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Posts tagged ‘Shiraz’

Heather Johnston, tastes four red wines (Australian shiraz, French syrah, Spanish tempranillo, and Argentinian pinot noir), and pairs them with mushroom crostini and camembert cheese. Delicious!

Cabernet Franc | Red Wines

February 19th, 2008


Cabernet Franc | Red Wines From Stacy Slinkard,
Your Guide to Wine.

Definition: A thin-skinned red grape that grows particularly well in cooler climates, and is originally from the Bourdeaux and Loire Valley regions of France. The Cabernet Franc has been grown with success in Australia, Chile, Canada, South Africa and California and Washington, producing a fruity wine that is softer and more subdued than its regal relative, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Flavor Profile:

With lower tannin levels and more distinct berry (mainly blueberry, raspberry and sometimes plum) flavor, Cabernet Franc is an ideal candidate for blending with other varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, more producers have been selling Cabernet Franc as a stand alone, single varietal on merchant shelves with notable success.

Food Pairings: poultry, lasagna, couscous with meat, Middle Eastern fare, veggie pizza, and Greek cuisine.

Cabernet Franc Recommendations:

Couly Dutheil Chinon Les Gravieres, Loire Valley $12
Stonegate Winery Cabernet Franc $16
Walla Walla Vintners Columbia Cabernet Franc $30
Cosentino Winery Cabernet Franc $35

Pronunciation: Cah-bur-nay Frahnk
Also Known As: Chinon Cabernet Frank
Alternate Spellings: Cabernet Frank

Source: http://wine.about.com/od/vineyardvocab/g/CabernetFranc.htm

Cabernet Franc | Red Wines

February 19th, 2008


Cabernet Franc | Red WinesCabernet Franc is one of the major varieties of red wine grape in Bordeaux. It is mostly grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but is also vinified alone, particularly in Chinon in the Loire. It is even made into ice wine in Canada.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon (of which it is a parent), contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and the style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, and cassis, sometimes even violets. The Cabernet franc wine’s color is bright pale red.

History
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Cab franc leaf.There are records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux going back to the end of the 18th century and it was planted in Loire long before that. The fact that it is known as Breton in the Loire suggests that it originally came from Brittany, which would be consistent with its preference for cooler temperatures.

Recent DNA research has shown that Cabernet Sauvignon is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Regional production
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Cabernet Franc vineyard planted near Paarl, South Africa.Other than in the Loire, Cabernet Franc is usually planted by growers wanting to emulate the Bordeaux blend, known elsewhere as the Meritage blend. Aside from the countries mentioned below, it is planted in Argentina, the Balkans, Chile, New Zealand, Romania and South Africa.

Australia

As with so many grapes, Cabernet Franc came to Australia in James Busby’s collection of 1832. It predominantly grows in cool, cool to warm and warm climates such as North-Eastern Victoria, McLaren Vale, and the Clare Valley.

Canada

Cabernet Franc is a key blending grape with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It adds tannins for added mouthfeel and increases the complexity of the wine. The wine pictured is a Canadian blend of Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.Cabernet Franc is becoming more popular in Canada, being planted in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, the north shore of Lake Erie, Pelee Island, and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

The ice wines made from Cabernet Franc in the Niagara Peninsula are a curiosity.

France

There are over 14,000 hectares of Cabernet Franc in France. It is valued in Bordeaux for adding finesse to blends containing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but is seldom more than 10-20% of the blend. One notable exception is Château Cheval Blanc, where it makes up about two-thirds of the blend. In Saint-Émilion it is known as Bouchet.

Cabernet Franc is also the main component of the red wines of the Loire, particularly in Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur. Although these are thought of as light wines for drinking with food in the summer, in good vintages they can last 10 years or more, particularly when the blend is stiffened with a little Malbec.

It is now recommended for planting throughout France, and can be found blended with Carignan in the Midi and with Tannat in Basses Pyrénées. It can also be found in the blends of rosé wine.

Hungary

In all the Hungarian wine regions producing reds, especially in Villány and Szekszárd, the grape is used in Bordeaux-style blends and is also bottled as a varietal wine.

Italy

With 5,700ha, there’s more Cabernet Franc in Italy than commonly thought. It is mostly planted in the far northeast of Italy, particularly in Friuli, but it is also found in the wines of the Veneto, as part of some Chianti blends, even as far south as Puglia. It is known as Bordo in the Veneto.

