What is Tawny Port?

Tawny PortOn a cold winter night I like to snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and a glass of something that is sure to take the chill off…something stronger than your average glass of wine… a small glass (or two) of Tawny Port.  I love most types of Port, but Tawny Port is my absolute favourite – I love its sweet caramelly flavour and silky texture…and the way it warms up even my icy toes.

What is Tawny Port?

There are basically two broad categories of Port: those that are wood matured and those that are bottle matured. “Wood matured” Port is aged for varying lengths of time in wood (or stainless steel or cement) until it is judged “ready to drink” and bottled. “Bottle matured” Ports spend a short time in wood but are bottled relatively early and left to develop in bottle. Vintage Ports are a bottle aged Ports, while aged Tawny Ports are wood matured in a controlled, oxidative environment.

Basic Tawny Port

Much of the Tawny Port sold today is of a very basic quality without the complexity and concentration of a “true” aged Tawny. A basic Tawny port may not have been aged for much longer than a Ruby Port, which is usually much less than 3 years, and may have been made from lighter wines grown in the cooler areas of the Douro where the grapes rarely ripen to give much depth and intensity of fruit.

Often certain winemaking practices are employed to give a lighter coloured wine and sometimes White Port is added, producing a wine with a tell-tale pink colour as opposed to amber-brown. Producers may also heavily fine and filter a wine in order to strip some of the colour away. In some cases, caramelized grape must is added to give an artificially mature colour and aroma to the wine.

Aged Tawny Port

A Port that has been left to age in wooden casks (called pipes) for an extended period of time will change from a purplish-red colour to a tawny colour, giving this style of Port its

English: A glass of port wine. Français : Un v...

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name. Over time, oxygen enters the barrels allowing for the evaporation of some of the wine. The sugars and flavours become more concentrated and the wine takes on a soft, silky character full of complexity and elegance. These are fortified wines of high quality made with the utmost of care. Most Aged Tawnies are bottled with an indication of age on the label (See below).

Aged Tawnies are carefully blended from a number of years and are selected from among the finest ports sourced from the best vineyards. The final blend may be made up from as many as 50 different component wines. The younger, fresher, fruit-driven wines balance the maturity of the older wines. The tasting and blending of the wines is a continuous process as the producer strives to create a “house style” that is consistent from year to year.

The label on a bottle of Aged Tawny Port will give the date of bottling which is important because they may begin to deteriorate if they are left in the bottle for too long.

Tawny Port with an Indication of Age

Aged Tawny Port may have an indication of their age on the label. The wines may be designated as 10, 20, 30, or over 40 years old. These ages are approximations only, as Tawny Ports are a blend of many different years. They are not minimum ages either. A 30-year-old tawny may have wine as young as 5-years-old blended with wine of 50-years-old. Some labels may simply indicate that the port is a “Reserve” tawny”, which means that it has spent at least 7 years in wood.

10-Year-Old Tawny: a brick-red colour in the centre with an amber-tawny rim. There will be a rich raisiny character and a toasty complexity from the time spent in the wood.  These are the least expensive of the Aged Tawny Ports and can be great value.

20-Year-Old: the colour can range from tawny-pink to a pale amber-orange, sometimes with an olive-green rim. These wines have delicate fruit aromas with flavours of toasted almonds and brazil nuts. A 20-year-old tawny will be slightly sweeter than a 10-year-old because of the greater concentration of sugar. These wines can be very complex and are my personal favourite.

30-Year-Old: the colour can range from orange-amber to pale mahogany with an olive-green rim. These wines have a raisin-like richness with flavours of roasted coffee and nuts. The sweetness can be unctuous and sometimes even a bit cloying. These are more expensive than the 10- and 20-year-old tawnies, and more difficult to find.

Over 40-Years-Old: the colour can range from amber-tawny to deep mahogany with an olive-green rim. These are very mature wines with aromas and flavours of freshly roasted coffee, toasted almonds, marmalade, and candied peel with a rancio character. Some are cloyingly sweet, and most are very expensive.

