Carlos Ferreira from New Street Wine Shop shares some local knowledge on the most famous drink from his native Portugal.
We have the French to thank for Port. Hundreds of years ago, the French and English were fighting, as usual, so the English had to find an alternative supply of wine and Portugal was the obvious choice. They say that a couple of Scousers decided to fortify Douro wine to help it survive a journey back to England in the 1670s, and so they ended up inventing what has become a world-famous drink.
As much as the English love Port, France is actually the number one export market.
Vintage Port can be kept for years – you can store great vintages for up 200 years. We will soon have a very rare old Tawny dating back to 1882 in New Street Wine Shop and you could consider it just a baby!
The 2011 vintage is already considered the best ever vintage for Port – but you will have to wait at least 15-20 years before it starts to drink well.
Port used to be for old people but now everyone drinks it. It has become trendy for people to create cocktails with white ports. Take a few ice cubes, add some ginger tonic under pressure and garnish with orange peel. Amazing.
At home, we drink Port all the time – before a meal, we would have white port or a tawny, chilled.
My favourite food match is Ruby Port with truffles. It’s a match made in heaven. RubyPort also goes well with dried fruits – dried figs, or pears. The fruit makes your tongue more soft and you appreciate the flavours of the port better. A TawnyPort would go well with chocolate fondant. Then there’s cheese, of course. With a mixed board of cheese, I would pour a tawny.
Most wines are better with food, but for a vintage Port, I would drink it on its own at the end of a meal, otherwise the flavours of the food would destroy it. At home we say that drinking Port is a relaxing time, sitting outside in the early hours of the morning after a meal, enjoying a great bottle. At Christmas time, I will step outside and have a moment to myself with a beautiful glass of Port. It’s a special moment for me.
You can keep a Port a long time. You can keep a bottle of unopened vintage Port longer than most wines in the world and the rewards for those who are patient are huge! Once you open it though, I recommend drinking it within a week. A friend of mine is a winemaker. He opens a bottle on Christmas Eve and just has a small glass every evening over the festive period. He loves to see how the wine develops over that time. For drinking over a longer period, look to Ruby ports such as Late Bottled Vintage or any of the fabulous aged tawny Ports.
Open vintage Port the day before you intend to drink it. That’s what we do at home. If I know that I have people coming over for dinner on a Saturday evening, I will choose a special vintage and open it on the Friday so that it has time to breathe and open up.
Buy Port online from the D&D Wine shop.