Lifestyle May, 3rd 2012 by

Pass The Port

PASS THE PORT  (Publ Diario Sur 31 12 11)

AJ Linn

The ritual of drinking port is unknown in Spain. It is even likely that the Spaniards who enthusiastically drink a few copas of Málaga Virgen or other sweet local wine will never have considered port as a possible alternative.

The export figures speak for themselves. France is the top consumer by volume (quality is not a requirement for the Gallic port drinker), with Britain at half the French level, but in this case all imports are luxury products with prices to match. Vintage port regularly features in the wine auctions of Sotheby’s, Christies’ and Bonham’s, and merely as an investment is hard to beat. If you choose well you can drink the best port in the world free of charge by buying young, storing it for a decade or two, and then selling half of it and drinking the rest.

England has always been traditionally the main market for port, and the first traders that established themselves in Oporto in the 19th century had names like Gilbert, Smith, Graham, and Mackenzie, but, rather like sherry, demand has dropped off recently. But the port ritual lives on and the ceremony of passing the port is still observed in most military establishments where tradition dominates mealtimes in the officers’ mess. Always passed from right to left and never allowed to touch the table until it has been around at least once, the classic accompaniment is of course stilton cheese.

Apart from the obvious historical similarities between Jerez de la Frontera and Oporto, the Portuguese city has little to recommend it. And regrettably the centuries-old custom of loading the barrels onto the typical Douro sailing vessels for transport down the river from the bodegas to the port no longer exists.

The wines are sold according to the year of the harvest and in a bad year no vintage will be declared; (they probably send the resulting wine to France). The best ports are those of a single vineyard made in an exceptional year.

Port is best decanted and does not improve after opening, so the best option is to drink a bottle with a friend, and don’t forget the cigars.


AJ Linn

Andrew Linn left England 40 years ago to relocate to Spain, having been involved in businesses such as wine shipping and publishing. He currently writes regularly and professionally on wine, food, flamenco, and the Spanish way of life for various publications, and has a regular column in a Spanish newspaper. Andrew is involved in charity work relating to abandoned and mistreated animals.

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