Spain

This variety of grape is not very common in Spain and is to be found mainly in Catalonia, where it is an authorised variety in four Denominaciones de Origen: Catalunya DO, Conca de Barberá DO, Penedés DO and Terra Alta DO.

USA

Interest in the grape started with Californian wine makers, who wanted to replicate the Bordeaux blend (now marketed as Meritage). Plantings since 1980 account for most of the 800ha now grown in California, over half of which is in Napa and Sonoma.
Cabernet Franc Harvest Party | Red Wines
More recently it has caught the attention of growers in cooler areas such as Long Island and the Finger Lakes of New York, Michigan’s west coast and in Washington state and in the Monticello wine region in the Piedmont of Virginia. Michigan State University conducts research on Cabernet Franc at their agricultural research center in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Vine and Viticulture
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Studies have shown that Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon blanc to create Cabernet Sauvignon which shares a similar appearance to Cabernet Franc.In general Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens a little earlier and prefers a slightly cooler climate. The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, 5-lobed leaves. The winged bunches are elongate and small-medium in size. The small berries are quite small and blue-black in colour, with fairly thin skins.

Synonyms
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Aceria, Acheria, Arrouya, Bordo, Bouchet, Bouchy (Gascony), Breton, Burdeas Tinto, Cabernet, Cabernet Aunis, Cabernet Franco, Capbreton Rouge, Carmenet (Médoc), Fer Servandou, Gamput, Grosse Vidure, Hartling, Kaberne Fran, Messanges Rouge, Morenoa, Noir Dur, Petit Fer, Petit Viodure, Petite Vidure, Petite Vignedure, Plant Breton, Plant Des Sables, Trouchet Noir, Véron, Véron Bouchy, Véronais, and Cabernet Gris.


Pinot Noir Glass | Red WinesFrom Stacy Slinkard,
Your Guide to Wine.

An Overview of a Challenging Wine

Pinot Noir (pronounced Pee-noh-n’wahr)
Pinot Noir may be the toughest grape to grow, but the effort is well worth the investment. It is a fickle grape that demands optimum growing conditions, calling for warm days consistently supported by cool evenings. Pinot Noir is a lighter colored and flavored red wine, well-suited to pair with poultry, ham, lamb and pork. Its flavors are reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, tomatoes, cherries and at times a notable earthy or wood-like flavor, depending on specific growing conditions.

Pinot Noir’s forerunner and modest inspiration hails from red Burgundy, one of France’s most prized wines. Today, Pinot Noir is planted in regions around the world including: Oregon, California , New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Italy .

Due to the stringent growing requirements for Pinot Noir, it is produced in much smaller quantities than other popular red wines. Traditionally, you will also pay a little more for Pinot Noir, as the “supply and demand” theories kick in. However, for an excellent value you may consider Castle Rock Carneros Pinot Noir 2003 at just $10 a pop, you will be hard pressed to find a better price for a truly delightful Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir Wines | Red Wines

February 19th, 2008


Pinot Noir Grapes | Red WinesFrom Stacy Slinkard,
Your Guide to Wine.

Definition: Pinot Noir may be the toughest grape to grow, but the effort is well worth the investment. It is a fickle grape that demands optimum growing conditions, demanding warm days consistently supported by cool evenings. Pinot Noir is a lighter colored and flavored red wine.
Pinot Noir’s forerunner and modest inspiration hails from red Burgundy, one of France’s most prized wines. Today, Pinot Noir is planted in regions around the world including: Oregon, California, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Italy.

Due to the stringent growing requirements for Pinot Noir, it is produced in much smaller quantities than other popular red wines. Traditionally, you will also pay a little more for Pinot Noir, as the “supply and demand” theories kick in. However, for an excellent value you may consider Castle Rock Carneros Pinot Noir 2003 at just $10 a pop, you will be hard pressed to find a better price for a truly delightful Pinot Noir.

Flavor Profile:

It’s flavors are reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, tomatoes, cherries and at times a notable earthy or wood-like flavor, depending on specific growing conditions.

