Nothing says Happy Valentines Day better than chocolate. And nothing pairs better with chocolate than port. The two are a match made in heaven and very appropriate in any celebration of love. For chocolate lovers, pairing port with their favorite chocolate dessert takes the end of a meal to a whole new level. And for those of you who think a big red wine pairs well with chocolate and they often do, port with chocolate will make you believe heaven is right here on earth.
The word port comes from the word Portugal. It is here in Portugal in the Douro Valley where port originated. In Europe only wines from Portugal can be called port and while there are over one hundred varieties that are sanctioned as port grapes it is the Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional that are most widely used in port production in Portugal. Here in the US, the term port is used more liberally and does not signify country of origin but rather a style of wine.
While there are different dessert wines available, including many late harvest wines, none seem to excite big red lovers in the same way as port style wines. Port wines are different then regular wine. And while port wines can be made from white grapes it is the red ports we see more of and what most people think of when talking port. These wines are bolder and more intense in flavor and sweeter as well as have a fuller body and mouth feel. They are higher in alcohol usually coming in at between 18-20 percent alcohol as they are wines made with brandy. Like brandy they are most often served as an after dinner drink or with dessert and their intense extracted fruit flavors and sweetness make them terrific dessert wines particularly when paired with chocolate.
Right now in the Umpqua Valley both Brandborg Winery and Abacela Winery produce a port wine made from red grapes. Brandborg’s dessert wine is called Hurrah Syrah and is aptly named as it is made from syrah grapes. While it is made in the port style, due to a change in Oregon laws governing the use of the word port they call it a dessert wine made in the port style. This wine is a medium bodied port and has lovely aromas and flavors of blackberries and blueberries. Abacela’s port is made in a very traditional port style. They use Portuguese varietals grown right on their vineyard to make their port including Tempranillo, Touriga Naçional, Bastardo, Tinta Amarela and Tinta Cáo. Their port is a full bodied wine with heady aromas of of blackberry, figs, cocoa and toast. The beautifully integrated black fruit and chocolate flavors come together in your mouth and the finish is long and satisfying. Abacela Winery has been producing a port since 1999 and there adherence to Portuguese tradition of port making has afforded them high praise from some of the top port producers in Portugal.
For port lovers nothing else will do and I predict seeing more port style wines being produced locally. Melrose Vinyards offers a port. Pyrenees Vineyard will be releasing their port in just a few weeks and Bradley Vineyards located in Elkton is producing a white dessert wine made in the port style. Girardet Winery who makes several lovely dessert wines is in the process of making a port style wine too.
For all of us lucky enough to live in this amazing place and who appreciate wine, being able to enjoy local port style wines made right here in the Umpqua Valley just gives us one more reason to celebrate. And what better time to do that then this Valentine’s Day? Cheers!