Serving Tawny Port

Tawny Port is actually preferred in Portugal as their refinement and delicacy are a better match to the warmer Portuguese climate than a heftier Vintage Port. Tawny Ports can be thought of more as a summer wine. They can be served slightly chilled and even poured over ice, although some people like them served at room temperature. Try them a few ways to decide which way you prefer them.

Tawny Port can be paired with various dried fruit, especially apricot, pear tartlets, strawberries, sharp cheeses, bread pudding, rice pudding, crème brulée, crème caramel, and bittersweet chocolate.

(What is Tawny Port? was first published on Suite101.com.)

Fonseca Vintage Port – A Vertical Tasting

The Winetasters Society of Toronto did it again with another fabulous tasting – this time a vertical tasting of Fonseca Vintage Port.  We sampled 8 wines spanning 4 decades.  The two oldest wines were both from 1966.  One was bottled by Fonseca in Portugal and the other was bottled in England.  The youngest wine was from the 2007 vintage.

Fonseca Guimaraens was established in 1822 by Manuel Pedro Guimaraens after he acquired control of the Fonseca & Monteiro Company.  It was in the contract that the name Fonseca should always appear as long as the company was in existence.  The Guimaraens family retained control of the port shipping company until 1948 when it was sold to Taylor’s.  Fonseca is now part of the powerful Fladgate Partnership, along with Taylor’s and Croft.

Fonseca Ports are wines of consistently fine quality and its Vintage Ports are usually ranked among the top wines in each declared vintage.  A member of the Guimaraens family, David Guimaraens, is still the winemaker.  David happens to be the great-great-great-grandson of the founder.  He ensures that all the wines in the Fonseca portfolio are made to the highest standards.  The grapes for Fonseca’s wines are mainly come from 3 company owned quintas: Quinta do Cruzeiro, Quinta do Panascal, and Quinta do Santo Antonio, all purchased in the 1970s.  The grapes for all the Vintage Ports are still crushed by human feet, but the non-vintage grapes are crushed using a system of robotic feet.

By far the biggest selling Fonseca Port is Bin No.27, a delicious Reserve Ruby Port full of dark berry aromas, plum, and raisins.  It’s also a great value at only $15.95 at the LCBO.  Currently there are a few bottles of the 2003 Fonseca Vintage Port still available at the LCBO, at around $127, but not many.  There is, however, quite a large quantity of the relatively unusual Fonseca White Port on LCBO shelves at $14.95.  For information about white Port, read my article “What is White Port?” on Suite101.com.  Fonseca also makes a nice Late Bottle Vintage, but currently there’s only one bottle left in the LCBO system right now – the 2003.

Fonseca Vintage Port Tasting Notes: with a rating of the overall vintage in general for Vintage Port.

1966 English bottled: The 1966 vintage has been rated as an excellent, or Classic, vintage, characterized by power and elegance.  It was customary until 1971 for Port to be shipped to places, such as the UK, in barrel and then be bottled at their destination.  1970 was the last year this practice was allowed.  This wine is showing beautifully right now, but still has enough stuff to help it last quite a bit longer.  The colour is a medium tawny with a very light rim.  It’s overflowing with aromas of caramel, dried cherries, dried figs, and potpourri.  Sensually silky on the palate with a long and luxurious finish.  This was without a doubt my favourite of the tasting.  The rest of the group seemed to agree with me because it ranked number 1 by the whole group.

1966 Fonseca bottled:  A slightly deeper colour than the English bottled version with a touch more of a ruby hue to it.  Similar complex aromas as the English bottled, but not quite as pronounced.  Dried flowers and dried berries dominate.  Silky on the palate with flavours of dark chocolate caramels and baking spice.  Drinking very well now, but can also age quite a bit longer.  This was the overall 3rd favourite of the everyone in attendance.  Another beauty.

