There’s nothing that epitomises Christmas more than a glass of port wine and a piece of Stilton cheese after a heavy seasonal feast. There is something about the rich sweet taste of this deep red fortified wine that complements the stilton perfectly.
Port wine is so named because it is a wine from Porto in Portugal. It is typically a sweet red rich wine but also comes in pink and white too. It is a fortified wine. This means that additional spirits have been added to the original liquid during its manufacture. In the case of port wine it is brandy that has been added to the wine during the fermentation process. This addition of the brandy to the wine halts the fermentation process and ensures that there is sugar left in the wine which will increase its alcohol content. The wine is then aged in cellars before it is bottled.
Port is only made in the Douro Valley region, this is one of the oldest protected regions in the world. It is divided into three separate areas each which is known for producing a different type of port. The first area is called Baixo Corgo which produces mostly inexpensive ruby and tawny ports; the second Cuma Corgo produces wines of a higher quality and the third the Douro Superior produces fine wines.
Port wine comes in many different styles and it is often confusing when you look on the labels of the bottles – there are however basically two categories, those that are matured in oak barrels and those that are matured in sealed glass bottles.
Tawny ports are wines that are aged in barrels. They are sweet dessert wines with a nutty flavour which the barrel has imparted to them during the aging process. There are different types of tawny port which vary in price according to the length of time that they have been maturing in the barrel, they can get quite expensive!
Ruby Port is the cheapest type of port wine. It is bottle aged and does not generally improve with age – it is however still a fabulous drink and as it doesn’t improve once it is open you have no choice but to drink it all - a good buy for Christmas when you need that after dinner drink!
As well as traditional red port wine there are white and pink ports also available. These are usually served cold as an aperitif in the same way that sherry is served but they also make a great base for a cocktail should you be having that kind of party. Another interesting fact is that when white port is aged for a long time the colour changes so significantly due to the tannins in the barrel that it is often hard to distinguish it from the red version.
Port is a great wine to have in the cupboard at Christmas. It is a warming drink that epitomises the season.
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Fiona Muller has been writing for over 20 years. She is a qualified journalist and has worked in food and drink writing for the last few years. To find out more information about laithwaites wines visit - www.laithwaites.co.uk
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