Food Pairing:

Pinot Noir is well-suited to pair with poultry, beef, fish, ham, lamb and pork. It will play well with creamy sauces, spicy seasonings and may just be one of the world’s most versatile food wines.

Key Domestic Producers:

- Bethel Heights
- Amity
- Castle Rock
- Coyote Ridge
- Sebastiani
- Calera
- Pommard (French growing region)

Pronunciation: Pee-noh-n’wahr
Common Misspellings: Pino Nor Pinot Nor
Examples: What the Pinot Noir grape lacks in hardiness, it makes up for in robust flavor.

Source: http://wine.about.com/od/redwines/g/PinotNoir.htm

Merlot | Red Wines

February 19th, 2008


Merlot | Red Wines Merlot (’MERL-oh’ in British English and French, mer-LOH in American English) is a red wine grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot an ideal grape to blend with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the most popular red wine varietals in the United States and Chile.

Origins and genetics

Merlot leaf.The earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area’s best. The name comes from the French regional patois word “merlot”, which means “young blackbird” (”merle” is the French word for several kinds of thrushes, including blackbirds); the naming came either because of the grape’s beautiful dark-blue color, or due to blackbirds’ fondness for grapes. By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Médoc on the “Left Bank” of the Gironde.

It was first recorded in Italy around Venice under the synonym Bordò in 1855. The grape was introduced to the Swiss, from Bordeaux, sometime in the 19th century and was recorded in the Swiss canton of Ticino between 1905 and 1910.

Researchers at University of California, Davis believe that the grape is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a sibling of Carménère.

Until 1993, the Chilean wine industry mistakenly sold a large quantity of wine made from the Carmenere grape as Merlot. In that year, genetic studies discovered that much of what had been grown as Merlot was actually Carmenere, an old French variety that had gone largely extinct in France due to its poor resistance to phylloxera, which as of 2006 does not exist in Chile.

The labeling Chilean Merlot is a catch-all to include wine that is made from a blend of indiscriminate amounts of Merlot and Carmenere. With Merlot ripening 3 weeks earlier than Carmenere, these wines differ greatly in quality depending on harvesting.

History

Merlot Glass | Red WinesAfter a series of setbacks that includes a severe frost in 1956 and several vintages in the 1960’s lost to rot, French authorities in Bordeaux banned new plantings of Merlot vines between 1970 and 1975.

In Merlot early history with California wine, the grape was used primarily as a 100% varietal wine until wine maker Warren Winiarski encouraged taking the grape back to its blending roots with Bordeaux style blends.

A mutant that produces white grapes has been found, and white wine is made from this mutant by Beringer in California and Skalli in France. It has nothing to do with the rosé wine made from red Merlot that is sometimes sold as “White Merlot”.

Major regions

Merlot is produced primarily in France (where it is the third most planted red grape), Italy (where it is the country’s 5th most planted grape) and California, Romania and on a lesser scale in Australia, Argentina, Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, and other parts of the United States such as Washington and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.

In the traditional Bordeaux blend, Merlot’s role is to add body and softness. Despite accounting for 50-60% of overall plantings in Bordeaux, the grape tends to account for an average of 25% of the blends-especially in the Graves and Médoc. However, in the regions of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion it is not unusual for Merlot to comprise the majority of the blend. One of the most famous and rare wines in the world, Château Pétrus, is almost all Merlot.

In Italy, the Merlot grape is often blended with Sangiovese to give the wine a similar softening effect as the Bordeaux blends. The Strada del Merlot is a popular tourist route through Merlot wine countries along the Isonzo river.

In Hungary, Merlot complements Kékfrankos, Kékoportó and Kadarka as a component in Bull’s Blood. It is also made into varietal wine known as Egri Médoc Noir which is noted for its balanced acid levels and sweet taste.

Viticulture

Merlot grapes are identified by their loose bunches of large berries. The color has less of a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and with a thinner skin, the grapes also have fewer tannins. Also compared to Cabernet, a Merlot grape tends to have higher sugar content and lower malic acid.

Merlot thrives in cold soil, particularly ferrous clay. The vine tends to bud early which gives it some risk to cold frost and its thin skin increases its susceptibility to rot. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Water stress is important to the vine with it thriving in well drained soil more so than at base of a slope.