1980: 1980 has been rated as a good vintage, characterized by attractive fresh fruit flavours.  A pale tawny colour – lighter than the two 1966 Ports.  Aromas of dried red fruit and caramel dominate.  On the palate it has a silky texture but seemed less concentrated than the other wines of the tasting with a slightly astringent finish.  I had this ranked as my 7th favourite, but the group disagreed with me, making it the 2nd overall favourite of the night.

1985: The 1985 vintage was ranked overall as a very good vintage, characterized by a few outstanding wines, but some not very good at all.  The Fonseca Vintage Port happens to be one of the very good wines of the vintage.  Still showing a deep ruby colour with a garnet rim.  Lots of fig, and dark fruit aromas of prune and black plum, with a pretty floral note.  A lovely round texture on the palate with flavours of ripe cherry, blackberry, and baking spice.  I had this ranked as my 3rd favourite, however the rest of the group disagreed with me again as it was the overall 6th favourite of the tasting.

1992: This vintage has been rated overall as very good to excellent, characterized by rich, concentrated wines.  The Fonseca 1992 has a medium-deep garnet colour and aromas that seemed a bit muddy to me, but showing some dried fig, prune, and black licorice aromas.  A velvety texture, and slightly fuzzy tannins lead to flavours of chocolate and dark fruit.

1994: This vintage has been rated as outstanding (or Classic), characterized by very fleshy wines with firm structure.  This wine has a stewed dark fruit character along with aromas of suede and caramel.  On the palate there is a round texture with flavours of baking spices, Christmas cake, and prunes.

2003: This vintage has been rated as a very good, some say Classic vintage, characterized by a hot summer – some areas were even too hot.  An opaque ruby colour with stained tears.  This wine shows generous, ripe dark fruit flavours of blackberry, blueberry, and plum, with a touch of spice.  A very lush, velvety texture with ripe dark fruit and spice.  Needs time.

2007: This vintage has been rated as excellent, but the wines still need several years before drinking.  A very deep purple colour with stained tears.  This wine is brimming with black fruit, such as blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry and plum, with an attractive floral note (roses?).  The tannins are still quite aggressive and need several more years in the bottle to soften up.  Rich dark fruit, cherry, and violet flavours lead to a long finish.  This wine should be beautiful in about 20 years.  I ranked this as my second favourite of the tasting.

Discover the Portuguese Wine Region of Alentejo

Last week at the Wines of Portugal tasting at the Art Gallery of Ontario, I sampled several very tasty wines from a Portuguese wine region that I had previously known very little about – Alentejo.  Located in the southern part of Portugal, the region’s wines can be labelled as Alentejo DOC or Alentejano VR (vinho regional).  According to the encyclopedic wine book simply titled, Wine, by André Dominé, Alentejo has now surpassed Dão as the third most important quality wine region in Portugal, after Porto and Vinho Verde.

“Vinho Regional” is the equivalent to the French “Vins de Pays”, but unlike most vins de pays, the VR wines of Portugal are not necessarily the more basic wines of the region.  In fact, some Portuguese producers put their best brands on the market under the vinho regional label, and as a result, the brand name has become more important than the designation of DOC.  The VR category is also used for blended wines that may not fit in to the DOC regulations.  In addition, some of the best vineyards are located outside the DOC and can only be labelled as VR.  So…don’t automatically disregard the VR wines as being inferior!

For centuries Alentejo was best known in the wine world as an important supplier of high quality cork to stopper wine bottles.  After the military-led revolution in the 70’s and early 80’s the economy of the region was in a state of confusion.  Co-operatives previously established with government support produced basic quality wine for the local market.  It wasn’t until the European Union offered financial support that the wine-making potential of the region began to shine.  New technologies and modern wine-making methods were adopted which proved essential in an area with a climate considered far too hot for the production of fine wine.  Irrigation, necessary in this hot, dry area, was established and temperature controlled wineries and fermentation vessels were invested in.

Most of the wine produced in the region is made by 6 large, but very competent co-operatives; however, the number of private wine estates is continuing to increase.  In 1994 there were only 40 private wine estates and now there are over 300.

