number of producers and only for the very special wines. The pressing by the feet creates just the right amount of pressure which doesn’t break the seeds – which helps to reduce the bitterness of the wine.
  7. Vintage port is the only port which continues aging in the bottle. Vintage port should be treated as regular wine in terms of handling and storage, and consumed during 24-72 hours after opening of the bottle.
  8. New oak barrels are never used in the production of the port. The barrels have to be used a few times for producing the regular wines, only then they become suitable for the production of the Port.

Now, let’s look at the classification of the Port wines. As you know, I like using mind maps, so here is Port’s classification in the form of the mind map:

Port

Port classification

Now let’s add some details:

  • Rose Port 
    • the latest addition to the world of Port, had being produced only for a few years. Very short contact with the skin after pressing. Personal note – I tried a few, and had not been impressed so far.
  • White Port
    • 3 years aging in stainless steel or neutral oak, then blended, filtered and bottled. Will not age in the bottle and ready to be consumed when you bought it. After a bottle is opened, it should be stored in the fridge and consumed relatively quickly. Personal note – the white port from Sandeman was an eye opening experience – you should really try it.
  • Tawny – ages in the small oak barrels with controlled oxidation. All ports in this group don’t age in the bottle and ready to drink when you buy them. Also, all ports will last for many weeks after the bottle is opened.
    • Single Vintage
      • Colheita
        • Grapes from the single vintage. At least 7 years of aging in the oak barrel (can be longer), then blended, filtered and bottled.
    • Blend of vintages
      • Tawny
        • 4 years in oak barrel, blended, filtered, bottled
      • Tawny Reserve
        • 8 years in oak barrel, blended, filtered, bottled
      • Age-designated Tawny
        • 10 years old, 20 years old, 30 years old, 40 years old – all of these ports are blends of ports of various ages. The blend is composed by winemaker’s discretion – for instance, a 40 years old can be a blend of 30 years old and 100 years old.
        • Tawny More Than 40 years old (not an allowed designation in US)
  • Ruby
    • Ruby
      • 3 years of aging in the stainless steel/neutral oak, then blended, filtered and bottled. After opening, the bottle should be consumed within a few days, and best to be refrigerated.
    • Ruby Reserve
      • 6 years of aging in the stainless steel/neutral oak , then blended, filtered and bottled. After opening, the bottle should be consumed within a few days, and best to be refrigerated.
    • Vintage
      • about 2 years in stainless steel, can be some time in oak barrels, bottled unfiltered, continues aging in the bottle. After opening, consume within 24-48 hours.
    • Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)
      • 4 – 6 years in the oak barrel (I’m sure about the age, not sure about oak barrel versus stainless steel)
    • Single Quinta Vintage
      • Somewhat complicated. It designates that grapes are coming from the single vineyard, but age/blending/bottling etc. is not very clear. But for all intents and purposes, should be treated as Vintage port.

I think I told you everything I know at the moment about Port – but I will keep adding and refining to this post just to make sure I got it all correctly. Before we part, here are couple of pictures for you:

Ruby and White Port age in this huge barrels. One barrel holds 80,000 liters (about 20,000 gallons)

Ruby and White Port age in this huge barrels. One barrel holds 80,000 liters (about 20,000 gallons)

Tawny port ages in the small oak barrels

Tawny port ages in the small oak barrels

Do you remember where the cork tree grows? Yes, in Portugal!

Do you remember where the cork tree grows? Yes, in Portugal!

That’s all I have for you, folks. Comments and corrections are most welcome. Cheers!

Study of Port: Prologue

April 27, 2013 17 comments

I have to break the tradition today – there will be no wine quiz for you to solve. Instead, I’m going to share the experience with you.

As you know, my day time work had nothing to do with wine. But – because of that work, I’m spending this week, in Portugal – hence the title of this blog post. I’m not just in Portugal, I’m actually in the city called Porto – and this is where the Port was born. Over the next few days, I plan to learn as much as I can about Port – and share that with you. But, considering that I’m still jet-lagged, there is not much I can share at the moment – besides a few pictures. Rest assured – more pictures and notes are coming soon!

I have no idea what house is this, but I like it

I have no idea what house is this, but I like it

 

Love the combination of old and new - only in Europe...