The vine is susceptible to over cropping, and pruning is a major component to the quality of the wine that is produced. Wine consultant Michel Rolland is a major proponent for reducing the yields of Merlot grapes to improve quality. The age of the vine is also important, with older vines contributing character to the resulting wine.

A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to quickly over ripen once it hits its initial ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest Merlot. The wine makers of Château Pétrus favor early picking to best maintain the wine’s acidity and finesse as well as its potential for aging. Others, such as Rolland, favor late picking and the added fruit body that comes with a little bit of over-ripeness.

White Merlot

White Merlot is made the same way as its more famous cousin, White Zinfandel. The grapes are crushed, and after very brief skin contact, the resulting pink juice is run off the must to then be fermented. Some producers of White Merlot include Sutter Home, Forest Glen, and Beringer. It normally has a hint of raspberry. White Merlot was reputedly first marketed in the late 1990s, and should not be confused with wines made from the white mutant of the grape.

In Switzerland, a type of White Merlot is made but is often considered more a rosé.

In popular culture

Merlot was mocked by the main character in the film Sideways who prefers to drink Pinot Noir instead, which may have played a role in a concurrent slowing of Merlot sales.

In Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart (played by Cybill Shepherd) says during a segment of her show “Who opened three bottles of wine? Do you know how much a good bottle of red wine costs? And for God’s sake, DID I NOT ASK FOR MERLOT?”

Source: Wikipedia

Cabernet Sauvignon | Red Wines

February 12th, 2008


Cabernet Sauvignon | Red WinesCabernet Sauvignon is a variety of red grape mainly used for wine production, and is, along with Merlot, one of the most widely-planted of the world’s grape varieties. If current trends continue, it may soon be the most planted of any grape variety.

The principal grape in many Bordeaux wines, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in most of the world’s wine regions (except the very coldest), although it requires a long growing season to ripen properly and gives low yields. Many of the red wines regarded as among the world’s greatest, such as Red Bordeaux, are predominantly made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. World-class examples can improve for decades and remain drinkable for a century.

The particularly thick skin of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape results in wines that can be high in tannin which provides both structure and ageability. This varietal, while frequently aromatic and with an attractive finish, also tends to lack mid-palate richness and so is often blended with lower tannin, but “fleshy” tasting grapes, particularly Merlot and, especially in Australia, Shiraz / Syrah. Cabernet Franc is often used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon to add aromatics. As a group, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are generally full-flavored, with a stronger flavor than Merlot for instance, and with a smooth and lingering “finish”.

Aroma
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Old vine Cabernet Sauvignon at Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley. As the grapes mature they will darken to a purple hue.Cabernet Sauvignon has a well defined aroma. In Old World wines, particularly those made in Bordeaux, this is characterised by a smell of violets, blackcurrant, cedar and spice. New World wines of this grape can often share the aromas of their Old World counterparts, but are more often dominated by aromas of chocolate, ripe jammy berries, oak, pepper and earth. In Australia, there is often a strong smell of eucalyptus, particularly in wines made in Coonawarra. One of the most characteristic aromas of warm-climate examples is cassis (blackcurrant), while cherry and other red berry notes are not uncommon. Cooler-climate examples often reveal greener, herbaceous notes, such as eucalyptus or green pepper/capsicum. There is, however, a great deal of variation in flavor depending on the region, winemaking technique, seasonal weather, and bottle age. Nonetheless the wines retain a remarkable ability to be recognizably Cabernet.

History
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Cabernet Sauvignon, like all noble wine grape varieties, is of the species Vitis vinifera, and genetic studies in 1997 indicated it is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

In 1961, a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache produced the French wine grape Marselan.

In 1977 a vine producing ‘bronze’ grapes was found in the vineyards of Cleggett Wines in Australia. They propagated this mutant, registered it under the name of Malian and have sold pale red wines under that name. In 1991 one of the Bronze Cabernet vines started producing white grapes. Cleggett registered this “White Cabernet” under the name of Shalistin.Compared to the Cabernet parent, Malian appears to lack anthocyanins in the subepidermal cells but retains them in the epidermis, whereas Shalistin has no anthocyanins in either layer. It has been suggested that a gene involved in anthocyanin production was deleted in the subepidermis of Malian, and then subepidermal cells invaded the epidermis to produce Shalistin. It is not unusual to have these kinds of ‘gris’ and ‘blanc’ mutants of ‘black’ grapes - the Pinot and Grenache families are examples, although the ‘Malian’ deletion is bigger than the mutation found in Pinot blanc.

