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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Any port in a storm

Any port in a storm

Hello Prince Albert! Have you had the chance to try fortified wines? You may have tasted this unique style of wine without knowing it but when you take a sip of sherry, port or madeira, you can instantly tell that this is a different product from regular table wines.

First of all, what is a fortified wine and what can you expect when tasting one? Fortified wines come in red, white and rose colors and they are created by stopping the fermentation of the sugars by adding a distilled spirit often called aguardente. This addition of spirit to the wine effectively kills the yeast and leaves a decent amount of sugar behind in the wine while also boosting the alcohol level from between 17 and 22 percent.

Not all fortified wines are sweet as some wines are allowed to ferment completely resulting in a drier style. Examples of these are sherries like Fino, Palo Cortado, Amontillado or Manzanilla. Fortified wines like Port on the other hand, are almost always sweet.

You will find several types of Ports in the fortified wine section of the liquor store. The most common are Ruby, Vintage, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) or Tawny. There are some major differences between the styles and the prices can vary greatly.

The easiest Port to find is Ruby which features dark fruits, silky body and low tannins. What this Port lacks in complexity, it makes up by being affordable. In this category, you will find Ruby Reserve, Vintage Port and LBV or Late Bottled Vintage.

The LBV is considered one of the best deals since you get a lot of flavor, smooth drinkability and a great price. These wines are aged for a short time in oak and then bottled for sale. As I discovered with my 2008 LBV, they are not necessarily designed for age and mine did not gain complexity from bottle aging.

Vintage Port is difficult to find in Prince Albert and prices start around $70, jumping easily to $150 and beyond. This type of Port is like an investment and can be aged from 20 to 60 years or more.

The most popular Port in PA is arguably Tawny Port. The Taylor Fladgate 10 Year or 20 Year Tawny Port is a fantastic choice for those who love oxidized flavors like dried fruit, caramel and nuts. These flavors build as the wine ages and the wine is luscious and incredibly smooth on the palate with hardly any burn from the higher alcohol. While you can expect to pay around $80 to $120 per bottle for these wines, the good news is that the wine will last for several weeks, allowing you and your friends the opportunity to sample again and again.

It must be stated that Ruby, LBV or Tawny Ports make an incredible pairing for desserts, dried meats, fruits and especially cigars. Taking a couple of hours to slowly unwind and smoke a cigar like the Honduran Aladino while sipping on luxurious flavors of candied roasted nuts, toffee/caramel and dried fruits like sultanas or dates is a meditative experience.

When considering a dessert to pair with Port, first consider the style of the Port; For Tawny Port or the White Port I tasted this week, desserts like crème brulee, panna cotta or fresh Baklava fit the bill while a fruitier Port like the LBV will pair best with fruity desserts. As stated earlier, salty meats and cheeses are ideal with any style of Port. Here are my wine picks of the week!

Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008: (DO Douro, Portugal). Sweet red fortified wine, deep purple with a ruby core and signs of fading near the edge. High intensity aromas of grape bubblegum, juicy dark fruits, dried leaves and acetone/nail polish remover jump from the glass. The wine is full-bodied with sweet dark fruits (cherries, grapes, currants), cherry cough syrup, plums, low fine-grain tannins and a medium-length finish of fruit, alcohol heat and vinous flavors (grape stems or skins/leaves). Low acidity in the wine makes it soft and smooth on the palate but the wine is simple and straightforward. Lacks complexity and balance which knocks the score down a bit. This wine is still drinkable and unfortunately, age has not added any complexity. Pair with fruity desserts like cherry pie, black forest cake or dark chocolate. Good. $25, 20% ABV

Taylor Fladgate Fine White Port: (DO Douro, Portugal). Sweet white fortified wine, deep golden amber color. This white Port presents a bouquet of dessert-like scents; toffee, caramel, honey roasted nuts, marzipan, apricots, honeysuckle and balsamic reduction. On the palate, the wine is luxurious and luscious with full-body flavors of dates, figs, golden raisins and an oily, mouth-coating texture. Honeycomb, mushrooms and honey roasted nuts (peanuts, almonds) follow up on the long finish. Medium acidity with low tannins. Further flavors emerge as the wine rests: cheese bloom rind (brie rind), marmalade and a slight mouth numbing effect from the 20% alcohol. The wine is slightly out of balance but it is absolutely delicious. Drink now! Very good! $20 (On sale from $28), 20% ABV

Aladino Corojo Puro Robusto Cigar: (100% Honduran). The tobacco in this golden/brown colored cigar is 100% (Puro) from the Eiroa tobacco farm in Honduras. Made from Cuban seed tobacco grown in Honduras, the smell before lighting is golden hay, light barnyard and hints of roasted peanut shells. Upon lighting, sweet earthy tobacco appears first then complexity builds as the cigar is smoked. Salted peanuts lend a satisfying saltiness on the lips while rotating flavors of roasted marshmallow, graham crackers and high-quality peanut butter wow the senses. The peanut butter flavor is pure and unmistakable and it blends in with earthy cocoa and chocolate as each third of the cigar progresses. An incredible option to pair with fortified wines like sherries, Ports or dessert wines. Will be even better with time in the humidor. Outstanding! $15/Cigar Online

Cheers and thanks for reading!