We all have our wine traditions and for me it’s port wine at Christmas. I cannot imagine ushering in the holiday without this one-of-a kind, fortified masterpiece.
It takes its name from the city of Oporto, Portugal, and possesses many unique viticulture and winemaking techniques. The growing area, Portugal’s Douro Valley, has very hot summers and cold winters, making it a rather inhospitable area for viticulture.
Its isolated landscape is just as uninviting with its steep hillsides, poor, dry soils and archaic-looking planting terraces. In spite of the weather conditions and poor terrain, the port grapes thrive.
As much as the terroir affects the final product, the process used in making port is unmatched throughout the world. Just after harvest, a celebration of sorts begins with the traditional foot-treading in open trough wine vats by families and winery workers. They march, walk and even dance in keeping with this winemaking tradition. This may seem a bit awkward to envision, but the human foot is perfect for the task.
Port styles range from crusted and ruby to tawny, all blended from wines of different vintages made in different years and having spent time in wood barrels. These styles are ready to drink immediately after bottling. Vintage and single quinta (house) ports differ in that they spend minimal time in wood barrels before being bottled for the long, slow aging process.
- NV Graham’s Six Grapes Porto, Portugal (about $32 retail)
- NV Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port, Portugal (about $74 retail)