Regions
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Bordeaux

Cabernet Sauvignon is most directly associated with the wines of Bordeaux, and especially those of its Left Bank, which includes the top tier appellations of St.-Estephe, Pauillac, St.-Julien, and Margaux, among others. It makes up the majority portion of the blends of all of the Grand Cru wines of the 1855 classification.

In Bordeaux, though, blending is common with the other allowable varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pettit Verdot, and Malbec.

Cabernet Sauvignon is also cultivated in other areas in France, notably Languedoc-Rousillon, and has great acclaim the world over.

Italy

Traditionally, Italian wine-makers have long regarded the Cabernet Sauvignon grape with suspicion, despite a long history there, and it appears in very few of Italy’s DOCs. In Tuscany in the 1970s however, a number of top winemakers deliberately introduced Cabernet Sauvignon into their wines, despite knowing that it fell outside of the DOC system, and produced the top class wines that are often known as “Super Tuscans”. Famous examples include Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Saffredi, Vigna d’Alceo, Guisto di Notri and Solaia.

A bottle of Stag’s Leap Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, a California Cabernet.

United States

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon | Red WinesCalifornia is, after Bordeaux, the world’s largest grower of Cabernet Sauvignon, most notably in the Napa Valley and warmer AVAs of Sonoma County. In California the area of Cabernet Sauvignon planting doubled in the 1990s, precipitously lowering prices and disrupting the health of the wine industry. As in Bordeaux, it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc to produce world-class wines. More commercial versions may be blended with Ruby Cabernet or other varietals that provide more structure and richness than Cabernet Sauvignon can provide. The grape has also found a home in Washington, though it requires the warmest vineyards such as the Red Mountain AVA in the lower Yakima Valley for it to ripen fully.

Other New World Producers

The grape’s most notable success over the past decade has been its use in the wines of the “New World”. The consistently optimal climates (more so than in Europe), strong investment and innovative winemaking techniques have allowed countries such as Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia to produce very good and at times, outstanding, quality Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines at competitive prices. Cabernet Sauvignon is also the most planted grape in Israel and other Mediterranean countries.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Health
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In late 2006, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published the result of studies conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine that showed the beneficial relationship of Cabernet Sauvignon in reducing the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The study showed that resveratrol, a compound found in all red wine, can reduce levels of amyloid beta peptides, which attack brain cells and are part of the etiology of Alzheimer’s. Resveratrol has also been shown to promote the clearance of amyloid-beta peptides. It has also been shown that non-alcoholic extracts of Cabernet Sauvignon protect hypertensive rats during ischaemia and reperfusion.

Port Wine | Red Wines

February 12th, 2008

Tawny Port | Red Wines
Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Oporto, Porto, and often simply Port) is a sweet Portuguese, fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is often served as a dessert wine. Wines in the style of the Portuguese product called port are produced around the world in several countries—most notably Australia, South Africa, India, Canada and the United States. However, under European Union guidelines, only the product from Portugal may be labelled as Port. In the United States, Federal law mandates that the Portuguese-made product be labeled Porto or Vinho do Porto.

Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified with the addition of distilled grape spirits, often cognac, in order to boost the alcohol content. The wine is then stored and aged, often in barrels stored in caves (Portuguese meaning “cellars”) as is the case in Vila Nova de Gaia, before being bottled. The wine received its name, “Port,” in the latter half of the 17th century from the seaport city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe from the Leixões docks. The Douro valley where Port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756 — making it the second oldest defined and protected wine region in the world.

The Douro River Valley: growth and production
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Rio Douro | Red WinesThe vineyards that produce Port wine are common along the hillsides that flank the valley of the River Douro in northern PortugalThe reaches of the valley of the Douro River in northern Portugal have a microclimate that is optimal for cultivation of olives, almonds, and especially grapes important for making the famous Port wine. The region around Pinhão and São João da Pesqueira is considered to be the centre of Port production, and is known for its picturesque quintas—farms clinging on to almost vertical slopes dropping down to the river.

