From a wine perspective there are two Portugal’s; One that makes Port and the other that makes really good dry table wine. Port is to Portugal as Champagne is to France and Chianti is to Tuscany. Crazy thing is, it was invented by the British!
The romantic version of this story is two young English were traveling through Portugal in the late 1670’s. Politics plays a part in this story with a trade war going on between England’s major supplier of wine France, these two were looking to make a buck by finding a suitable replacement. As the story goes they were is a monastery near the Douro River. The abbott served them wine. The wine was smoother, sweeter more interesting than anything they had ever tasted. They begged the abbot to tell them how he made such good wine? He confessed he added brandy to the wine as it fermented. Port is born!
Okay, here’s what actually happened. The part about the trade war is true. In 1703 the Methuen Treaty cut taxes on Portuguese wine imported to England making Portuguese wine far more affordable than the French. By the 17th Century wine was regularly being “fortified with “spirits” because it helped the taste of the crappy wine people had to drink because they had no way of keeping wines fresh. At first the amount of brandy was small about 3%. In 1820 there was an incredible vintage, the wine was superb. Sales soared! The next year the vintage wasn’t as good, but to keep sales going they added more brandy. It worked! Well, if a little is good, then a little more must be better and over decades the modern day Port, a substantially fortified sweet tasting wine was created.
Port has 10 different styles although at times it seems like they are splitting hairs and making stuff up. (1) White Port, made with white wine. (2) Ruby Port, this is one I bet we have all tried. It’s simple wine and brandy, no set vintage, made by blending wines from two to three different years. It’s inexpensive and gets almost no aging before it is released. (3) Young Tawny Port, okay, here’s where they start splitting hairs. Young (unaged) Tawny Port basically they same thing as Ruby Port, often lighter in color because they add white port to the blend. (4) Aged Tawny Port, usually aged 10, 20, 30, or more years. Age will be on the label. Better wines are used for the the blends. (5) Vintage Character Ports, more hair splitting. The word “vintage” makes this confusing because they don’t come from a single vintage. Think “super Ruby Port”. (6) Late Bottle Vintage Port (LBV), again confusing. These are from a single vintage that has been aged in the barrel for 4 to 6 years. This style of Port is made every year and are filtered before being bottled. These are good wines that are affordable and don’t contain sediment. (7) Traditional Late Bottled Vintage Port, here is where I think they are just making it up. This is a LBV souped up and loaded with options. They are made more like a Vintage Port than a LBV come for good but not “declared” years.
(8) Vintage Port, top end and expensive stuff. Only 2 to 3 percent of the total production of Port ever make it here. Vintages in wines are common, but not for Port. Only in great years do suppliers file a formal request with the Port Wine Institute and only with the Institute’s approval can the vintage be called “declared”. They are aged in the barrel for two years, then for decades in the bottle. They are not fined or filtered, you must decante these wines.
(9) Single Quinta Vintage Port, again we are splitting hairs. Quinta means “farm” but in the world of Port it means renowned vineyard estates, think “Chateau” in French. This is the best, of the best, of the very best. Made the same way as a Vintage Port.
(10) Last one, Crusted Port. This one is well named. It’s called “crusted” because it leaves a crust of sediment in the bottle, boy doesn’t that sound yummy! It’s a “good” Port of several different years, aged three to four years, unfiltered. It’s been called “the working man’s” Vintage Port.
Our wine is a Quinta Das Carvalhas Late Bottled Vintage 2011. The wine is delicious. In the glass the wine is very dark purple almost black. You can see the ruby color if you hold your glass over a sheet of white paper and allow light to shine through the wine, I really suggest you do this it’s beautiful.
Okay, the nose is slight, but it is present and is of cinnamon. As I said before the wine is delicious, has great character and great feel in the mouth. The wine is sweet, but not like candy I got figs, liquid figs, and I love figs. The fig taste was loving offset by hints of all the dark fruits and cinnamon. Nice long finish. This wine was everything the icewine wasn’t. It’s made me interested in trying all of the different styles especially Crusted, if I can afford it.
I enjoyed this wine all by itself on a dark and stormy winter evening. I wanted to finish the bottle and might have until the affect of it’s 20% alcohol level took control and left me dreaming of the Douro River and warm Portuguese days.
The vineyard has been in continuous operation since 1759. That makes it one of the granddaddy estates on the Douro. Check out the pictures this place is beautiful, http://realcompanhiavelha.pt/pages/quintas/4.
You can get this wine a Total Wine for under $20 and I really would love it if you gave it a try.