All About Port

Grape Vines in the Beautiful Douro Valley, Portugal

Something special has happened. The 2003 port vintage has been declared. This rarity only happens a few times a decade and we were fortunate enough to catch up with the worlds top port producers at the official “2003 Vintage Port Declaration Tour”.

Our roundtable interview included:

Rupert Symington, Symington Family Estates
Labels: Graham’s, Dow’s, Smith Woodhouse, Warre’s, Vesuvio

Adrian Bridge, Fladgate Partnership
Labels: Taylor, Fonseca, Croft, Delaforce

Christian Seely, Quinta do Noval
Labels: Noval, Nacional

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Show #34
(41:04 min 19 MB)

Audio #37: The Wines of Sierra Bodegas Montecillo
Audio #130: Hospice Du Rhone – The Priorat Posse
Audio #198: The Wines of Marques de Murrieta

The men of Port and more images of the Douro Valley.







8 Responses to “All About Port”

  1. 1 Jason Tait Jul 7th, 2005 at 7:01 am

    You mentioned a few port food combo’s (Nuts/Cheese). I would like to hear more things port would go well with.

    Also if I were starting out what would be the best entry level port. Tawny?

  2. 2 Jay Selman Jul 13th, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    There are different styles of Port and each has several great food pairings. Ruby style Ports — Reserves, Late Bottled Vintage, etc., tend to go well with dark chocolate-based desserts as well as blue-veined cheeses. Tawny Ports pair beautifully with caramel and fruit flavors found in tarts, pies and desserts like crème brulee. In the warmer summer months, serving chilled Tawny is quite refreshing, too. And of course, Port can be served as a dessert in and of itself.

    Entry Level Ports
    Reserves such as Graham’s Six Grapes and Fonseca Bin 27 are great entry level Ports. They are under $25 per bottle and have t-cap closures, which allow you to store them (in a cool environment, of course) for several weeks. Aged Tawnies such as Dow’s 10 Year or Warre’s Otima are also fine wines to try for the Tawny style. Best to buy one of each and see which style you enjoy! This would be a great excuse to invite several friends over to taste the two side by side and try them with different cheeses and desserts.

  3. 3 Robert Jul 14th, 2005 at 2:37 am

    Hi Jason,

    These are excellent questions you have and they are certainly quite common ones. This is a long reply but I hope it will cover all your questions. Please take into account I am biased towards Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca, Croft and Delaforce due to several generations of fortification here in Portugal.

    When buying Port for the first time, start with a Reserve (Ruby style) and a 10 year Tawny (Tawny Style). They are as different as Red and White wine and so this will experience the difference.

    Pairing Port and Food:

    The wonderful thing about Port wine is that it has an extremely broad spectrum of flavors that gives Port a lot of flexibility when it comes to pairing. When experimenting, you will come across some surprising but pleasing combinations.

    Normally with aperitifs you need something to clear the palate and quench the thirst. For this Dick Yeatman created the chilled Extra Dry White Port – Taylor Fladgate Chip Dry in 1934. Perfect if you are in the vineyard with temperatures of 105oF.

    Served chilled with snacks it is delicious. Or try the ‘Siroco Twister’- 1/3 Fonseca Siroco (Extra Dry White), 2/3 Tonic, on the rocks with a twist of mint or lime. I prefer mint. (Siroco – named after the dry African Wind)

    Main courses:
    This has been done before but the trick is to have small portions, both of the food and the wine. Matching a Late Bottled Vintage Port or a 10 year Tawny with very ‘gamey’ dishes, such as venison, buffalo, pheasant, and partridge is quite delicious.

    There are huge number of very enticing desserts being offered for the decadent characters out there. However, before I start matching Port and desserts I want to help by explaining the logic of how we match them.

    A good port for combining with these desserts has to have:
    1) Complexity.
    2) Very good length (i.e. flavors last a long time on the palate)
    2) Balance using either acidity or tannins (or both).

    Port with good length will prime the taste buds for longer and therefore will accentuate the flavors of a dessert. So in these cases we look for complementing flavors; such as Aged Tawnies 10,20,30 & 40 years old with caramel, nuts, vanilla and dried fruits (such as apricots) flavors.
    Reserves or Late Bottled Vintage with chocolate and fresh fruit dishes (cherries, plums, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries).