Most of the vineyard space is taken up with red grapes, but about 10% are white grapes producing fresh and pretty wines.  A few of the important white varieties are the relatively bland Antão Vaz; Arinto, prized for its ability to retain acidity in the hot climate; and the gently aromatic Roupeiro.

Some of the important red varieties are the deep coloured and blackberry fruity Tricadeira; Aragonez (Tempranillo) which has less tannin and acidity here than in the Douro and produces juicy, plummy, spicy wines; the Teinturier grape Alicante Bouschet, which produces wine with good colour, tannin, and fruit; Alfrocheiro, with its blackberry, spice and soft tannins; and Syrah which, I’m told, grows very well in this southern Portuguese region.

Tasting Notes: these are just a few of the wines I enjoyed from Alentejo that were available at the tasting.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get to all of them.

Herdade Paço do Conde White 2008 Alentejano VR:  A blend of Antao Vaz and Arinto.  A lovely minerally, citrus nose.  Light and refreshing.  A simple sipping wine for a hot day.   Terroir Wine Imports (www.terroirwineimports.com).

Herdade das Albernoas White 2008 Alentejano VR:  A blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto, and Roupeiro.  More fruit aromas than the wine above with a lovely lavender floral note (probably from the addition of Roupeiro).  A very pleasant summer wine.  Terroir Wine Imports (www.terroirwineimports.com).

Quinta do Quetzal Guadalupe Selection 2005 Alentejano VR:  A blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez, and Alicante Bouschet.  A very pretty nose of violets and black and red fruit.  It has similar flavours on the palate with a somewhat short finish.  Still a very nice wine.  Terroir Wine Imports (www.terroirwineimports.com).

Quetzal 2007 Alentejo DOC:  A blend of Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet. A more intense nose is evident with lots of dark fruit and red cherry with an appealing floral note.  Soft and supple on the palate with an appetizing finish.  A really enjoyable wine.  Terroir Wine Imports (www.terroirwineimports.com).

Herdade do Esporao 4 Castas Red 2008 Alentejano VR:  A blend of Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Alfrocheiro, Petit Verdot.  Pleasant aromas of spicy dark fruit.  Similar flavours follow through onto the palate with supple tannins and a good length.  FWP Trading Inc. – Food and Wines of Portugal (www.winesofportugal.ca).

Herdade do Esporao Reserva Red 2007 Alentejo DOC: Blend of Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira.  Although this was one of my favourite wines of the tasting, it is a bit closed right now and needs some more time to open up.  Decant before serving or age a few more years.  Attractive aromas of violets and ripe dark fruit.  The firm tannins could also use some time to integrate.  Good length.  FWP Trading Inc. – Food and Wines of Portugal (www.winesofportugal.ca).

Herdade do Esporao Aragones 2007 Alentejano VR:  Aromas of spice, black pepper, dark fruit, and plum.  Similar flavours are evident on the palate with firm tannins and a good length.  A balanced and delicious wine.

Warre’s Vintage Port Tasting

The February theme for the Winetaster’s Society of Toronto was Warre’s Vintage Port.  In the dark, cold winter months, the warm, rich, velvetty texture of a fine port wine is just what is needed to envelop us and take the chill off.  In this tasting, we sampled 8 different vintages, the oldest being the 1977.  I liked most of them very much.  One, the 1994, seemed a bit musty to me, an indication of a fault, but the table that I was at were the only ones to think so.  My favourite was the 1991, followed by the 1980.

Warre’s has 340 years of experience making port as it was the first British Port house to be established in 1670.  It is now owned by the Symington family who control the parent company, Symington Family Estates.  The Symington’s also own the firms Dow’s and Graham’s, among others.  Warre’s also owns several significant vineyards (940 ha and 25 quintas) in the Douro including Quinta da Cavadinha, Quinta do Retiro Antigo, and Quinta da Telhada.  Quinta da Cavadinha and Quinta do Retiro Antigo are the two vineyards that supply grapes to the vintage port.  Cavadinha is a cooler site and the grapes grown here provide freshness, floral aromas and good acidity.  Retiro Antigo is a warmer site with older vines that give intensity, concentration, and complexity to the blend.  Individual members of the Symington family privately own vineyards which they manage and the grapes are supplied to Warre’s.

