There aren’t many moments in dining that are quite as magical as the after-dinner cocktail or wine. Port wine is one of the sweet stars of that diverse world, and we’re taking a deeper look at the wine this week.
I admittedly just began learning about port wines in recent years despite knowing about them for decades. I didn’t quite grasp the concept of drinking a sweet wine after a spicy or complex meal, nor what that experience would do for my palette. Since I’ve taken the dive, port wine has gotten more of my attention although I still tend to shy away from sweeter flavors yet this is altogether different.
First, let’s share what we’ve learned about what exactly port wine is. Simply put, it is a fortified wine that hails from the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. The grapes are sourced from the Douro region and are then fortified by way of aguardiente, a grape spirit, getting added to the juice. This process slows the fermenting of the juice to a halt. The wine is then aged in barrels at varying time lengths
The name of the wine came reportedly was inspired by Porto, a city that sits at a port of the Douro River, and was a launching point for the distribution of port wine outside of Portgual across much of Europe.
While the port wine I’ve typically had is the 10-year-old tawny port, there is also Ruby (Red) port, White port, and Rosé port. Ruby is still on the sweet side, while much drier. I’ve yet to try Rosé but my curiosity is definitely piqued. Tawny is by far the sweetest of them all and I can’t stress enough to dessert lovers and folks who like a sweet kick that you need this in your life.
The best way to enjoy port is slightly chilled, with emphasis on slight. You want to experience the wine at just below room temperature, and preferably in a traditional port glass but no more than three ounces are served due to the wine’s bold taste.
Because I’m not pretending to be some refined snoot, I’ve had a small glass of port alongside a store-bought chocolate bar. I’ve also had port poured over vanilla ice cream. I’ve even had it paired with some amazing fruit tarts when I’m splurging at some highly-rated establishment.
At home, I usually have Presidential tawny port. It’s affordable, tastes as port wine should, and at 20 percent ABV, just enough booze to make it a great nightcap. I also enjoy Cooper’s Hawk and their version of the port called Nightjar. I used Nightjar to replicate Cooper’s version of the New York Sour, one of the dozens of International Bartenders Association‘s official cocktails, which I’ll share how to make below.
New York Sour
2 oz Rye or Bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
1 oz lemon juice, fresh-squeezed
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz tawny port (but any rich red will do)
Combine all the liquids in a shaker with ice and shake for about 15-20 seconds. Pour into an ice-filled rocks glass, or even better, a big clear cube if you can spare it. Then, take the port and pour slowly into the drink using the back of the bar spoon tilted slightly forward. The wine will make a dark red border.
You can check out my version at the top of the page.
Other ways to enjoy port are poured over some vanilla or chocolate ice cream, alongside dark chocolate squares, strawberries, or just on its own.
As always, sip safely and surely.
Photo: D.L. Chandler