A Survivor’s Guide to White Port
Michael Vaughan 2004
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week I was accused of having a sweet tooth. I guess it’s true to a
point, because while I am not a huge dessert fan, I relish a fine sweetie
after a meal. For the many who share my enthusiasm, and even the few who
don’t, today’s Vintages release has a fine selection and even a few
incredible “must buy” sweeties.
me start off with a “might try”
- a somewhat rarefied white Port. What we have here is the
mandatory prepandial for anyone going to, you guessed it, Oporto. While
some may ague that “Port’s first duty is to be red”, it is evident
that white Ports are making a splash in some sophisticated destinations,
such as top Parisian restaurants.
begin with, a white Port is made in the same way as red, except that it is
produced with Douro white grape varieties - Gouveio
At one time the grapes were foot trodden in lagares and the juice was
fermented on the skins. Today, new styles are made using
temperature-controlled fermentation, which means a brighter, lighter
all the sugar is converted into alcohol, pure grape spirit is added
halting the fermentation process thereby leaving some residual sweetness.
Final alcohol may vary from a low of 16.5% (referred to as a “Light
Dry’) to about 20%. The sweetness can vary considerably from very
sweet called “Lagrima” all the way down to an extra dry. It
is then aged in oak barrels, usually for two years.
white Ports having graced the Vintages shelves over the past four years.
My favourite of the two appearing this month is Ferreira
Lágrima (980136 $14.95) a flavourful
effort has a significant amount of residual sugar (14%) and is blended
from two to five year old barrels (the average age is three years).
Medium-deep gold in colour, it has a very sweet, spicy, caramel
nose with some refreshing lemon-quince notes. You will find it somewhat
sweet, fairly full bodied and nutty with lingering ripe lemon and
caramelised plum flavours. Try it well chilled or on the rocks as an
aperitif with a twist of lemon or tangerine. It can also be served after
dinner with ripe cheese.
on today’s hit parade is another Portuguese “dessert” wine, which
could also be passed of as an aperitif. From south east of Lisbon comes
the fabled Moscatel de Setübal, which made from the Muscat
of Alexandria grape. It has been produced in this area since
Roman times in a manner similar to Port.
There are several styles, and while they all are sweet, J.P. Vinhos Moscatel de Setubal (996181 $11.95) with 17.3% alcohol, it isn’t as sweet or powerful as Ferreira. Nor is it as rich as some of the stunning, pricey, old reserve Setubal from Jose Maria da Fonseca. Nevertheless, this amber orange coloured sipper has a certain charm with its gently sweet, honeyed, quince nose. On the palate, it is honeyed and only gently sweet with very tangy, tangerine marmalade flavours with a surprisingly refreshing finish. A winner as an aperitif on the rocks with a twist of lemon, the release scheduled for earlier this month has been delayed and it should appear any day now.
remaining three wines are all fantastic. The least expensive is the
do Vale Dona Maria Reserve Port Lot No 1
(994657 $23.95). This single vineyard (quinta) Port has a very deep
intense purple colour and a spicy, plummy, juicy ripe black cherry nose.
On the palate it is medium-full bodied, tangy and yet fairly creamy with
spicy, ripe Damson plum and sandalwood flavours. Although the
“Reserve” designation has no legal meaning, it is owner Cristiano
van Zeller’s personal reserve. This extraordinary value was
foot trodden in old granite stone lagares and aged in old wooden vats. It
leans in the Vintage Port direction and represents an outstanding buy
meaning it may be laid away for another decade.
but not least is a pair of delicious, ready-to-enjoy, Madeira dessert
wines. This first, a bit more expensive at $54.95, is Henriques
& Henriques 15-Year-Old Verdelho Madeira
(553701 $54.95), which is made from the same Verdelho
grape used to make white Port. This extremely tasty Vintages Instore
Discovery is amber in colour with sweet, burnt caramel, nuts and honey on
the nose along with some citrusy, Cointreau notes. Only modestly sweet,
the fine, lingering, tangy, citrus-caramel flavours go on and on. A
perfect after-dinner sipper.
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