History

Recent archaeological excavations have shown evidence of wine production in the Douro valley dating back to the 3rd or 4th century AD. However, the present-day wine industry started in the mid-15th Century, with the fortification of local wines beginning in the early 18th Century.

Vineyard

Red port can be made from many types of grapes (castas), but the main ones are Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional. While not technically “port” because they are not made in Portugal, some wineries in the United States have had some success in leveraging the Port idea with other grapes, such as Frontenac. A Frontenac Port won Gold at the 2006 Indy International.

White ports are produced the same way as red ports, except that they use white grapes—Esgana-Cão, Folgasão, Malvasia, Rabigato, Verdelho, and Viosinho. While Porto produced in Portugal is strictly regulated by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, many wines in the U. S. use the above names but do not conform to the same standards. Thus each genuine port style has a corresponding, often very different, style that can be found in wines made outside Portugal.

Transport

Traditionally, the wine was taken downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. During the 1950s and 1960s, several hydroelectric power dams were built along the river, ending this traditional conveyance down the river. Currently, the wine is transported from the vineyards by tanker trucks.

Authentication
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The Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP or Port and Douro Wine Institute) regulates the Port industry in Portugal.

Properties
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Port wine is typically richer, sweeter, heavier, and possesses a higher alcohol content than most other wines. This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits (aguardente similar to brandy) to fortify the wine and halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol.

It is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine, often with cheese; commonly stilton. White and tawny ports are often served as an apéritif.

Wine with less than 16% ethanol cannot protect itself against spoilage if exposed to air; with an alcohol content of 18% or higher, port wine can safely be stored in wooden casks that ‘breathe’, thereby permitting the fine ageing of port wine.

Styles
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Port Wines | Red Wines Different port wines with corresponding colourPort from Portugal comes in several styles, which can be divided into two broad categories:

Wines that have matured in sealed tanks or bottles, with no exposure to air, and experience what is known as “reductive” aging. The wines very slowly take on a tawny colour, and become smoother on the palate and less tannic.
Wines that have matured in wooden barrels, whose permeability allows a small amount of exposure to oxygen, and experience what is known as “oxidative” aging. They too lose colour, but at a faster pace. They also lose volume to evaporation, leaving behind a wine that is slightly more viscous and intense.
When white ports are matured for long periods, the colour darkens, eventually reaching a point where it can be hard to discern (from appearance alone) whether the original wine was red or white.

Wines matured in barrels are sometimes known as ‘wood ports’.

Tawny port and Colheita

Aging in wooden barrels | Red WinesAging in wooden barrelsTawny ports are wines made from red grapes that are aged in wooden barrels, exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. As a result, they gradually mellow to a golden-brown colour. The exposure to wood imparts “nutty” flavours to the wine, which is blended to match the house style.

Tawny Reserve port (without an indication of age) is a basic blend of wood aged port that has spent at least seven years in barrels.

Tawny with an indication of age is a blend of several vintages, with the average years “in wood” stated on the label, the official categories being 10, 20, 30 and over 40 years. For each category, the average age of the various vintage is at least that of the given category.

The cheapest forms of Tawny Port are young wines made from a blend of red and white grapes. Unlike Tawny Reserve and Tawnies with an indication of age, they may have spent little or no time maturing in wood.

Tawny ports from a single vintage are called Colheitas (pronounced col-YATE-ah, meaning harvest). Instead of an indication of age (10, 20…) their actual vintage year is mentioned. However, they should not be mistaken with Vintage port (see below). The term colheita is also applied to madeiras produced from grapes of a single vintage.

Garrafeira

Garrafeira is an intermediate vintage dated style of Port made from the grapes of a single harvest that combines both the oxidative maturation of years in wood, with further reductive maturation in large glass demijohns. It is required by the IVDP that wines spend some time in wood, usually between three and six years, followed by at least a further eight years in glass, before bottling. In practice the times spent in glass are much longer. At present, only one company, Niepoort, markets Garrafeiras. Their black demijohns, affectionately known as bon-bons, hold approximately 11 litres each.

Confusingly, the word Garrafeira may be found on some very old Tawny labels, where the contents of the bottle are of exceptional age.

