WINE O’CLOCK: A sweet, rich winner to end your dinner
In 1698, eight years after the Battle of the Boyne, English kings had grown tired of fighting each other and went to war with France. The French, unsportingly, stopped sending their wine to England and the English, resourcefully, looked for another supply.
They found it in Portugal’s Duroro Valley but the wine did not travel well over this longer distance. To rectify the problem, the producers added a little brandy which halted the fermentation process and retained more of the wine’s natural sugar. I have no idea how this helped, but it produced a sweet, somewhat heavy wine, which the English found much to their taste. And so was born Port, one of the world’s great fortified wines.
It comes in many varieties but there are four broad categories. There is white Port, which I wrote about two weeks ago. It is usually seen as a summer drink or an aperitif, made with indigenous white grapes including Rabigato, Viosinho, Gouveio and Malvasia, and best sipped over ice. Pink Port is a rosé variant of white Port.
The most popular Ports in Ireland are ruby and tawny. The ruby styles tend towards flavours of chocolate and ripe berries and are a little less sweet than the tawnies which have flavours that usually evoke comparison with butterscotch, hazelnuts and almond nuts.
Both ruby and tawny Ports make good dessert wines and pair well with cheese and crackers. They are sweeter than the other great fortified wine, Sherry, which I wrote about last week.
There is a third, Madeira, which was once popular but is not seen much nowadays. I will conclude these fortified ramblings with a look at it next week.
Offley 10 Year Old Tawny (€29.95 The Wine Centre, Kilkenny)
The perfect example of a tawny Port, with flavours of vanilla, nuts and raisins. It’s a nice dessert wine, but you could sip this one any time, just by itself.
Dow’s Late Bottle Vintage 2009 (€24.99 Worldwide Wines, Waterford)
Not all Ports are vintage. Those that are come in two designations . The wines described as Late Bottle are kept in seasoned oak casks until fermentation and maturation is complete, then bottled. Others mature in the bottle .
There is a difference in taste and texture but I would not say one is superior. Try them and see.
Finest Vintage Port (€29.21 Tesco)
This is a vintage Port that matures in the bottle. Tesco says it can continue to mature for at least two decades. No bottle of Port has ever sat in my house for two months, let alone two decades, so who am I to argue?
It’s a nice rich Port that goes particularly well with blue cheese.