    Port is a sweet drink but it is balanced with acidity and tannins, therefore they will also balance very sweet desserts that may be too heavy by themselves. Good news for me is that I can now finish those Chocolate lava cakes with my Fonseca Bin27.

    Aged Tawnies 10,20,30,40 years old. – Chilled in the summer.
    (e.g. Delaforce Curious & Ancient 20 yr old)
    – Caramelized sugar, Nutty flavors, dried fruits and vanilla flavors.
    – Crème Brulée, pecan pie, apple strudels, vanilla ice cream, apple or pear tart.

    Reserves or Late Bottled Vintage:
    (Croft Distinction or Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2000).
    – Chocolate and fresh fruit flavors.
    – Flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse or wild berries.

    Vintage Port or Single Vineyard Vintage Port
    (e.g. Taylor Fladgate 2000 or Fonseca Quinta de Panascal 2001)
    – Great by itself but excellent with blue veined cheeses, such as Stilton or Roquefort.

    Vintage that is young is great if you like intense dark berry fruit flavors. If you age these wines they will loose some of the intensity but gain much more complexity.

  4. 4 Mark Jul 18th, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Guys, great postcast, as usual. I was especially interested in this one, because, after quality coffee and espresso, Port is my true culinary love. I have a stable of about 95 bottles at present (not including everyday ports).

    The one port I’m still a bit in the dark about is LBV. Mainly because my experience with them is so hit and miss (relative to the price point).

    I live in Vancouver, BC, and we’re fortunate that the Liquor Board of BC (the govt imports most alcohol, or legislates the importation thru third parties) has a healthy import list for Ports, including occasionally getting the very rare 1963 or 1970 vintages. The other bonus is that, while everyday alcohol is quite more expensive in Canada (and BC especially) than the US, there’s a high end cap on the taxes – so the super premium stuff like a 1970 vintage is actually cheaper in Canada than most sources in the US.

    On an upcoming CoffeeGeek podcast, I’m going to be doing a compare and contrast with espresso and port – in that I’m known for calling Port “the espresso of the alcohol world”. I’m looking forward to doing it.

    Lastly, I’d like to share some of my personal faves in Port:

    All time favourites (tasted): Dow’s 1963 Vintage, Dow’s 1970 Vintage, Graham 1970, Taylor Fladgate 1994, Taylor’s 20 year tawny, Warre Otima 20 year tawny. Gould Campbell 1983 Vintage (unknown, not a normal vintage year, super cheap (relative – about $55Cdn), and amazing right now!)

    Fave Budget Choices: Graham’s 10 year Tawny, Dow’s 10 year tawny, Graham’s six grapes, Graham’s Crusted Port (interesting character – decant, let breathe); Ferreira Vintage Character, Cockburn’s Late Bottled Vintage (1997), Smith Woodhouse Late Bottled Vintage (1994).

    Cheers guys.

  5. 5 Ben Oct 14th, 2005 at 8:25 am

    Tried my first Port yesterday as a result of the show. Keep up the good work.


  6. 6 Redleg Oct 22nd, 2005 at 6:28 am

    I’m no port expert, but I am a port lover. I’m collecting some fine vintages to consume during my rapidly approaching retirement. A few that I’m looking forward to are some 1970 Dow and 1977 Smith Woodhouse vintage ports. I want to make fellow port lovers aware of my favorite local winery that is becoming known for producing fine vintage ports. Mount Pleasant winery in Augusta, MO produces nice vintage and tawny ports. I have a few cases of their 1989 vintage that is outstanding.

  7. 7 Jason Jan 22nd, 2006 at 12:54 am

    First off, great show. It’s fascinating to hear from these guys in a centuries-old industry.

    I have a question or two for Jay. Hopefully you’re still reading posts for old episodes. You mention that you’re a fan of port and collect it as well. I was wondering what your preference is for an everyday port. I’ve been trying lots of LBV lately to figure out which is my favorite. I’d be interested to hear what others think. Also, out of curiosity, what percentage of your cellar is made-up of Port? Ok, one more question: Have you tried many Douro table wines, and if so, where do you think I should start?


  8. 8 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 22nd, 2006 at 5:04 am

    I have been on a tawny port kick recently. Decent prices and very quafable.
    My cellar used to be about 10% port. Today its about 4%. I have been buying more wine from other regions (Spain, Champagne, and Chile). I love of port has not dimished.

    I have never tried the table wines. I would like to experiment and try a few.


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