Ruby port

Rabelos Boat | Red WinesRabelos, a type of boat traditionally used to transport barrels of Port wine down the Douro River for storage and aging in caves at Vila Nova de Gaia near Porto.Ruby port is the cheapest and most extensively produced type of port. After fermentation it is stored in tanks made of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative aging, and preserve its rich claret color. The wine is usually blended to match the style of the brand to which it is to be sold.

The wine is fined and cold filtered prior to bottling, and does not generally improve with age. It is aged for about 3 to 5 years from wines of two or three different vintages.

White port

White port is made from white grapes, and should always be served cool or cold. It can be used as the basis for a cocktail, or served on its own. There is a range of styles of white port, from dry to very sweet.

Vintage port
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Vintage Port | Red WinesVintage port from 1870 and 1873Although it accounts for only about two percent of production, vintage port is the flagship wine of all Portugal. Vintage port is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro; only those when conditions are favourable to the production of a fine and lasting wine. The decision on whether to declare a vintage is made in the spring of the second year following the harvest.

The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual port house, often referred to as a ’shipper’. The port industry is one where reputations are hard won and easily lost, so the decision is never taken lightly. During periods of recession and war, potential ‘declarations’ have sometimes been missed for economic reasons. In recent years, some shippers have adopted the ‘chateau’ principle for declarations, declaring all but the worst years. More conventional shippers will declare, on average, about three times a decade.

While it is by far the most renowned type of porto, from a volume and revenue standpoint, vintage port actually makes up only a small percentage of the production of most shippers. Vintage ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling, and generally require another ten to thirty years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered a proper drinking age. Since they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby colour and fresh fruit flavours. Particularly fine vintage ports can continue to gain complexity and drink wonderfully for many decades after they were bottled, and therefore can be particularly sought-after and expensive wines.

Single Quinta Vintage Port is vintage port produced from a particular vineyard and sometimes from a lesser “undeclared” year. However, some of the most renowned Vintage Ports are Single Quintas.

Vintage port typically requires decanting.

Vintage port should not be confused with ‘Late Bottled Vintage’ (see below).

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

Late Bottled Vintage (often referred to simply as LBV) was originally wine that had been destined for bottling as Vintage Port, but due to lack of demand was left in the barrel for rather longer than had been planned. Over time it has become two distinct styles of wine, both of them bottled between four and six years after the vintage, but one style is fined and filtered prior to bottling while the other is not.

The filtered wine has the advantage of being ready to drink without decanting, and is bottled in a stoppered bottle that can be easily resealed. However many wine experts feel that this convenience comes at a price and believe that the filtration process strips out much of the character of the wine.

Unfiltered wines are bottled with conventional corks and need to be decanted. Recent bottlings are identified by the label wording ‘Unfiltered’ or ‘Bottle matured’ (or both). Prior to the 2002 regulations, this style was often marketed as ‘Traditional’, a description that is no longer permitted.

If in doubt, a prospective purchaser can check the cork, and examine the top of the bottle to see if there is a stopper underneath the capsule; the serrated edge of a stopper is usually visible, or can be detected with a thumbnail. LBV is intended to provide some of the experience of drinking a Vintage Port but without the decade-long wait of bottle aging. To a limited extent it succeeds, as the extra years of oxidative aging in barrel does mature the wine more quickly.

Typically ready to drink when released, LBV ports are the product of a single year’s harvest and tend to be lighter bodied than a vintage port. Filtered LBVs do not improve significantly with age, whereas the unfiltered wines will usually be improved by a few extra years in the bottle. Since 2002, bottles that carry the words ‘Bottle matured’ must have enjoyed at least three years of bottle maturation prior to release.

Reserve or vintage character

Reserve port is a premium Ruby port approved by the IVDP’s tasting panel, the Câmara de Provadores. In 2002, the IVDP prohibited the use of the term “Vintage Character”, as the wine had neither attribute.

Crusted

Crusted Port may be considered a ‘poor man’s vintage port’. It is a blend of port wine from several vintages, which, like Vintage Port, is bottled unfiltered, and sealed with a driven cork. Like Vintage Port it needs to be decanted before drinking. Although Crusted ports will improve with age, the blending process is intended to make these wines approachable at a much younger age. The date on a Crusted Port bottle refers to the bottling date, not the year the grapes were grown.

Vintages

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Strictly speaking, the vintage is the harvest period when the grapes are gathered, and the wine made. Be it a good year or bad, there is therefore a vintage every year. If a shipper decides that his wine is of sufficient quality, and wishes to market some of it as Vintage Port, then they will send samples to the IVDP for approval, and declare the vintage. In very good years, almost all the shippers will declare their wines, although there are a small number of independent Quintas who never produce Vintage Port. In good intermediate years, the producers of blended Vintage Ports will not declare their flagship blended wine, but will study the quality of the wine from the component Quintas that make up the blend, to see if they are of sufficient quality to be declared in their own right.

Thus from 1996, which was not declared by Dow or Taylor for their main blend, you can find Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, and Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas, amongst others. However, you will not normally find these wines marketed for years when the main blend is declared. Some shippers now choose to declare their wines on all but the worst years. Quinta do Vesuvio, which has been producing Vintage Ports in its own name since it was acquired by the Symington family in 1989, has declared a vintage every year with the exceptions of 1993 and 2002.

Although there have been years when only one or two wines have been declared, it is over thirty years since there was a year with no declarations at all. With improved wine making technologies, and better weather forecasts during the harvest, it is possible that we will never again see a year without any Vintage Port to its name.

History and tradition
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Established in 1756, the Port Wine-producing Douro region is the second-oldest protected wine region in the world.

In 1756, during the rule of the Marquês do Pombal, the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro (C.G.A.V.A.D., also known as the General Company of Viticulture of the Upper Douro) was founded to guarantee the quality of the product and fair pricing to the end consumer. The C.G.A.V.A.D. was also in charge of regulating which Port Wine would be for export or internal consumption and managing the protected geographic indication.

Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The long trip to England often resulted in spoiled wine; the fortification of the wine was introduced to improve the shipping and shelf-life of the wine for its journey.

The continued English involvement in the port trade can be seen in the names of many port shippers: Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Graham, Osborne, Sandeman, Taylor and Warre being amongst the best known. Shippers of Dutch and German origin are also prominent, such as Niepoort and Burmester.

There is a unique body of English ritual and etiquette surrounding the consumption of port, stemming from British naval custom.

Traditionally, the wine is passed “port to port”: the host will pour a glass for the person seated at their right and then pass the bottle or decanter to the left (the port side); this practice is then repeated around the table.

If the port becomes forestalled at some point, it is considered poor form to ask for the decanter directly. Instead, the person seeking a refill would ask of the person who has the bottle: “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” (after the notoriously stingy Bishop). If the person being thus queried does not know the ritual (and so replies in the negative), the querent will remark “He’s an awfully nice fellow, but he never remembers to pass the port.”

A technical solution to the potential problem of a guest forgetting their manners and “hogging” the port can be found in a Hoggett Decanter which has a rounded bottom, which makes it impossible to put it down until it has been returned to the host, who can rest it in a specially designed wooden stand known as “the Hoggett.”

In other old English traditions when port is decanted, commonly at the dining table, the whole bottle should be finished in one sitting by the diners, and the table should not be vacated until this is done.

Storing and Serving Port
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Storing Port

Port, like other wine should be stored in a cool, but not cold, dark location (as light can damage the port), with a steady temperature (Such as a cellar), laying the bottle on its side if the bottle has a cork, or standing up if stoppered[2].

Serving Port

With the exception of white port, which can be served chilled, port should be served at between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. Tawny port may also be served slightly cooler.

Some ports should be decanted prior to serving.

Opened Bottles

Once opened, port wines must be consumed within a period of time. Those with stoppers can be kept for a couple of months in a dark place, but if it has a cork it must be consumed sooner. Typically, the older the vintage, the quicker it must be consumed.

Decanting Port

Why?
Port wines that are unfiltered (Such as Vintage ports, Crusted and some LBVs), form a sediment (or Crust) in the bottle and require decanting, otherwise there will be sediment in the glass. It also allows the port to breathe, however, how long before serving is dependent on the age of the port (particularly in the case of Vintage ports).

Process

If the bottle was laying on its side, before opening the bottle, stand the bottle upright for some time (An hour or two is best, but at least 30 minutes.), then, taking care to leave the sediment in the bottle, slowly pour the port into a clean, dry decanter, stopping as soon as any sediment is seen. If the cork has disintegrated, then a filter, such as a piece of clean muslin will be required.

Source: Wikipedia

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