If you think beers and braais are the best things to emerge out of South Africa, think again. You’re missing out on one of life’s great pleasures if you go by without a glass of port.
THE NEW IT DRINK
Port is a great choice for spring quaffing, particularly if you generally prefer red wines. The Portuguese and French habit of chilling port and drinking it as an apéritif is steadily catching on in South Africa.
Traditionally served as a dessert wine, port is emerging as the sipping alternative to wine and cocktails at luncheons, after-work outings and at home get-togethers.
A light tawny is perfect before a meal and white port chilled, alone or in a "portonic" (equal parts dry white port and tonic, with ice and lemon), is lovelier than a summer’s day. Ruby and tawny port should be enjoyed slightly below, or at, room temperature.
All port begins its life as either red or white wine, made from eight traditional Portuguese varieties: Mourisco, Souzào, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesca and Touriga Naçional. Through a complex process, wine grapes are turned into the signature fortified wine.
Traditionally, port has been made by treading the grapes, the action of dozens of human feet squeezing the skins against the stone floor of the lagar, the granite fermentation vat, for rapid extraction. Increasingly, however, this process is done mechanically.
After the grapes are crushed, they are left to ferment. Port is made by adding brandy during the fermentation process when the wine is at about five percent alcohol.
The brandy stops the fermentation at this point and brings the wine up to about 20 percent alcohol.
KNOW YOUR PORT
Ruby: An easy-drinking, fruity port, aged for two to three years before bottling, ruby port is a deep red, and should be consumed young. It is ideal served chilled on a summer’s day.
Vintage: The finest port, produced from a single, exceptional harvest, vintage port is usually bottled within two years of harvesting and can age for a great number of years.
Tawny: Made from various wines aged in barrels, often for long periods of time, before being bottled, tawny port is light brown or amber in colour, with flavours of nuts and dried fruit.
White: A lighter-style port that can range from dry to sweet, white port is, unsurprisingly, made from white grapes and is ready to drink when bottled. Enjoy chilled as an apéritif.
Late bottled vintage: This port is made from a single harvest, aged for four to six years in barrels, and is ready to drink when bottled.
Port is great with a wide range of food, not only with clichéd matches such as Stilton cheese and chocolate mousse but also with steamed coffee and chocolate puddings with truffles and creme brulee.
But vintage ports need to be decanted prior to serving. Stand the bottle upright for 24 hours and remove the cork a few hours before serving.
For Allan Mullins top Port picks, click on the link: Pick of the Ports
COOKING WITH PORT