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I know what you are thinking: leather armchairs, dusty bookshelves, perhaps a painting of Henry VIII of England hanging on the wall. A heavy crystal glass decanter filled with tawny Port carefully placed on a silver tray. Someone opens, with white gloves, the decanter, pours it into a tiny goblet while reciting some Shakespeare. I might be exaggerating a bit to make a point, but that is still how some people perceive Port. I’m here to tell you, snap out of it!
I mean, you are free to approach Port any way you like. There is no law against drinking a ruby Port with a slice of cucumber if that’s your thing.
“I think we take Port too seriously,” says Oscar Quevedo, a Port producer from São João da Pesqueira. “People are always looking for a special day when they will finally open a bottle of Port, which probably cost like five euros. You can enjoy Port every day.”
IT'S ALWAYS A GOOD MOMENT FOR PORT
It seems people have a similar only-on-special-occasion problem that sparkling wine has. But sparkling wine has managed to tap into this idea of versatility which makes it more approachable and easily consumed. "Port is for dessert period." is a common thought. I'm not comparing Port with sparkling wine - but what I’m saying is Port is much more versatile drink as most would think.
For sure, there are special Port wines you can and should save for special occasions. But not all Port have to be kept for a long time before you can enjoy them. It’s the same as any other wine; you don’t have to finish the bottle in one sitting. You also don’t need 50 guests in your house to have an excuse to open a bottle of Port.
Quevedo describes something he calls “fun Ports” that are easy to approach opens up the possibilities for Port cocktails. One of these is the category of Rosé Port. It’s a subject that might get you in an arm-wrestling match in Portugal. You either hate it or love it. Personally, I welcome anything that will get more people excited about Port.
“Rosé Port is still a small part of the whole category, but it’s something we enjoy - Quevedo continues - In the beginning, people were tasting our rosé, and a word that kept coming up was ‘candy.' So, we had to adjust to make a more interesting Rosé Port. It was perhaps a touch too sweet, so we fermented the wine a bit longer to make it drier. It still has that cherry and strawberry flavor, but it’s not too sweet, so you always want to go for a second glass or a third. Forget about room temperature, always chill your Port. A chilled Rosé Port is perfect as an aperitif. You can even throw in a couple of ice cubes. It’s light, easy and floral. It’s sexy!”
Quevedo suggests that there should be more discussion around how the Port industry communicates about Port wine to the consumer. He also says there might be an exciting opportunity in bottled, ready-to-drink Port cocktails. According to Quevedo, there are many arguments, pro and con, but it’s important that a proper discussion should take place: “Port is the most important fortified wine category, but that doesn’t mean we should stay still and do nothing.”
HOW TO DRINK PORT IN ITS BEST WAY
- Deluxe Pleasure. Drizzle Rosé Port over a scoop of strawberry or raspberry sorbet. Finish with a sprinkling of grated white chocolate and garnish with a sprig of mint.
- Pink Jasmine. Rosé Port mixed with equal amounts of cold Jasmine tea served in a tall glass filled with diced strawberries and ice cubes. A perfect summer punch.
- Spiced Portugal. Muddle some melon chunks with half a chili (without seeds) to extract the juice and mix with a large measure of Rosé Port. Stir the cocktail with a few ice cubes and strain into a glass.