We may have food down cold, but wine? This is where we'll conquer it. Join us; we don't want to drink alone.
Today: The drink you thought was reserved for after dinner isn't -- here's how to enjoy it.
In my book, Port wine falls squarely in the chapter titled Misunderstood. Common assumptions about the profile of a Port drinker call to mind grandparents, sipping on the ruby wine with a bit of chocolate after dinner.
But the reality is that today, Port producers are generating so many different options that sticking to tradition can feel wildly outdated. Some seven or eight brands now even produce Port wines that are pink, and sales of white Port (which is most often drunk before dinner) are on the rise. Most of the major Port producers are also creating portfolios of Port cocktails -- like a Port and tonic with a twist of orange -- that are purposely intended as aperitifs. Surprised? I was too.
But what’s more surprising is the range of flavors, textures, and colors you notice when faced with a tasting of three different Port wines; and that variety blows the door wide open on food options to pair alongside any one of them. Here are some ideas for experimenting.
Long considered an inferior product, white Port is making a strong comeback with increases in production and popularity. Try the Kopke line, ideally the one that’s been aged for 20 years; it will be more developed than the 10-year old bottle. If you’re drinking it as an aperitif, simply lay out some dried fruits, or take it a few steps further with this recipe for poached dried apricots and plums. If you’re drinking the white Port with dessert, it’s lovely with crème brûlée. Or, for a totally unexpected non-dessert option, try it with foie gras.
Ruby Port is probably closest to what you’ve experienced as Port: it’s similar to a red wine, and looks the most like a red wine, but it tastes sweeter. If you go with a traditional chocolate pairing, make it luxurious with Hervé This’ Chocolate Mousse, or else the crowd-pleasing Chocolate Dump-It Cake from Amanda’s mother. Graham’s Ruby Port is a reliable, easily-available option.
For food pairings with tawny Ports, you can dive into one aspect of the unique tradition of Port production in Portugal. Egg whites have long been used as a fining agent in wine, to remove impurities; and Port producers in Portugal have a tradition of donating the left-over egg yolks to local convents and schools who would then use them to cook various savory foods, desserts, and puddings for the children in their care. The 20-year old Tawny Port from Sandeman, for example, is harmonious with pudding. If you serve it as an aperitif, try salty starters like salted almonds and blue cheese.
Let us know in the comments what works for you!
Photos by James Ransom