Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Port & Sherry Wine 101

In lue, of PepperTree Steaks N' Wines Port, Sherry, and Champagne wine tasting, I decided to give some info on Port and Sherry wines. Many of us are not familiar with these wines so here are some things to know and expect when tasting them.

Port Wine

Port is made by taking a still wine and adding brandy to it. The name “Port” is derived from the coastal city of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, and the key city found on the mouth of the Douro river. Port is now being made in several countries, but to experience what authentic Port delivers, you might want to opt for the true blue Portugal Port, designated as “Porto” on the bottle’s label.

Types of Port

Port can be split into two distinct categories: Wood Aged or Bottle Aged. The only true bottle aged port is a Vintage Port, while the other Ports are all Wood Aged to some extent. In general, Port starts life as a red wine (unless of course it is a “white Port”) and then it's typically aged in wood casks or in the bottle (if it’s a Vintage Port

Ruby Ports, so named for their distinct ruby color, are the economical, entry-level Ports, made from a mix of both grapes and vintages and “aged” for a total of 3 years.Ruby Ports are designed to be consumed young. Bluecheees, milk chocolate, and berry-based desserts pair well.

Tawny Port is lighter in both color and body when compared to a Ruby Port and typically lies on the slightly sweeter side of the spectrum. Tawny Ports come in three different styles: Colheita, Crusted or Indicated Age. Tawny Ports pair well with Aged cheddar cheese, caramel apples or apple pie, pumpkin or pecan pie or cheesecake. This is a great wine to have for Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner.

Vintage Port is a Port that is made of blended grapes, usually from various vineyards, which are all from the same vintage year, hence the name.Vintage Port typically spends about 6 months in oak and then goes unfiltered and unoxidized into a bottle for further aging. This further aging is typically to the tune of another 2 years!If Ruby Ports are the entry-level Port, then Vintage Ports represent the upper echelon both in style and cost. Vintage pairs well with almonds, walnuts, chocolate-based desserts and puffed-pastries.

White Port, as the name implies, is derived from white grape varietals and can be made in both the very dry to semi- sweet styles. White Port is typically fruitier on the palate and a bit fuller-bodied than other fortified white wines.This particular Port has found favor as a “gin” replacement when served as a “Port and Tonic” on the rocks.

Sherry Wine

Sherry is a fortified wine, produced in southwest Spain's "Sherry Triangle." This triangle consists of the three sunny towns of Puerto de Santa María, Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The Palomino and Pedro Ximénez grapes are the primary grapes used to make Sherry
Two Main Types of Sherry

The two predominant types of Sherry are Fino (very dry with a lighter-body) and Oloroso (still dry, but much richer in both flavor and body). If the winemaker is going for Fino, alcohol is added (fortification) until it reaches just over 15%; however, if Oloroso is the goal then alcohol is added to reach an 18% alcohol content

Types of Sherry

Fino is a very dry, light-bodied Sherry that is straw-like in color. Typically, Finos comes in at about 15-17% alcohol by volume. Amazing with almonds, olives, ham, and chips and dips.

Manzanilla is also dry, and pale in color. A "fino" style of Sherry made in Sanlucar and best with seafood and tapas.

Amontillado is in between Fino and Oloroso in terms of color and body. The characteristic aromas associated with Amontillados are hazelnuts. This Sherry is great with oily fish and chicken dishes.

Oloroso is dark in color, rich in flavor. Olorosos typically have a remarkable walnut aroma and a swirled caramel flavor making them a top pick for rich meats and flavorful cheeses.

Palo Cortado is a very rare Sherry that begins life as a Fino (where the yeast develops) and progresses to an Amontillado (where the flor dies off) but ends up with the richer style of an Oloroso. This Sherry has a dry palate.

Sweet Sherry is a Sherry that has been sweetened with Pedro Ximénez (PX) grape juice. Pedro Ximénez grapes have a high residual sugar content as they are sun-dried to concentrate the sugars before being pressed. Flavors that one can expect from PX are the thick, sweet flavors of fig and molasses.

Cream Sherry is rich mahogony in color and velvety smooth in texture, a sweet Sherry made from Amontillado or Oloroso and sweetened with PX. It's great with cheesecake.

Pedro Ximénez is an ultra sweet almost syrup-like dessert Sherry, made from sweet, sundried grapes of the same name. It's alcohol content is on the lower end of the spectrum and its flavor profiles lean towards the toffee, fig, date and molasses side of the vine.

I'm looking for to tasting these wines this evening. Hope to see you at La Jolla as well!

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