In general, Warre’s vineyards are located on cooler sites and on the highest altitudes.  The grapes take longer to mature which ensures they gain complexity during the slow ripening process.  The grapes retain a higher acidity that helps to balance the sweetness of the wines.  As a result of the unique terroir, Warre’s ports are characteristically elegant with a distinctive floral note.  Warre’s Vintage Port is still primarily treaded by foot, but the Symington’s have designed “robotic lagares” to tread some of the grapes.

An interesting question was asked of the group about whether or not people in the room would be willing to buy vintage port sealed with a Stelvin (screwcap).  I was surprised to see that quite a few people said they would be willing and would actually be very happy to buy a vintage port under screwcap.  It seems that the screwcap is finally losing its loser image.  (Although the other day at the restaurant I work in, a bottle of wine was refused because it was sealed under screwcap.  I hadn’t heard of that happening for a long time.)

For more information on Vintage Port please read my Suite 101 article, “Vintage Port”.

Tasting Notes:

1977:  This vintage is considered to be one of the finest of the second half of the 20th century.  Overall, the vintage produced wines of concentration, complexity, and longevity and was declared by all the major port houses.  After such hype about the vintage I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the Warre’s 1977.  The colour had faded dramatically to a light tawny colour.  The wine has aromas of leather, spice (nutmeg), dried fruit (apricot), and animal.  It has a very silky texture on the palate with flavours of leather and suede, and dried fruit.  It seemed a bit light for the vintage.  There was even some debate over whether this wine was more like a tawny port than a vintage port.

1980:  The year started off badly with poor conditions during flowering and fruit-set.  The remainder of the summer was great until rain during harvest complicated matters.  Those who were able to avoid damage in the spring and pick at the right time were able to make some excellent wines.  As mentioned above, I really liked this wine.  It is a very dark garnet colour with stained, slow moving tears.  Lots of aromas of rich, ripe dark fruit, with an unmistakable floral note. On the palate it has a smooth texture and a flavour that reminded me of chocolate covered cherries.  Other dark fruit flavours are evident along with chewy tannins and a long length.

1985:  Again, the spring started off a bit rough with a cold spell that lasted through May and June, leaving the grapes about 3 weeks behind their normal development.  July and August were hot and dry which brought development back to normal.  There were two days of rain in the fall but for the most part the warm and dry conditions continued right through the harvest.  This vintage is seen as a classic vintage overall, with concentrated, rich, and potent wines.  I actually found this wine to be a bit lighter than some of the others.  There are aromas of cherry, black licorice, and brown spice.  It is quite smooth, but it does seem to have a bit more of an acidic backbone than some of the other vintages we tried.  The tannins are still quite firm and this wine could age for a few more years.

1991:  Heavy rain at the start of the year were able to support the vines through the dry spring and very hot summer.  The grapes achieved perfect ripeness with high levels of sugar.  This wine is very aromatic with black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and suede notes.  A very silky texture with rich chocolate flavours, licorice, cloves, and lots of plum.  The tannins are soft and integrated and there is a very long, delicious finish.  Definitely a beauty!

1992 Quinta da Cavadinha:  Not a declared vintage.  Drought conditions plagued much of the year with some vineyards showing signs of stress as a result.  Heavy rains in the early part of August helped tremendously and sugar readings improved.  This wine shows aromas of chocolate, black licorice, cherries, and a floral note.  It has a smooth texture with flavours of dark fruit and a touch of leather.

1994:  The very wet winter was a welcome relief after a few very dry years.  The extra water replenished the ground water reserves.  A cold and wet period in May affected flowering and reduced the crop size.  The remainder of the summer had ideal growing conditions.  The vintage took place with warm days and cool nights.  This was my least favourite of the tasting as I found the wine to be quite musty with a hint of mould.  I suspected TCA, but it seems that only those at my table thought so.  Only one other person in the room thought it was faulty.

2000:  Heavy rainfall in the spring lead to problems with flowering and greatly reduced crop levels.  By the time harvesting took place in October, the grapes were healthy and perfectly ripe.  Overall, the 2000 vintage will be remembered for the immense concentration of the wines and the very small quantities produced.  The Warre’s 2000 vintage port has very floral aromas along with aromas of cherry, plum, and cassis.  On the palate it is almost Cabernet-like with flavours of cloves and cassis.  It has a firm structure and the tannins are a bit tight and need some time to soften and integrate.

2003:  The year seemed just about perfect for the healthy development of the grapes.  Just the right amount of dry weather and heat enabled the grapes to ripen early, but under ideal conditions.  This was the first vintage blend to be partly made up with wine produced in the Symington Robotic Lagares (To find out more about the robotic lagares and to see a picture go the Symington website).  There is good intensity of aromas on the nose with black cherry and other dark fruit, spice, chocolate, and a distinctive floral note.  It’s very full-bodied with a smooth texture and firm structure.  There is an abundance of dark fruit flavours, chocolate, and spice with a very concentrated and long finish.  Quite delicious!

1834 Barbeito Malvazia Madeira – Tasting Note

Most wine has turned to vinegar by the time it reaches 175 years old, but not the 1834 Barbeito Malvazia Madeira I had the pleasure of trying at the annual Winetasters Society of Toronto Christmas Party at Casa Loma a few days ago.  I look forward to this event every year as I get the chance to taste wines I would otherwise probably never have the opportunity to try.  Old vintages of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and California Cabs are among the gems brought out for this event.

The 1834 Barbeito Malvazia Madeira was a real treat.  You may wonder how it managed to stay alive after 175 years…well, it’s a Malvazia Madeira, also known as “Malsmey” in England, which is the sweetest, richest style of the fortified wine from the Portuguese island of Madeira.  Madeira is probably the most resilient and longest lived wine in the world, undoubtedly as a result of the way it is aged.

A long time ago when wine from Madeira was exported to North America, Africa, and Asia by ship, it was noticed that Madeira which had spent 6 to 12 months or more pitching and rolling in the ship’s hull and sometimes being subjected to extremes in temperature, actually tasted really good!  Vinho da roda (wines that spent a round trip on a ship), became greatly sought after compared to vinho canteiro, (wines that matured on the island).  Wine from Madeira continued to take long tropical sea voyages until the 1900s when it became impractical, and more shippers began to use estufas to age their wine.

Estufas are rooms or tanks in which the wine can be artificially heated in order to stimulate the creation of the same special flavours they gained by travelling around the world.  The best Madeiras, however, are aged naturally in canteiros, where no artificial heating is used.  The wine ages in pipes (600 litre barrels) stored under the eaves of buildings, and is heated naturally by the sun for at least 20 years.  Many stay in the attic for much longer, sometimes up to a century or more before bottling.

Madeira is able to take all this abuse while many wines would die quickly in such situations.  The combination of sugar, acidity, and alcohol also help preserve the wine.

1834 Barbeiro Malvazia Madeira:  Concentrated and intense aromas of coffee, chocolate, caramel, raisins, mincemeat, prunes, and molasses dominate the nose.  The rich, luxurious texture makes one weak in the knees and the finish seems to go on forever.  The high sugar content of the wine is balanced by the great acidity of the Malvazia grape.  To be able to try a wine that still tastes amazing, and was made from grapes that grew 175 years ago, really gets the imagination going and takes you back in time to a much different world.

Passion for Portuguese Wine – Connoisseur’s Corner at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo

At the recent Gourmet Food and Wine Expo in Toronto I lead a tutored tasting of 6 wines from Portugal at Connoisseur’s Corner.  There was a white from the Alentejo region, a white from Terras do Sado, a red Vinho Verde, a red from Terres do Sado, a white Port, and a Ruby Port.

Tasting Wine at Connoisseur's Corner

I started with a very brief history of the wine industry in Portugal and then went on to talk about the specific regions where the wines came from.  I gave a short lesson on how to taste wine and then we got to the good stuff – the tasting.

Connoisseur's Corner

Here are the tasting notes from the wines we tasted that day.

Loios 2008 White:  This wine comes from the Alentejo region of Portugal where they have large fluctuations between day and night temperatures.  During the day the temperatures can reach as high as 35°C  and then plummet to 15° to 18° C at night.  The cooling down in the evening helps the grapes recover from the scorching temperatures of the day enabling them to retain some of their natural acidity.  This wine is a blend of two grapes: Roupeiro and Rabo Ovelha.  It was fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel and has not seen any oak at all.  It has a light straw colour with a slight greenish hue.  There are delicate aromas of mineral and lime zest.  This wine is light-bodied with the same mineral and citrus flavours on the palate.  This is a very refreshing everyday wine that could be paired nicely with most seafood and light salads.

Quinta do Bacalhoa Serras de Azeitao 2008: Made in Terras do Sado, a vinho regional region in southern Portugal where there is a warm, maritime climate.  This area is originally the home of sweet fortified wines from the Muscatel (Muscat) grape.  The grapes used in this wine are Fernao Pires and Moscatel de Setubal.  It is a light lemon yellow colour and has grapey floral aromas, typical of the Muscat grape, lifted by subtle hints of straw and mineral.  It is dry with a round, smooth texture, and rich flavours of ripe tropical fruit with medium acid.  This wine would pair well with oriental cuisine, grilled octopus, chicken and turkey.

Ponte da Barca Red Vinho Verde:  In North America we are more familiar with the white wines that hail from this region in the northwest of Portugal, but up until the 1980s most of the wine produced in Vinho Verde was, in fact, red.  Most red Vinho Verde is consumed within Portugal with very little being exported.  Red Vinho Verde is made predominantly with the Vinhao grape which is one of the few grapes that has red flesh giving the wine a very dark ruby colour.  The wine has aromas of red berries and has a rather raspy angular texture with high acid and a medium length.  Definitely not for everyone.

Comporta 2005:  From the Terras do Sado region.  This wine is made with Aragonez (one of the Portuguese names Tempranillo) and Alicante Bouchet.  Interestingly, Alicante Bouchet is also a red grape that has red flesh instead of the greyish-white flesh of most red grapes.  This is a huge wine with dark fruit aromas of damson and other black fruit with hints of tobacco and leather.  It is very full-bodied with opulent tannins and a rich, velvetty texture.  This wine has the stuffing to grow and evolve in the cellar for many more years.  Although it is not available in our market yet, it will be released sometime in the summer of 2010.  It’s not going to be cheap though, at around $50 a bottle.

Fonseca White Port:  Another wine we don’t see a lot of in our market.  Apparently a substantial amount of white grapes are grown in the Douro Valley and all shippers produce a certain amount of white port.  Most are aged for no more than 18 months generally in cement or stainless steel tanks. Wood aging does add character.  The individual wines used in Fonseca White Port were aged in oak vats for 3 years.  The grapes used are Gouveio, Arinto, Voisinho, and Rabigato.  There are aromas of sultana raisins, white peach, spice, and toast.  The 102 g/l residual sugar gives it a very smooth, luscious texture.  This wine would be great with clam chowder, liver pate, or smoked salmon.  It’s not unusual for white port to be made into a cocktail.  A popular one is the “Portonic” which is equal parts white port and tonic with a dash of lime juice and garnished with a slice of lime.  Very refreshing!

Fonseca Bin 27:  Produced from 100% grapes grown in Fonseca Guimaraens own vineyards.  It is aged for 4 years in large chestnut vats and is lightly filtered before bottling.  It has pronounced aromas of raisins, prunes and dense black fruit.  There’s also a hint of spiciness.  The concentrated flavours fill your mouth with dark berries and black cherries.  There are lots firm tannins and it has a long balanced finish.  This port is meant to be consumed when purchased and is not meant for “laying down”.  At $15.95 it’s a great value!

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