Love the combination of old and new – only in Europe…

 

I'm sure you knew that I will not leave you without flowers

I’m sure you knew that I will not leave you without flowers

 

and more flowers

and more flowers

 

DSC_0706 flowers 2

and more flowers…

 

When was the last time you saw $2/bottle wines?

When was the last time you saw $2/bottle wines?

 

Actually, a lot of very inexpensive wine

Actually, a lot of very inexpensive wine

 

yes, I'm a sucker for the red roofs... Never can get enough of them...

yes, I’m a sucker for the red roofs… Never can get enough of them…

 

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. Don’t worry – the wine quizzes will be back, just after we will talk a bit about Port. Cheers!

 

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, [Super] Wine List, and Blogs, Blogs, Blogs…

August 15, 2012 4 comments
Surely these Italian wines will get you talking!

It’s Meritage Time!

First things first – the answer for the Wine Quiz #24 – Bottles Big, Bottles Small. The list in the quiz actually included names of the wine bottles of the different sizes, only slightly mixed up between the different regions. While some of the bottle names are the same between Champagne and Bordeaux, some of the names are unique and are used only in one region, and not in both. The question was to find “one which doesn’t belong”. While Piccolo (187 ml, or one quarter of a bottle) and Methuselah (6L, equal to 8 bottles) are uniquely used in Champagne, it is Imperial ( also 6L, or 8 bottles) which is one and uniquely Bordeaux, thus the right answer for the wine quiz is “Imperial”. Whomever marked “Imperial” as the right answer, please pat yourself on the back – you got all the bragging rights for the right answer for the wine quiz #24. In case you are curious about all the bottles sizes and their names, here is a Wikipedia link for you.

Now let’s talk about interesting “news and such” I came across during the last few days.

There was (yes, unfortunately “was”, not “is”) a restaurant in Spain, called El Bulli – literally the best restaurant in the world, by the famous chef Ferran Adrià (also one of the best in the world). The restaurant closed last summer, and now, as I learned from Dr. Vino’s blog post, about 10,000 bottles from El Bulli’s wine cellar will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in the near future. Dr. Vino’s blog post lists also a link to the El Bulli’s wine list, but for some reason it didn’t seem to work for me. However – in case you want to see the wine list – here it is, 139 pages of goodness… Drooling is acceptable.

Wine Bloggers Conference, a.k.a. WBC2012, is opening in Portland, Oregon in two days. At that conference, winners of the Wine Blog Awards will be announced. It seems that the subject of the awards is heated up considerably with various bloggers expressing their last minute opinions. You can reserch the subject on your own, but here is the opinion of Joe Roberts (1WineDude) – I recommend checking out the blogs he is referring to – they look quite interesting.

Last, but not least, a few interesting posts from The Passionate Foodie blog. First, here is a advanced notice of the upcoming great food holiday – October is a National Cheese Month! Cheese is definitely one of my favorite (if not The Favorite) foods, and knowing that in October I will have an additional reason to eat it, makes me happy. Also, as The Passionate Foodie writes from Boston, he mentioned that The Cheese Shop of Concord will be celebrating its 45th anniversary on October 6th, by offering a number of cheeses at 1967 prices – if you are into cheese, you still have time to find a good reason to be in Concord, MA on that date (I don’t think I need a reason – I plan to be there).

Also in the same The Passionate Foodie blog, you can find a series of posts about Port, one of the [wrongly] under-appreciated but amazing wines – here are the links for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for you – well worth your time, I think.

That’s all I have for today’s Meritage. Don’t forget – it is always [Wine] [Whisky] Wednesday – pour something good into your glass. Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #18: Wine and Independence Day

June 30, 2012 4 comments

While last week’s quiz was definitely influenced by the hot weather, I want to still have one more quiz related to the history of wines, just to finish my imagined series. It also will be very appropriate, as in a few days we will be celebrating Independence Day here in US.

Imagine it is July 4th, 1776. Declaration of Independence is presented and voted for at the meeting of Continental Congress representing 13 colonies, signifying independence from the Great Britain. The room is cheering, and the glasses are poured for celebratory drink. Do you know what exactly was poured in those glasses?

Have fun! Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: