Even before wine became this fever here in Brazil, port wine was already in the bars of many houses. However, we used to serve it only as an aperitif or post-meal, as a liquor. However, this status has been changing for some time, and interesting harmonizations are being discovered for this very traditional Portuguese wine!
Port wine is characteristic of the Douro region, northern Portugal, and is known worldwide for its peculiar flavor, which differentiates it from traditional wines due to the early stopping process of its complete fermentation. This is done by adding brandy (or cognac) while part of the fruit’s sugar has not yet been transformed into alcohol, making it more alcoholic, sweet and strong (that’s why it is also known as fortified wine).
In traditional wines, the acquisition of color occurs during the fermentation course from the pigments of the bark, but as the fermentation of port wine is very brief, the pigmentation and tannins are traditionally acquired from the “step”, that is, the grapes are crushed with the feet, a mechanism that allows the complete extraction of their phenolic value, since the bare feet are the perfect instrument for this, since they are hot and lighter than the presses, thus preserving the whole seeds, which make the wine more bitter when crushed.
Nowadays, there are few vineyards that still use the human treading method (only a few more refined and traditional ones), having been replaced by some automated mechanism such as mills with silicone “feet”, for example. The vintage season (grape harvest) is the climax of the year anywhere, but in the Douro, there is a frenzy, which follows rituals with music and long nights of treading, probably because the region presents a terroir very difficult to cultivate, and the vineyard was one of the few plants that was not discouraged by the natural conditions of the place.
Port wine harmonized with the Naked Cake of red fruits stuffed with 100% cocoa brigadeiro.
Ports can be white or red, and in general, whites are made mainly with Viozinho, Malvasia and Rabigato grapes, while reds are produced from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta grapes. Baroque, but there are Ports with up to 32 grapes in their composition !!!!
White Port wines, still little consumed in Brazil, are fresh and youthful, usually filtered, made in stainless steel vats, and do not undergo aging in barrels. They present different levels of sweetness, varying between the sweetest (the so-called “Tears”, have more than 130g of sugar / liter), the sweets (90 to 130g / l), medium-dry (60 to 90g / l), the dry (40 to 65g / l) to extra-dry (less than 40g / l).
Red Ports are usually divided into safrados (made from fruits harvested from a specific year) and not safrados (mixtures of wines from different vintages), or also classified according to the place in which they were aged: bottle or wood. They are:
- Tawny: it is the simplest category of Ports. It is aged in wood for about 3 years, and is not rash, being filtered and does not usually evolve in the bottle.
- Ruby: they are more reddish in color, and are matured in racks (large containers with reduced oxidation), they are also filtered and not raped.
- Old Tawny: ripen in hooves for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years. They are not seasoned, and the vast majority are red. They are usually the result of mixtures of wines that have matured for more or less years, and this is the great difference, the great touch of the winemaker, in finding the right point of the mixtures.
- Harvest: unlike the Tawnys, they are made from a single harvest, and remain at least 7 years in barrels and the older ones are very similar to Tawnys over 40 years old (there are some that are from the 40s, and only now they went to the shelves!).
- LBV – Late Bottled Vintage: it has a more fruity palate, and a good cost-benefit ratio, because although it costs a lot less, on the palate it reminds us of vintage. They are bottled between 4 or 6 years after harvest. They can be filtered (they evolve in the bottle, and do not need to be decanted) or unfiltered (also called traditional, they are more full-bodied and can age in the bottle. They must be decanted before being tasted).
- Vintage: made with the best vintages, they remain in vats for two years and then are bottled. On their labels, the harvest year is always indicated and is not filtered. It is not advisable to decant it long before tasting, as it oxidizes very quickly, so it should not be kept for long after opening!
The harmonies are easy and sometimes quite unbelievable:
- Young and dry whites: pre-meal appetizer, raw ham, melon with ham.
- Young and sweet whites: roasted and salted almonds, smoked salmon, vanilla ice cream, dried fruits, Foie gras and cured cheeses.
- Tawnys (currents, old and harvest): crème brulée, peaches, Portuguese sweets (egg or oil based), dried fruits and nuts, dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), french toast, petit fours based on butter and lamb with sweet and sour sauces.
- Ruby and LBV: fresh berries, chocolate-based sweets with berries, gorgonzola, brie and camembert.
- New vintage: gorgonzola, acid cheeses such as serra da Estrela, sheep cheese, fillet au poivres vert.
- Old vintage (more than 40 years): tarte tartin, strudel, game meat, raclete and foundue based on gorgonzola.
I hope that from now on you will rethink the function of Porto that is forgotten at the bottom of your bar, and start taking chances on the harmonizations !!!
PS: Learn how to make an irresistible blackberry jam with Port Wine here.